“My style is often quite bold in terms of shape and color with a fascination for quirky human predicaments, experiences and encounters. I prefer daylight or available light and love sunlight and how it behaves and manifests itself.”
Shane Gray (born in the United Kingdom) is a documentary and street photographer now based in New York City (USA). Much of his current work is based upon the metropolis and its people, although the chance to explore other countries is always welcomed.
Shane Gray photographed widely in monochrome originally but feels that the interplay and vibrancy of colour is important to his work today. He is a member of the street photography collective “SP – Street Photographers” and contributed to the book “Street Photographers”.
Interview with Shane Gray
Shane, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
A very small amateur camera format called “110” was my first camera, and probably basis for my first photographic experience. As a very young child I remember on more than one occasion being totally fascinated by the Polaroid camera though; maybe everyone was. Photographs from war photographer Tim Page were burned into my memory from quite an early age.
Why did you become a photographer?
When I was a boy I used to draw avidly – usually from real life sources of inspiration. Photography took its place soon after and I’d spend my pocket-money on processing and printing small prints. Eventually and amidst many deviations and ideas I settled on the idea of becoming a photographer.
What does photography mean to you?
A culmination of appreciation, curiosity, artistic expression and purpose – or obsession as my wife likes to say…
Which photographer has inspired you most?
A very difficult question. There have been so many over the years as my interests and influences have changed but my most consistent source of inspiration comes from Alex Webb, closely followed by Joel Meyerowitz. Few photographers in my opinion have combined and mastered those all important elements to conjure such magical photographs from everyday life.
“One of the first photographic series that inspired me, was a set of photographs by Ray K. Metzker called “My camera and I in the loop”. The visual tension between its deep shadows cast by the muscular downtown architecture of this city of the big shoulder. And those brilliant shafts of light illuminating details of life in the loop like series of cinematic close-ups.”
Your favorite photography quote?
Again, it’s hard to reduce down to only one as I have favorite quotes for given situations, but one that I like generally is from the British photographer Don McCullin:
“The real truth of life is on the streets. Photograph the daily lives of people, and how they exist, and how they fight for space and time and pleasure.”
How would you describe your photographic language?
My style is often quite bold in terms of shape and color with a fascination for quirky human predicaments, experiences and encounters. I prefer daylight or available light and love sunlight and how it behaves and manifests itself. As with other street-photographers, I’m opportunistic of course and try to balance between reading people, situations and knowing when to exercise patience or not. Instinct is precious to the photographer.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
It’s really about trial and error initially and then finding an equilibrium between what often occurs and what you want to occur. Trust yourself and take, take, take photographs – meaningfully.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work?
My most recent work in is color and sometimes with variable focal lengths, though I find the 35mm a good choice for most situations.
“To evoke questions whilst giving answers. To provoke emotional responses as appropriate to the subject and the photographer’s intentions. To allow wonderment and curiosity.”
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
Humanity, perseverance, patience, curiosity, humor (and not always in that order).
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
To evoke questions whilst giving answers. To provoke emotional responses as appropriate to the subject and the photographer’s intentions. To allow wonderment and curiosity.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
From environments or experiences in life. Sometimes randomly, sometimes with prior thought and research.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Currently I shoot digital and use the Canon 5D mk11 with a 35mm lens, sometimes the 24-105mm when situations require it.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
Without a doubt: the Magnum website – that’s where most of my heroes live.
What photography book would you recommend?
“The Suffering of Light” by Alex Webb published by Aperture (foreword by Geoff Dyer).
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Ask yourself why? Learn to separate fantasy from reality but never lose sight of either.