Alan Sailer, the shooter photographer


Alan Sailer wanted to be a photographer since he was a kid, but he was worried that he was wasting film. However, when he got his first digital camera, everything changed.

He was interested in high speed photography and that is why he decided to build his own ultra high speed flash.

Alan’s most famous pictures are made by a special technique: he likes to shoot different kind of objects, such as food, ceramic figures and Christmas ornaments, among others.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Alan spoke about how he built his own flash, his technique and the other kind of pictures he takes.

How did you become a photographer?

I have done a little photography since I was a kid. I was never any good, though, because I was always worried that I was wasting film. When I got my first digital camera in about 2005, that changed. I believe that the many years I spent painting helped me as a photographer since painting lets you figure out how to compose a picture.

How did you come up with the idea of shooting stuff and taking pictures of them?

I have known about high speed photography since I was a teenager. Harold Edgerton’s amazing ultra high speed pictures are well known. When I saw an article in Make magazine that described how to build your own high speed flash controller I tried it out. And after I saw the photographs of Jasper Nance (who build her own ultra high speed flash) I decided to imitate her and build my own flash. A flash like the type I am using costs about 4000$. My home-built units are about 400$.


Which kind of stuff do you shoot?

Well just about everything, as you can see from my Flickr photos. Food is good, ceramic figures work and Christmas ornaments are fun. Targets that are soft inside and brittle outside break apart very beautifully. I look for cheap targets since I have to destroy many things to get a few good pictures. Not every try works out.

What do you like the most about this technique?

I like the fact that the technique allows you to see a world that is hidden from normal sight. Our eyes can only see relatively slow evens without outside help. Going from 1/30 of a second to 1/1,000,000 of a second opens a new universe.


Which is the reaction of people when they see your pictures?

Generally people that see them for the first time are quite amused. The pictures are colorful and sharp, showing ordinary object transformed by impact.

Do you take other pictures too? Which kind of pictures?

I’ll take a picture of anything which is colorful. Most of what I do is landscapes. I’d love to take pictures of people but to get a good candid picture requires a photographer who is more persuasive than myself.

Alan Sailer’s Flickr:

Samantha Schuster