AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH JAMES HAYMAN
Lens Magazine|July 2021
Some of Hayman's earliest photographic work took place shortly after the 1976 earthquake in Guatemala, where he went to aid the U.N.'s disaster relief efforts.
Leila Antakly

While there, he fell in love with the environment and the people who lived there, a trait he would continue throughout all his future travels. Through an unabashedly humanist lens, these photographs depict a time and a place deeply rooted in its historical moment and universal in their exploration of what constitutes beauty, life, and community.

Since the 1970s James Hayman, an L.A based visual artist and filmmaker, has been documenting communities worldwide through a humanist lens. After studying photojournalism and being disillusioned with its limitations during a photoshoot at the Nixon White House, Hayman's photographic career turned to collaborate with communities he encountered throughout his career as a volunteer and television/film director. The result is a body of work that Hayman continues to this day, documenting everyday people in bodies of work that act as time capsules.

Leila Antakly: Thank you for taking the time for this interview on Lens Magazine. You have an extraordinary experience of years as a fine art photographer as well as a Filmmaker. Tell us about the skills you took as a photographer to move into directing or vice versa and about your journey from street and documentary photography to filmmaking.

James Hayman: Actual study of the medium allowed me to expand my knowledge at a much faster rate. I first started taking photos at the age of 16. I was given a camera by an uncle with some rudimentary instructions, but trial and error taught me how to take a picture. Being a photographer is so much more than taking a picture. As an artist, you learn from various aspects of your life. I was actually introduced to framing, composition, and lighting through blackand-white movies of the 30s and 40s. My mother loved to stay up late and watch those movies on television, and she liked company. So, I also watched these movies at a young age, which somehow shaped my artistic eye. It was by going to college that really put my artistic growth into hyperdrive.

I was in a photojournalism program at American University in Washington D.C. It was a small program, and I had a professor and his mentor as teachers. They taught me the basics: exposure, film stocks, developing techniques, etc. That knowledge freed me up to really explore what I was trying to create. Through the program, I got a summer job with a news service. My first assignment was to photograph President Nixon and Soviet President Brezhnev in the White House Rose Garden. It was a shark frenzy. A mass of photographers, all trying to get the perfect shot. In fact, I got a shot, but it was clear to me that news photography was not for me. So, I returned to street photography.

Around the same time, I took my first film appreciation course and suddenly was reconnected to those old black-and-white movies. I found a Super 8 camera and started making short films. Again, through trial and error, I somewhat succeeded. It wasn't until I transferred to the University of California and entered a film program that I really learned the basics of storytelling and film production.

What followed was a year of traveling in Mexico and Guatemala, working for the U.N., putting a portfolio together, and getting accepted to the graduate program in film at New York University. That's where my knowledge of filmmaking hit overdrive. I followed an emphasis in cinematography, and that's where I had learned as a photographer melded with my filmmaking. From there, I worked as a cinematographer for many years, always trying to use the camera as an integral part of the storytelling, always to support the narrative, not just make pretty pictures.

Of course, that led to directing and then on to producing. Now I have returned to photography as a creative outlet.

I find my work is much more narrative-based. I guess this is a very long-winded way to say that for me, just going for it and organized study in the various mediums have both contributed to all my work.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM LENS MAGAZINEView All

Michelle VanTine – "Always Shoot for Highlights!"

Michelle VanTine has been a full-time photographer since 2008, working all over the US and in the UK. The main focus of her work is creating scroll-stopping images for amazing brands and amazing people.

9 mins read
Lens Magazine
September 2021

Bee Trofort-Wilson – “Success doesn't come from your comfort zone”

"Ready to return to the ring" I Had a great time photographing professional boxer Demichael Harris Aka Trigga Man.

2 mins read
Lens Magazine
September 2021

The MIRACLE GAMES

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad were historic even before tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the flame in the cauldron with her relay torch to commence them.

9 mins read
Lens Magazine
September 2021

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH Kevin Rivoli

Kevin Rivoli is a photojournalist whose work is published daily in newspapers and magazines across the country.

5 mins read
Lens Magazine
September 2021

EXPLOSIVE PHYSICAL RESPONSE - Joe McNally

Website: portfolio.joemcnally.com

10+ mins read
Lens Magazine
September 2021

AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH TIM TADDER

Tim Tadder, is an experienced advertising photographer with a niche in sports & fitness productions.

9 mins read
Lens Magazine
September 2021

Buzkashi: Afghanistan's Traditional Sport

The history of Buzkashi dates back to ancient times, and the name of this sport means killing goats, which is taken from the hunting of mountain goats by horse heroes.

4 mins read
Lens Magazine
September 2021

GOING TO THE EXTREME

An Exclusive Interview With Krystle Wright

7 mins read
Lens Magazine
September 2021

Colorful Uniqueness – Ian Ross Pettigrew

I'm a Graphic Designer who happens to take photos. Over 25 years as an Art Director makes a difference in my work. Of course, you can learn technical skills as a photographer, but having a great eye is what really matters.

3 mins read
Lens Magazine
August 2021

nomads

the human essence

2 mins read
Lens Magazine
August 2021
RELATED STORIES

A Climate To Fear

Central America’s subsistence farmers are fleeing increasingly severe droughts and storms

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
June 14, 2021

THE LEGEND OF THE QUETZAL BIRD

A Mayan Tale retold by Pat Betteley illustrated by Amanda Shepherd

4 mins read
Faces - The Magazine of People, Places and Cultures for Kids
January 2021

Semana Santa GUATEMALA'S HOLY WEEK

What if Easter preparations meant dyeing sand, collecting pine needles, and staying up all night to work on an art project that you knew would be ruined the very next day? Well, welcome to Guatemala’s Semana Santa, or Holy Week.

4 mins read
Faces - The Magazine of People, Places and Cultures for Kids
January 2021

This is Central America!

It’s time to visit Central America. But first, it helps to know exactly where Central America is. Despite its name, it is the southernmost part of North America, which can seem a little confusing. It makes up most of the isthmus dividing the Pacific Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. An isthmus is a narrow strip of land that connects two larger landmasses and has water on both sides.

4 mins read
Faces - The Magazine of People, Places and Cultures for Kids
January 2021

Animal Central

From golden frogs to big cats to colorful birds, the national animals of Central America represent the geography and cultures of the region. For a quick sampling of creatures plain and beautiful, common and rare, read on.

3 mins read
Faces - The Magazine of People, Places and Cultures for Kids
January 2021

31 Countries Biosphere

The Trifinio Fraternidad Biosphere Reserve is located at a spot where El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras converge. A biosphere is the layer of planet Earth where life exists.

2 mins read
Faces - The Magazine of People, Places and Cultures for Kids
January 2021

Elgran llamado

Nunca olvidaré las primeras imágenes que vi de Guatemala cuando íbamos descendiendo. Me encontraba en un avión pequeño lleno de pasajeros que salió de Miami y debajo de mí estaba la Ciudad de Guatemala.

6 mins read
Mensajero Ala Blanca
Julio/Agosto de 2020

A pilot's reckoning

Low clouds, drizzle, poor visibility—and impatience

3 mins read
Angels on Earth
July/Aug 2020

CONSERVATION FROM ABOVE

FLYING WITH LIGHTHAWK

8 mins read
Flying
April 2020

Mexico, Central America & Spanish-Speaking Caribbean

Leadership Summit 2019

1 min read
White Wing Messenger
March 2020