With over 35 years of experience in photography, Sam Forencich has certainly perfected his craft. His work has ranged from freelancing to newspaper photojournalism to conceptual time-lapse documentaries. He is currently living in Portland, Oregon where most of his work takes place.
Much of Forencich’s work has been published internationally and widely appreciated on a national level. He has had his work featured in TV series, world music tours, and commercial advertising. One trademark moment in his career is a now infamous photograph of the lively NBA player Dennis Rodman, which earned him a spot in Sport’s Illustrated “100 Greatest Photos of All-Time.”
Forencich’s style of work can be attributed to his use of different techniques. He is no stranger to using stop motion techniques, motion control rigs, and infrared cameras. The usage of these techniques certainly aide in the creation of beautifully unique time-lapse footage.
But his latest film, ‘Invisible Oregon’ is a very experimental venture, even for Forencich. He filmed the entire time-lapse in the West Coast state using infrared converted cameras. He says:
Invisible Oregon is a study of light across time and space. As the sun rises over the State of Oregon infrared light travels across the earth revealing the subtleties of new growth and the dramatic intersection of sky and earth.
When and how did you become interested in Infrared, and what led you to want to try it out?
My interest in infrared is an outgrowth of trying to bring new approaches into my work. Mentally you
can get in a sort of ground hog day mindset if you are shooting in the same places with the same gear,
so trying new things can sometimes get you out of that rut. The exciting thing about infrared is that
there is no standard for what it’s supposed to look like. This grants you a wide latitude to interpret the
look, and there are many directions you can go in. I make creative choices when I’m shooting, but I
really don’t know what I have until I’ve gone through all the steps on the computer. This makes it more
a process of discovery than I find personally in traditional photography.
Where do you gather your inspiration for your work?
I’m inspired by the creativity and passion of my fellow humans. Especially those that are able to realize
a challenging creative vision through sheer determination.
I think artists and musicians are largely
marginalized in a society that is increasingly putting profit above everything else. To take an artistic
risk in the face of that environment requires a level of faith in your ideas that few of us are able to
These artists show us everyday what our creative potential is, and that makes me want to dig
deeper to find my own.
It has been said that artists are often highly critical of their work. Do you find that to be true for yourself?
I think you have to be highly critical of your work to improve or to steer it towards how you see it in your head. It’s a fine line though, and it doesn’t take much to fall into a cycle of self doubt. I’ve certainly been there, and will visit that place again in the future. For me it helps to get lost in the process. I make lots of mistakes but these can be stepping stones to discovery if you allow the process to unfold.
The photo of Dennis Rodman is insane! Can you share what it was like to capture that exact moment?
The Rodman photo was unusual because it was so unexpected. NBA players rarely risk their bodies
like that, and the action took place far from the basket where it typically occurs. The experience of
shooting it was pure reaction, sort of how you might react to an animal running out in front of your car.
If I had time to think I probably would have messed it up somehow.
When the moment was over I had no idea if I had something interesting or not. The mirror in the
camera blocks the viewfinder when you trigger the shutter, so you lose sight of the subject the instant the photo is made. Was it in focus? Did a referee or some other player step in front of me? I had no idea. The next morning I shipped the film to the NBA lab. About a week later the photo appeared in
Sports Illustrated, which for me was the first time seeing it.
It’s hard to process how many things came together in what was essentially an unconscious moment.
The framing, the timing, and the focus are all there, but there’s some composition happening that I just
can’t explain. You can also see a player (Scottie Pippen) running into the frame on the right. He is so
close to blocking my view. Just one more step and we wouldn’t be talking about this today. When I look
at the photo now I marvel at the seemingly random conditions that had to fall into place to allow it to
happen. I played my role, but in a weird way I feel like I was just a small part of some larger event.
If you weren’t involved in film-making what do you think you would be doing right now?
I was a newspaper photojournalist for a time. There are some really dedicated folks in that business,
and on occasion you would get to cover a story that really makes a difference in people’s lives. So it
would either be that or professional surfing.