FEATURED MEMBER – Aaron Feinberg

Posted on February 17, 2011




Aaron Feinberg is no stranger to seeing and capturing the beauty and natural movement of Life. What started as a ski-bum hobby of photographing friends in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah has developed into a world-class, award-winning fine art portfolio.


Ask Aaron how he ended up on Kauai and he’ll say he didn’t… it found him. After taking a restaurant job that brought him to the island, photography took over in a hurry. In just 3 short years Aaron has gone on to win Nature Photo Of The Year ’09 (American Photo Magazine), Nature Photo of the Month (National Geographic newsletter Aug ’10), Highly Honored (Windland Smith Rice Int’l Awards), among others and has been published numerous times.


Aaron draws inspiration from the beauty that surrounds him. Self-taught, he holds much gratitude for the fellow photographers that have guided him along the way. Above and beyond, Aaron strives to bring what his eye sees to the viewer. And in doing so, ventures to bring the viewer to emote in some way; either as he might have experienced during capture or in their own unique way. He hopes his images have affected you in such a way that he can truly call himself a photographer.

For now, Kauai is home and when Aaron isn’t photographing you can find him at Hanalei Bay playing beach volleyball or on the fields playing ultimate Frisbee!!


Q.  What inspired you to become a photographer?
A.  As a kid I remember playing with cameras and taking an interest at summer camps.  What really got me going was spending 3 winters ski-bumming in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah and photographing my friends skiing.  From there it was just about showing people how beautiful the world around us is…through my eyes of course.

Q.  Do you have a favourite modern photographer/ artist?
A.  Being self-taught I have had to draw on the internet almost exclusively to learn.  There are very few ways to educate in photography in the middle of the Pacific!  That being said Marc Adamus and Michael Anderson have had a huge impact on how I “see” in the field.  Their stunning capture of light and composition really set them apart.  To me good light capture is great, but without an arrangement of subjects to form a compelling composition an opportunity is lost.  George Stocking is a great example.

Q.  What does photography mean to you?
A.  The ability to show one’s own vision of what they see, through a camera (and by default the digital darkroom).

Q.  Which photographers/ artists inspire you and why?
A.  Well Marc Adamus and Michael Anderson have obviously been hugely influential in my work, as I mentioned above. I am also greatly inspired by the travel and remoteness of certain photographs. To be able to travel the world and show people places they might never get to see for themselves is an inspiration in itself. 

Q.  Can you explain your career path from ‘hit and miss’ photography at summer camps, to opening your own gallery?
A.  From being encouraged while shooting ski photography with a point-and-shoot, to then purchasing my first dSLR in March ’06 was mostly just doing.   The more one shoots and asks for critique and then asks oneself WHY does this work (or not work), the more one can learn.  Unemployment for me was a huge boon as it enabled me to barely squeak by, but at the same point I shot an incredible amount of photographs and was able to capture light and learn much more quickly than I might otherwise have been able.   From there it was about creating the opportunity to sell my work.  Finding my target market (ie: selling work at hotels) was what jumpstarted everything to the point you see today…aFeinPhoto Gallery in Hanalei, Kauai.

Q.  You obviously live in a very beautiful area, do you think that you would have been so inspired by landscape photography, if you had, say, lived in England?
A.  I believe that, while this place has shaped who I am as a photographer, that shape would still have happened had I lived anywhere.  When I am in cities I shoot a lot of urban abstracts.  My people side might have developed to be more dominant.  But there is beauty everywhere…even in England 😉  Photographers like Alex Nail and Guy Richardson are good examples of what is possible in that part of the world.

Q.  On your website afeinphoto.com, you have stated ‘life traveler’ as your occupation. Could you explain this a little more?
A.  We are all on a journey that is life.  I think people forget that.  We are not our jobs.  We have a short time on this planet to learn/love/experience/DO…we are all life travelers. 

Q.  You have recently opened your own gallery at Kauhale Center in Hanalei, “A Fein Photo Gallery”, what did this mean to you?
A.  The whole experience has been pretty surreal.  I went from almost having to move off the island to opening my own gallery in a year.  About 3-4 months ago I made a comment to some friends that, in order to properly show people what I do, I needed a gallery.  Some place where the images could be displayed at proper sizes to really translate the feeling of the capture.  Then I received an email from an unknown source about a space available for rent in Hanalei…which is almost unheard of as it is a very high traffic (high traffic for a small island in the middle of the Pacific) surf town.  Within a week the keys were in my hand and I was spending more money than I had comprehended.  All following the path of what I feel are the right steps.  The goal now is to eventually have 4 galleries throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Q.  What were the main challenges, if any, that you faced in establishing your career to date?
A.  Like anyone starting on their own the challenge is how do I get business?  And honestly, I got lucky.  Very lucky.   Not only am I surrounded by immense natural beauty; I have been given a gift for capturing it (and luckily enough to be able to develop).  The key is always finding your target market.  Here we have tourists, which fortunately or unfortunately are a large portion of my business.  Some look for imagery to remind them of their time here, others appreciate straight artistic images.  Either way without them I would be in a much tougher situation…but then again so would Hawaii in general. 

Choosing the correct pro bono events early in my career also paid off.  While I did not make any money at the time it got my name and more importantly my work in front of people that eventually were able to make a difference in my career.  That is to say I didn’t take every opportunity that was available and often we, as artists, do not value what we do enough (or at all).  Not being afraid to put a price (and a higher one when necessary) goes a long way to making oneself a legitimate professional.

Q.  Your favourite subjects are moving water and emotion. Some may argue that neither of these can truly be captured, but merely perceived. How do you feel about this? What is it about these subjects that make them particularly enticing for you to shoot?
A.  Perception is reality…a good man once said.  I shoot to have my photographs cause emotion.  Whether it be a gorgeous sunset, an abstract of a tree, or the piercing eyes of a person, if I can cause some kind of reaction in the viewer…I have done my job. 

The incorporation of movement in to a lot of my work shows the passage of time and thus makes a 2 dimensional medium (photography) ,4-dimensional…assuming our composition and light have already made it 3.  The passage of time is not necessarily tangible by humans but the camera has the ability to see past what we can.  It exists, just on a different time scale.  Perhaps by capturing 30sec, 90sec, 18min, however long, in to a single exposure we take time out to slow down and think a bit.

Q.  You have quite a diverse range of photographs in your portfolio, including shots of weddings, landscapes and nudes? How did you manage to cross all of these categories and shoot them all?
A.  For me it was never a question of what aspect of photography I wanted to do.  It always made sense to shoot everything.  It wasn’t until further on into my photography ‘experiment’ that it occurred that some people can’t shoot all subject matter.  It’s interesting to think about and I still haven’t come to any conclusions really, but personally I see lines, space and light, and work with what is in front of me.  No matter what the subject is.  Wedding work is challenging, as there is a fair amount of pressure to capture those important moments.  But it falls in line with showing emotion, which is in my modus operandi.  The fine art nude work was something that was in my mind and had the good chance to have friends that didn’t mind experimenting.  My style is something I call Landscape Nudes…incorporating the human form into the landscape.  Often at times it is big landscape, little model. 

Q.  Have you collaborated with other photographers? If so, who, and what was the subject matter?
A.  Again fortunately and unfortunately I live a very isolated existence on Kauai so I have not had t
he ability to work with any other photographers.  This has been good in the sense that my style and such has developed independently but also means I haven’t had the opportunity to combine minds and stretch possibilities.  

Q.  Who would you most like to collaborate with?
A.  I work solo and enjoy doing so but would love to go out shooting with some of the landscapists I mentioned above, just to see how they work as I have never had the opportunity to see their workflow.  Also some fine art nude photographers such as David Aharonian, Tomas Rucker, André Brito, who all do absolutely incredible work. And models such as Katy T, Sarah Ellis, Candice Nirvana who add so much to a photograph in the way they are able to move and create out of very little or nothing. 

Q.  Can you briefly explain the method of your artwork- they are truly beautiful- do you go about each piece in the same way?
A.  Ha…this is a funny question as I’m sure I look like a chicken with it’s head cut off at points in the field;   running around trying to find the proper lines and composition.  Basically I look for something interesting…whether it’s lines, unique textures, motion…something…anything to grab the viewers attention.  Another huge part is being able to edit properly.  It took me about a year before I was able to get images to look the way I perceived them in person.   Even now I go back to old files and re edit and get that ‘ah ha’ moment. 

Q.  Is there any subject, which you do not currently cover, that you would like to shoot?
A.  Right now I’ve had limited experience with studio lighting.  I have had some, and luckily with great setups, but for consistent work I haven’t been able to really delve in.  It would be interesting to play around and see what I could come up with.

Q. For landscapes, and indeed all subjects, what is your preferred time of day to shoot? Do you have a favourite light? Or does it depend entirely on the subject matter?
A.  Early and late.  Just as any landscape photographer will tell you.  There are some exceptions as there are to all rules but to maximize opportunity, low incidental light and of course the colors of sunrises and sunsets. 

Q.  Do you have a favorite Project among your works? Can you explain why?
A.  My work, Fire Falls, was almost the image I was going for.  Needing the sun in a certain spot with the right conditions etc to make the image.  However my original plan was to have the sun in the gap and get a sunstar.  The actual position was too far north…but I’d say this was a good consolation prize 😉  Fire Falls Reprise is close to what I was thinking but still not there.  Have to wait a few months to try again this year!

Q.  Do you have any interests that inspire you in other aspects of life?
A.  I’m a very athletic person so photographing those sports; skiing, ultimate Frisbee, etc is always inspiring.  But just getting out and hiking and exploring is what has gotten the desire to capture all this in the first place.  Time to keep traveling!

Q.  Are you working on new projects currently?
A.  Right now I have an ongoing project to photograph ‘my’ wave in certain back-lit light which has now gone on over 2 years.  The window of opportunity is about 3-4 weeks a year and requires an incredible amount of conditions to come together.  We’ll see if I can capture it next year.  I expect the dedication and result might mean more to me than the viewers in the end, but the image in my mind will hopefully be very impressive as well.

Q.  What are your professional ambitions and your projects for 2011?
A.  For 2011 the goal will be to get my gallery running on its own without me.  Once I can step back from working 90 hours a week and really start to photograph is the true end game.  From there traveling the world and capturing even more of what I can see

Q.  How do you hope Pelime can help with this?
A.  Pelime, like all social networking sites, is a great way to display one’s work and have the opportunity to connect with all sorts of fun people.  We’re all artists inspiring each other whether by sound, visual or written word.  We never know who we meet that will change our lives…


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