Clay Haskell

Scheduled to teach:

Clay Haskell (https://www.clayhaskell.com/)is an award winning photographer, director and cinematographer. His work has been broadcast globally and seen on Showtime, Netflix, BBC, CBC, CBS, PBS, NHK, Amazon Prime and AppleTV+. Clay grew up in Tucson, Arizona where he discovered his love of cameras and storytelling. After attending Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Clay was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for his photography. One of the first Fulbright Fellows ever to live in China, he documented the rise of sweatshop labor in Chinese factories as well as the nascent Hong Kong Democracy movement. After attending the American Film Institute, Clay began teaching filmmaking at Colorado College. Taking advantage of the rise in digital filmmaking, Clay built the college program into a nationally recognized school for filmmaking. Clay worked on a number of documentaries and fiction films. Clay’s photography has been shown in numerous galleries and published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Clay has recently produced HOME, an episodic documentary series for AppleTV+

Clay Haskell Portfolio

Clay Haskell

LACP Founder and Executive Director Julia Dean asks Clay Haskell ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography

Julia Dean: What kind of photographer are you?

Clay Haskell : I value telling stories with imagery. Having worked in both still and motion photography, I value each for their unique storytelling strengths. With photography, I like to find moments that reflect a sense of what I believe to be a profound order to the universe, even when there is a glossy veneer of chaos.

JD: How long have you been shooting?

CH: I started shooting at age 13 when I borrowed my mother’s SLR camera during a family trip to Central America. Right away, I fell in love with the ability to capture a subject and a moment in time, to balance light and color and composition, and to frame out distraction. It felt like a distillation of what I noticed and found essential in the world.

JD: Where did you get your training?

CH: My training happened in spurts. I learned to develop and print all my own B&W in a closet-sized darkroom in my high school. I really enjoyed the process. By this time, I had taken over my mother’s camera, and I brought it with me everywhere. I mostly took photos of my friends and family around that time. One day during high school, my buddy and I decided to skip class and drive 70 miles to a random small town we had never been to. That was the first time I had deliberately been on a photo journey.

JD: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

CH: I had clearly not focused enough on high school academics, so as I neared my graduation, I was despondent over the choices available to me for college. My mother wanted her camera back, so she gave me my own camera for my graduation and encouraged me to use it by enrolling me in an extension photography course alongside her at the state University. The professor of the class was so moved by my images, she pushed me into the field and introduced me around. Within six months, I was the darkroom lab technician at the largest daily newspaper in my area. I did all the developing and printing for a staff of twelve photographers. I was just eighteen and I had access to as much free film, developing, and cameras and lenses as I could have wanted. Photography just seemed inevitable at that point. One interesting memory is that I was there on the day they brought their first digital camera into the newspaper’s photography department. We were regularly going through 100’ bulk rolls of Fujichrome, so nobody at that time thought much of the digital image quality. Certainly, nobody foresaw the impact it would have on a newspaper. As for me, within a year or so, my photos helped me get admitted to a top university.

JD: Did you ever come close to giving up?

CH: That would be equivalent to giving up breathing.

JD: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

CH: There have certainly been times when I had no health insurance whatsoever. That part is not fun.

JD: What have you gained by being a photographer?

CH: I think I am able to notice people in ways that are really deep and subtle.

JD: What classes do you teach at LACP?

CH: I teach filmmaking. It is storytelling with a camera.

JD: What do you love most about teaching?

CH: Stories are everywhere, but Hollywood tends to focus on a relatively narrow band of storytelling. I love watching stories come together, and teaching allows me to really help different kinds of stories to get made. Student filmmaking is a world where a person can really try something new. A student can succeed even when their movie fails, and that is just not as true in the Hollywood commercial film world.

JD: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

CH: Here is a camera. Go make something. Focus on your own voice first. If you can do that well, the rest will eventually fall into place.