Who are you and what is your profession? My name is Alon Koppel. While I studied photography in college I never took it on commercially and instead started a web/multimedia design firm in NYC called FusionLab. http://fusionlab.com/
Although I never stopped taking photos it proved hard to run a business and do art at the same time, but in the last couple of years I have been photographing/filming more frequently and posting at least one new photo a day on my site, Not Like Here: http://notlikehere.org/
I am not a documentarian in the strict sense of the word, but my favorite lens is a 50mm/1.4 which keeps my view of the world quite simple and natural. I also enjoy working with text on photos. I think that is another part of my wish to document life but in a more broad, open way. I have a series of work called spam photos http://notlikehere.org/projects/spam-photos/ that reflect that occupation with text on photos. My studio also just released an iPad app http://imagewords.org/ for a similar target audience of photographers and creative people that offers an easy interface to add and manipulate text on photos in a similar way.
Can you tell us a little about your background and upbringing? I was born and raised in Israel and moved to the United States about 11 years ago. I started photographing when I was 11 or 12 (Pentax K 1000, anyone...?) and haven't stopped since. I really appreciate the fact that during my lifetime I lived to see this amazing transition from (analog) film to digital, both in photography and film. On the one hand the process is now so democratic that everyone can shoot or edit, but on the other hand I wish people didn't just wave a (digital) SLR at a subject and think that makes them photographers. Shooting on film required people to strategize and think a bit more about why, when, where and what they are shooting.
What inspired you to be a filmmaker? I've always enjoyed shooting videos, it's an extension of my still photography vision so a lot of my videos are static. The camera simply records what happens (or doesn't) in the plain of view. While some of my work tells a story I don't feel I need it to be a complete, structured narrative. Sometimes just exploring a certain angle I see is narrative enough.
I also enjoy the editing process, where subjects can come to life or a situation explored. Last year I replaced my Canon 5D with the 5D Mark II and it really opened my eyes to the possibility of shooting beautiful, simple videos with almost film-like quality. The fact that a very good still camera that I as a photographer am intimately familiar with evolved into a tool for making grade-A videos, without being a traditional video camera, made it easier for me to evolve as well.
My wife and I are working on a documentary about the Hudson River Ice Yachts and the incredible people that sail and restore them. It's been a very interesting process last winter: http://vimeo.com/9565582
Who are your heroes? More of a role-model than a hero, but without a doubt that would be my Aikido Sensei (teacher) Gary Snyder of Aikido Kokikai NYC. http://www.nycaikido.com/
What story do you want to tell on 10.10.10? If I could, I would like to tell the story of the people that try to reach for peace in the middle-east via non-violent means. That resulting peace would be a long-term life goal of mine. However I don't think I'll be able to explore that on 10.10.10 so hopefully other people in the middle east can document the life and suffering of people in the occupied territories. That would be a perfect Day On Earth profile.
Why is this important to you? I think people in the middle-east and in particular in Israel and the occupied territories have a fear of their unknown neighbors. Yet, on many levels we are all the same, with the same needs and aspirations. Most people would like to live in peace but religious fanatics on both sides make that very difficult. It's my hope that with a democratic endeavor such as One Day on Earth, some regular folks can tell their story so the other side can at least see how they live.