In Conversation: David Adam Edelstein

Cynthia Haynes

David Adam Edelstein recently participated in the mentoring workshop with David duChemin in Florence, Italy, an intensive week designed to explore the creative process, hone each individual's photographic craft, and create a cohesive body of work. During his time exploring the city, David Adam fully embraced his inner semi-abstract street photographer and made magic amid the crowds. 

With the many potential subjects in a city the size of Florence, how did this become your series?

Although Florence is a beautiful city, it isn’t exotic to me in the way that, say, Jodhpur would be, or Lalibela was. On the other hand, it doesn’t look anything like Seattle, and I don’t speak the language well (nor many of the other tens of languages I heard there). In the end, I decided that I would use that combination of familiarity and dislocation to go deeper on my ongoing work, instead of coming up with a new series; I felt like that would pay off more. So my project was to extend that ongoing work, but instead of constantly shooting in motion like I normally do, I tried to “find a stage and wait for some action.”

Your self-imposed constraint was to bring one camera and two prime lenses (a 35mm and a 50mm); did that help or hinder? 

I’m going to say it helped, but mostly because that’s the combination I know best. I probably shoot 90% of my work with a 50mm lens. Especially when shooting on the street, this helps me because I have already started framing the shot before the camera even makes it up to my face. Sometimes I’ll step backward or forward as the camera as I'm raising the camera because I already know I want to get a little wider or tighter.

The other part of my constraint was that I brought a camera that only shoots in black and white. Again, this is my comfort zone, so the only real variable was the time I spent on the work and the way I was working. 

What were you looking for when making these photos? Was it light, shadow, motion? Something else? 

I’d say that what I’m looking for in this work is a momentary question, or unease, in the part of the viewer. I don’t necessarily want to disturb people, but I want this work to ask more questions than it answers. The motion, the shadow, the darkness, all of those are tools I’m using to help obscure anything that might help give the viewer context. I want to force them to create their own story.

So to that end, what were you thinking as you were creating these? Was the story cohesive early on or did it take awhile to reveal itself? Was there a particular feeling you wanted to create, or is this how Florence felt to you? 

I was coincidentally just reminded of a quote from poet William Stafford that pretty well describes how I work: “A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.”

So although I knew that I wanted this work to be about questions and loss of context, I couldn’t have imagined that these were the exact photos I would end up with. For me, this whole body of work is about being receptive to chance and about letting the mechanics of the camera reveal these scenes and images that I would have otherwise missed.

The great thing about this week in Florence was the oceans of time I had to just stand in one place and be receptive. The panda photo (below) is a great example of that. On the final Friday morning, I thought I had my selection set. We all went to lunch, and then on the way back to the hotel I decided to spend a little more time at one of the places I had been working that week. And in that hour the panda photo happened, and it became the perfect last photo in my workshop portfolio.

Now that we know the why, tell us the how: how much is done in camera, and how much in post-production?

My process is pretty traditional. I don’t do what most people would consider photo manipulation, but I’ve always been a manipulative printer, from when I worked in the darkroom to now. What I mean is that I do a lot of work on contrast, burning and dodging, and so forth, all in an effort to direct the viewer’s eye and emphasize the parts of the image that tell the story the best. I never want a photograph to mumble.

If you could be in a room where these photographs were exhibited and no one knew they were yours, what would you hope to hear people say about them?

That is a really good question. I’d love to hear someone describing a memory that one of the photos had triggered, some kind of emotional event that the ambiguity in one of the photos had brought up for them. I wouldn’t necessarily want anyone to like all of them; just that they have a strong response to one photo.

Interested to find out more about the mentor? New dates and places will be announced soon, so be sure you're on the list to be among the first to find out when and where. 

David Adam Edelstein grew up in Hawai'i and China, and currently lives and works in Seattle, Washington with his brilliant daughter and smart, beautiful wife, neither of whom take any of his whiny artistic crap. He has had a camera with him at all times since his parents made the expensive mistake of giving him one when he was eight. He thinks sharpness is overrated and is moderately distrustful of color. See more of his work at

Craft & Technique David Adam Edelstein Interview

← Older Post Newer Post →


  • Sorry but pictures and text are both gobbledygook to me.

    Dawn Penso on
  • Really good ! I first thought this was a “known” artist.
    Progress to the pictures on his website !
    What a concentrated workshop can effect !

    Bernd on
  • Words aside, this body of work stands on its own. I believe a truly wonderful aesthetic was achieved through the use of forethought, motion, tactful composition, and organic processing. I appreciate his thought process behind the creation of each of these, as they convey so much more than a technically sound image could.

    Matthew Gillooley on
  • David Adam Edelstein’s esoteric comments match his haphazard images perfectly…both come across as unimaginative and bland all the while trying just a little too hard to be valid.

    San WArzone' on

Leave a comment

  1. Making the Image: Kathleen Clemons
  2. Night Ranger: A Word With David Kingham
  3. Understanding the Night Sky
  4. Vision Is Better, Ep.60
  5. The Value of Critique
  6. Capturing the Moment
  7. Vision Is Better, Ep.59
  8. Five Key Elements of Food Photography
  9. Using Flash That Doesn't Look Lit
  10. Vision Is Better, Ep.58
  11. Using Flash To Improve Your Photographs
  12. Five Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash
  13. Vision Is Better, Ep.57
  14. Finding Critics
  15. Street Life: A Word With Libby Holmsen
  16. Using the Frame
  17. The Photographer's Tools
  18. Backlight: The Art of Silhouettes
  19. Vision Is Better, Ep.56
  20. Understanding Perspective
  21. Vision Is Better, Ep.55
  22. In Conversation: Sharon Covert
  23. Create Projects + Collaborate
  24. Mirrors or Windows?
  25. 2018 Mentor Series Workshop: Varanasi, India
  26. F/ The Rules
  27. Drawing the Eye With Selective Focus
  28. C&V Fujifilm Giveaway Winner Announced
  29. In Conversation: Willem Wernsen
  30. Exposing for Highlights
  31. Using Fill Light to Create Dramatic Portraits
  32. Cameras Don't Make Photographs
  33. Shooting with Your Final Image in Mind
  34. 10 Ways to Make Better Black and White Photographs
  35. 2018 Maasai Mara Photographic Safari
  36. 2018 Mentor Series Workshop: Lalibela, Ethiopia
  37. Start With the Corners
  38. Creating Painterly Images with Movement and Multiple Exposures
  39. Using the Guided Upright Tool in Lightroom
  40. The Power of Photographing Icons
  41. In Conversation: Susan Burnstine (Part II)
  42. In Conversation: Susan Burnstine (Part I)
  43. Controlling Your Edit with Lightroom's Tone Curve
  44. Making the Image: David duChemin
  45. 3 Ways to Make More Honest Portraits
  46. The Adjective-Driven Approach to Photography
  47. In Conversation: Oded Wagenstein
  48. Making the Zone System Work for You
  49. Ten (More) Ways to Improve Your Craft
  50. Reference View: A New Way to See in the Lightroom Develop Module
  51. In Conversation: Laurent Breillat
  52. The Best 3 Filters for Landscape Photography
  53. Creating Classical Portraits with Simple Lighting
  54. Photographic Processing and Believability
  55. Visual Storytelling: An Introduction
  56. Making the Image: Piet Van den Eynde
  57. In Conversation: Satoki Nagata
  58. Use Repeating Elements for Stronger Images
  59. In Conversation: Kate Densmore
  60. One (More) Reason To Use Adobe's Creative Cloud
  61. Three Ways to Use Backlight
  62. 2017 Rome Mentor Series Workshop
  63. 2017 Venice Mentor Series Workshops
  64. Controlling Foreground to Background Presence
  65. Making the Image: David Adam Edelstein
  66. In Conversation: David Adam Edelstein
  67. Using Contrast for Stronger Images
  68. Three Ways to Make Better Portraits
  69. How to Direct the Eye in Your Photographs
  70. How to Improve Your Street Photography
  71. In Conversation: Piet Van den Eynde
  72. Starting Your Next Personal Project
  73. Five (More) Creative Exercises to Improve Your Photography
  74. Five Creative Exercises to Improve Your Photography
  75. Three (More) Ways To Discover Your Vision
  76. Four Ways to Discover Your Vision (Part I)
  77. Three Ways to Make Stronger Black & White Images in Lightroom
  78. In Conversation: Cristina Mittermeier
  79. How to Add Mood to Infrared (and other) Photographs
  80. In Conversation: Paul Nicklen
  81. Four Ways to Tell Stronger Stories
  82. In Conversation: John Paul Caponigro
  83. Master the Art of Seeing and Improve Your Photography
  84. Adding Light with the Radial Filter in Lightroom
  85. The Power of Abstraction
  86. In Conversation: Anja Büehrer
  87. Five Ways to Add More Depth to Your Portraits
  88. Four Ways to Make Stronger Travel Photographs
  89. In Conversation: Martin Bailey
  90. Learn to Isolate
  91. Gear Is Good
  92. In Conversation: Dave Brosha
  93. For the Love of Your Photographs
  94. Working with Target Collections in Lightroom
  95. Review: Epson P800
  96. Seeing: Receptive & Observant
  97. Better Questions
  98. Siri? Ask Lightroom!
  99. Wake Up.
  100. In Conversation: David Jackson
  101. Photographic Skills: Patience
  102. In Conversation: David duChemin
  103. 2017 Jodhpur Mentoring Workshop
  104. 2017 Maasai Mara Safari
  105. Rome 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  106. Florence 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  107. Venice 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  108. Vision Is Better, Ep.54
  109. Vision Is Better, Ep.53
  110. Vision Is Better, Ep.52
  111. Vision Is Better, Ep.51
  112. Vision Is Better, Ep.50
  113. Vision Is Better, Ep.49
  114. Vision Is Better, Ep.48
  115. Vision Is Better, Ep.47
  116. Vision Is Better, Ep.46
  117. Vision Is Better, Ep.45
  118. Vision Is Better, Ep.44
  119. Vision Is Better, Ep.43
  120. Vision Is Better, Ep.42
  121. Vision Is Better, Ep.41
  122. Vision Is Better, Ep.40
  123. Vision Is Better, Ep.39
  124. Vision Is Better, Ep.38
  125. Vision Is Better, Ep.37
  126. Vision Is Better, Ep.36
  127. Vision Is Better, Ep.35
  128. Vision Is Better, Ep.34
  129. Vision Is Better, Ep.33
  130. Vision Is Better, Ep.32
  131. Vision Is Better, Ep.31
  132. Vision Is Better, Ep.30
  133. Vision Is Better, Ep.29
  134. Vision Is Better, Ep.28
  135. Vision Is Better, Ep.27
  136. Vision Is Better, Ep.26
  137. Vision Is Better, Ep.25
  138. Vision Is Better, Ep.24
  139. Vision Is Better, Ep.23
  140. Vision is Better, Ep.22
  141. Vision is Better, Ep.21
  142. Vision is Better, Ep.20
  143. Vision is Better, Ep.19
  144. Vision is Better, Ep.18
  146. Vision is Better, Ep.17
  148. Vision is Better, Ep.16
  150. Vision is Better, Ep.15
  152. Vision Is Better, Ep.11
  158. Vision Is Better, Ep.10
  159. Vision Is Better, Ep.09
  161. Vision Is Better, Ep.08
  163. Vision Is Better, Ep.07
  165. Vision Is Better, Ep.06
  167. Vision Is Better, Ep.05
  169. Vision Is Better, Ep.04
  171. Vision Is Better, Ep.03
  172. Vision Is Better, Ep.02
  175. Vision Is Better, Ep.01

Related Articles

Related Resources

About the Image Show Adam Blasberg Adobe Andrew S. Gibson Andy Biggs Anja Büehrer Bret Edge Bruce Percy Brucy Percy Craft & Technique Creative Cloud Creativity Cristina Mittermeier Dave Brosha David Adam Edelstein David duChemin David Kingham Duncan Fawkes Guy Tal Henry Fernando Interview Jason Bradley John Paul Caponigro Kate Densmore Kathleen Clemons Laurent Breillat Libby Holmsen Lightroom & Photoshop Making the Image Martin Bailey Michael Frye Nathan Wirth Natural Light Oded Wagenstein Paul Nicklen Piet Van den Eynde Podcast Project Nimbus Rafael Rojas Satoki Nagata Sean McCormack Sharon Covert Sherri Koop Simi Jois Street Photography Susan Burnstine Vision is Better Show visual storytelling Willem Wernsen Workshop Younes Bounhar Zone System