interview

Photographer Interview: Steve Gray

Steve Gray comes from a world a way, and captures his landscape and surroundings in a lovely way. I first learned about Steve through his Borderland project, but I’m recently digging his Postcards from Cambridge, MA series.

Where are you and what do you do?

I am based in the county of Herefordshire in the west of England, close to the border with Wales. It is a region of rolling farmland, wooded hills and (close to the border) dramatic upland moor. I am very fond of this landscape and it features a lot in my photography.  My initial interest photographically was in taking what I guess you could call a traditional approach, working slowly with a tripod, using filters and trying to be out in dramatic light and the start and end of the day. I soon realised thought that this wasn’t really for me and latterly I have pursued a more contemporary, documentary approach to my work (always handheld these days!) – whether shooting in an urban or rural environment.

How did you get started in photography?

My interest led me to enroll in a beginners black and white darkroom evening class back in 2003. I knew next to nothing about photographic technique and so it was a pretty steep learning curve. Very quickly, however, I knew that I was hooked and photography has been a huge part of my life ever since.

What do you like about your photography?

It has taken many years of experimentation and many failed images and projects for me to feel comfortable with my own work, but I’m happy to say I now do. I think it is really important to develop an approach and style that works for you, produce images that make you happy and not worry if others like them too. That said, I do really enjoy sharing my work and hope that some of my images create a positive reaction. If pushed, I guess I would say I like the freedom in my approach to image-making – I work quite spontaneously with little planning. I’m also very partial to photograph patterns, shadows and shapes I find interesting. Lastly, it really appeals to me to have such a personal means by which to share how I see the world around me.

I like that your work explores different locations. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas? 

My local landscape is definitely a source of inspiration. I believe the best approach is to photography what’s around you, what you know or where you happen to be, and try to find ways to make interesting pictures. This is in contrast to the trend to travel to well-known and much-photographed beauty spots. I’m not criticising that approach, I’ve simply come to realise it’s not for me and doesn’t produce results I feel happy with.

You’re “Yashica Steve” on Instagram – using film to express your vision. What kinds of themes do you explore with your work? How does film help you accomplish that? 

I set up my Instagram account as @yashicasteve to share new film work when I started working with film again last year. I have really loved photographing this way over the last few months, using a Yashica T4 35mm compact camera loaded with AgfaVista 200. I’m don’t support the notion that film is better than digital (or vice versa), it’s just that I find the feel of the pictures, the atmosphere, really pleasing and it seems to suit my preferred subject matter. I am increasingly enjoying walking around urban environments with no planned route or expectations and simply photographing things I encounter that interest me. I also love the deferred gratification of seeing the images after getting the film developed – digital has made everything so instantaneous this is a real pleasure!

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

My focus over recent months has been on a project called Borderland: where England meets Wales, documenting the often forgotten rural hinterland I call home on the border between the two countries. The landscape there is changing in many ways as (very slowly!) this rural landscape modernises and traditional ways of life decline. I think it makes for a fascinating and timely subject and I’m hoping others agree! I have managed all aspects of putting the book together and promoting it myself and am delighted to have sold most of the limited edition of 100 copies. There are some still available, however, and the whole series can be viewed and orders placed on my website.

Follow Steve on Instagram and Twitter, or check out his website for more work


Photographer Interview: Barry Phipps

I first learned about Barry Phipps’s Iowa photos project on Feature Shoot, and, as a fellow Midwesterner, could hardly contain my excitement – it’s my kind of project, full of story and place and changes.

Where are you and what do you do?

I’m in Iowa City, IA. Moved here four years ago from Chicago, where I lived for 22 years. I’m a working photographer and artist.

How did you get started in photography?

I studied photography at The Kansas City Art Institute in the late eighties. I’m old, so we were taught how to shoot, develop, and print film.

What do you like about your photography?

I’m very hard on myself, so it’s hard sometimes to say I like my own photography. That said, I enjoy a means of communication that isn’t blatantly about me. It’s more impersonal and less directly emotive than, say, making music. I’m a former musician who finds it gut wrenchingly difficult to listen to a song I’ve recorded and released where I’m singing, but have no problem digging through old photographs and finding enjoyment doing so.

You cover weddings and portraits along with your Iowa series. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

I enjoy weddings and portrait work. I still shoot film and approach it in the same way as my Iowa Photographs series, and tend to work for artists, photographers, writers and the like. I don’t really look much at other wedding photographers for inspiration. My studio portrait work isn’t really influenced by other work. I’m inspired by Richard Avedon and kind of jealous of Terry Richardson. I like looking through Vanity Fair and those types of magazines as I’m waiting to get my hair cut. I’d love to do fashion stuff, but not going out of my way to make that happen. I do live in Iowa, after all.

I like that your photos, especially your Iowa series, have a sense of place and purpose. What kinds of themes do you explore with your work?

Thanks! Actually, I feel the Iowa Photographs series gave my photography a sense of purpose, focus, and direction. I photographed lots in Chicago, but moving to Iowa four years ago really gave me a sense of direction. I’m really drawn to this place. I initially just started taking day trips in every direction from Iowa City, just to see what was out there. It was exciting to be in a new place. I assumed I would live in Chicago for the rest of my life. Chicago can be a challenging place to leave. You can drive for two hours and still be in the city sometimes. Here, it’s liberating to be able to just get in my car and drive in any direction and be somewhere new in just a few minutes. Iowa is populated with a million small towns, most never more than six or seven miles from the last one. Iowa was mostly populated within a few years, mostly by European immigrants. So, these towns formed, thrived, peaked and later declined as the original purpose of servicing farming families dried up. There’s a consistency town to town, but also a uniqueness. I’m always surprised by what I find.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

The Iowa Photographs series will continue, but I have wrapped up my initial phase of the project. I’ve photographed every county in Iowa and have accumulated what I consider a fair representation of the state of the state. I’m currently putting a book together of the best stuff from this phase. It will be published by The University of Iowa Press around 2019.

You can purchase Phipps’s Iowa Photographs series in volumes, and follow along on Instagram. Check out more of Phipps’s work at his portfolio site.


Photographer Interview: Heather Nash

Heather Nash is a photographer in southeast Michigan I’ve been following on Instagram for almost as long as I’ve been on Instagram. I love her unique view of the world, and the way she captures it.

Where are you and what do you do?

I live in Ypsilanti, Michigan and I photograph people, places and weddings.

How did you get started in photography?

I went to school for photography and received my BFA in 2-D studies/Photography. I learned with film, mostly black and white, some color. The transition to digital came later but I still shoot a bit of film here and there with an old Canon AE-1 that belonged to my grandfather. I love black and white photography, specifically the work of Sally Mann.

What do you like about your photography?

I like watching the evolution of my work. I feel like I’m constantly refining my style, honing my technique and improving the way I utilize light in my images. I’m always reading and trying out new ideas. It’s good to keep learning!

I like how you capture your world, and the people around you. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

I do draw inspiration from other photographers and visual artists, and I’m often inspired by nature. I also love to people watch and observe daily life as it’s happening. I’m very curious and kid-like at times!

You do some paid gigs as well. How do you balance professional vs. personal photography?

I always try to leave room for personal projects, like portrait work, where I can try new things and challenge myself creatively.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

I just returned from a trip to Bali, an island in Indonesia. I took a small Fuji travel camera and documented my whole trip with the goal of putting together a small show this spring. It was an amazing experience to say the least!

Follow Heather on Instagram, or check out her portfolio site and blog for more of her work. 


Photographer Interview: Neil Thain-Gray

I first discovered Neil Thain-Gray’s work through Self Publish Be Happy. His photo book, Personal Space, was right up my alley: urban landscapes in the Eggleston/Shore tradition, but more up close and personal, with nods to design and patterns. And the colors! So good.

Where are you and what do you do?

I live in Glasgow, Scotland with my wife Rachel and our seven year old son. I earn a living working in Learning & Development for a national charity. Photography is my creative outlet that I fit in between work and family life, whenever the Scottish weather permits.

How did you get started in photography?

Both of my parents have a background in the arts, and my dad as a photographer encouraged me to get to grips with an SLR in my teens. However, I didn’t really connect with photography until after I had graduated from art school when I found myself without access to studio space or equipment. I picked up a camera just to stay creative and suddenly photography seemed to fit into my life.

What do you like about your photography?

I like walking with a camera without any particular purpose or direction, especially wandering somewhere new, even if it’s just a short cut or side street. I don’t drive, so I’m always walking or on the bus or the train. Photography helps me to be attentive and open to the world around me. On a nice day, with nowhere in particular to be, having a camera is just a great excuse to exist.

I love your use of color, your consistent style, and your view of urban spaces. What kinds of themes do you like to explore with your work?

Thanks! I don’t know about themes and I don’t really have an idea of where my photographs fit in the world. Any sense of style probably comes more from a consistent process than any intent. I shoot with the same camera, the same lens, the same films. I am generally just looking for interesting light, shapes, and colours to make a composition with.

You recently put out a great little photo book. What inspired you to do that, and how has the experience been for you?

Thanks, glad you like it! I’ve been buying self-published photobooks for a couple of years and figured I should publish my own. The process of editing and designing was challenging, but I learned along the way. Setting up an online store was fun, too. The biggest hurdle has been the marketing, but it has been great to mail copies out around the world, to get feedback and a sense of connection.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

I am trying to pull together funds to self-publish my next photobook. There are a few drafts in progress on my desktop! I recently gave a talk at a photobook event at Streetlevel Photoworks in Glasgow and FfotonWales have posted videos of the event online. I will be trying to sell some copies along with postcards and prints at GlasgowZineFest in April so the next book better be ready!

Otherwise my camera will always be on me whenever I have some time to spare.

Thanks for inviting me to take part Dave, it’s been fun! Happy shooting all!

See more of Neil’s work on his Tumblr blog, and follow him on Twitter.


Photographer Interview: James Joyner

Among the urbex/abandoned community on Instagram, I try to look for photographers who do it well, and have a personal style that’s recognizable. James Joyner is one of my favorites, and we’ve collaborated in the past on each other’s work. Jimmy’s style has really grown into its own, and I love seeing the locations he finds on his adventures.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is James Joyner and I’m a radiological aide at a local hospital in Maryland, USA.

How did you get started in photography?

My parents got me my first “real” camera, a Nikon 35mm N2000, back when I was a junior in high school, where I first started really learning how to compose photos and work the controls. For my high school grad gift, I got myself my first DSLR, a Nikon D60, where I really started coming into my own and learning what I liked to photograph.

What do you like about your photography?

That’s a tough one… I guess if I were a third party looking at my photography, I’d say that I really liked the way I try to channel a scene’s darker side. I’ve always been a fan of darker styles of photography… I believe the shadows can add to a photo just as much as the light does (if not, more). In a sense, I like to work the lighting in a scene to enhance the darkness.

I’d also say that I really like that I shoot abandonment, but in the context of the surrounding landscape and scenery. I think there’s a deeper and a sadder story to tell about an abandoned house when you add elements such as the sky and the overgrowing grass around it.

Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

I get my inspiration for my style and ideas primarily from the music I listen to, films/shows I love, and from other artists whose work I follow on Instagram.

Films/shows that really inspire my work include ones like I Am Legend, The Road, War of the Worlds, The Walking Dead, and other post-apocalyptic pieces such as those. I have a huge obsession with that genre… Sometimes when I’m editing a photo I’ll think something like, “I want this house to look like a scene straight out of The Walking Dead. I want the viewers mind to race when looking at this house, thinking thoughts such as ‘what happened here? Is there anything lurking in those shadows? Is there something written in blood on the walls inside that house somewhere?’” I want to create those thoughts in people’s heads.

Your work focuses on on a lot of spooky situations and abandoned properties. What excites you about shooting in these situations?

The story behind why a place is abandoned. The unknown of what I’ll find upon investigation of the place. Getting that ONE shot that makes the entire shoot worth doing. Getting caught by either the angry owner/the police on a property for which I haven’t necessarily gotten permission to shoot. All things that are racing through my mind while on shoots.

Honestly that latter thought tends to occupy my mind a little more than I’d prefer… but that’s all part of the game. It makes getting that one beautiful shot all the more rewarding.

What kinds of themes do you like to explore with your work?

The major theme I like to explore is Life After Humans. The History channel did an entire series on what happens on a grander scale if people were to vanish tomorrow, and I like to channel that on a little bit more personal level with my work.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

I’m working on a project at the moment for a @pr0ject_uno story takeover on Instagram. They have been doing it with some amazing artists so far, and it’s an absolute honor that they thought of me for this. My theme is going to be rural abandonment. Make sure to keep an eye on their account and their story for the takeover!

As for shoots… that’s the part that’s so cool about shooting abandonment the way I do. New shoots present themselves every time I go out and randomly drive around or explore a new spot. It could be tomorrow that I find the coolest house I’ve ever come across.

There’s an abandoned middle school I plan on hitting soon very close by… I just got a brand new Sigma 20mm Art lens, so that will be my saving grace inside that place.

Check out more of James’s work on Instagram as @shuttermayfire


Photographer Interview: Nick Bedford

One of the benefits of listening to On Taking Pictures is interacting with the talented community that’s built up in support of the podcast. That’s how I found out about Nick Bedford’s work. Nick is an example of my kind of photographer: he does a bit of everything, and does it well.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name’s Nick Bedford and I’m a semi-professional portrait photographer from Brisbane, Australia.

How did you get started in photography?

In the middle of 2010, I borrowed my friend’s Canon 450D and played around with it and had to get my own, much to the lament of my friends and family who were subjected to my (at the time) very bad photos.

What do you like about your photography?

This is an interesting question. I’ve come to prefer making photographs that tell a story of a time or about a person, so it’s somewhat that story-telling aspect as well as the lighting, which is one of the first things I think about.

I guess the other thing I like is that it doesn’t stick to one type of photography and showcases a (hopefully) consistent vision across many wildly differing genres.

Your work focuses on everything from musicians to one-on-one portraits, plus landscapes and street photography. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

These days I get a lot of inspiration from Instagram. It’s so easy to find masses of great and inspiring work there. I’ve never tried to shoe-horn myself into any specific genre. I like to think of myself as simply a photographer with a certain way of seeing the world and that manifests in the way I shoot street or portraits or landscapes. I’ve even shot some music videos and I found that I have a love for directing, so I think at the root of my photography is a desire to portray “story” in whatever way that is.

I love lighting and almost every genre I’ve tried requires lighting to add drama and interest to the other aspects of the photo. Street photography is a relatively new thing for me, only from the last few years, but I love doing it. It keeps you on your toes and makes you better at “seeing” quickly, especially when you’re using a manual focus rangefinder where there’s no depth of field preview.

My favourite tool is the Leica M with a 35mm lens and I’ve made a lot of photographs in that perspective, from street to landscapes.

Your Faces project is a lot of fun. What’s the idea behind it?

In 2014, my housemate moved out and took a couch he had in the lounge room which opened up some free space, so I decided to set up a little studio there. I then thought of getting friends around to shoot and after the first session, I decided it would be a “a catch up and a single selected portrait” kind of affair.

We spend an hour or so catching up and having fun shooting some portraits then we import them and run through the images to find one that we both love the most. It’s a slow burn kind of project in that I don’t put any pressure on myself to shoot X portraits a month for it, just whenever someone is up for a portrait and chats, we shoot! As of 19th Jan ’17 I’m up to 19 faces.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

In the end of 2016, I made the decision to go semi-professional (finally) in my portrait work, focusing on those specific genres of traditional and editorial portraits and head shots, so I’ve been working on building more of my new portfolio work as well as shooting a few clients in the first month of the new year. It’s been great and I’m really excited to see where it leads. I struggled to accept the idea of being a professional, with all the business stuff that comes with it, and it took me 6 and a half years to finally say, “I’ve gotta do it.”

Follow Nick’s work at his portfolio website, or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.


Photographer Interview: Ines Perkovic

I don’t remember where I first came across Ines Perkovic’s (aka, December Sun) photos, but I knew from her Rome shots that I was going to be a fan. I love her mix of gorgeous European landscapes and little slices of life.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Ines Perkovic and I’m a photographer and history professor from Croatia.

How did you get started in photography?

Actually, I’ve always been interested in art. I’ve always loved to paint (and still do it) but, not until I stumbled upon Flickr more than 10 years ago did I got interested in photography. I was mesmerized by all the beautiful artwork. It all took off from there; getting my first DSLR, meeting others photographers, etc. Slowly, photography became more than just a hobby to me.

What do you like about your photography?

I think my photos have a simplistic approach to them and, right now, I’m quite satisfied with it. But, there is always room for learning new techniques, upgrading your gear and overall growing as an artist. Also, the ability to freely express myself and learn about the world (and document it) is the best thing photography has brought me.

You do a great mix of lifestyle details and beautiful landscapes. What kinds of themes do you explore with your work?

Anything I find worth documenting. Mostly, the photos are the result of my everyday life whether it’s a day spent at home, socializing, or traveling. However, I do find myself shooting lifestyle and landscape more often than the other.

When I first started, I’ve never thought I’d enjoy landscape photography. But, that’s the fun of it. You just never know where it might take you. One thing always stays the same – I want the photos to reflect my faith in God. So, whatever I do, I try to honor Him with my work. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

Right now, I’m concentrating on opening up my own business and booking sessions and weddings. I don’t plan on getting a job in education anymore. However, a job that could include history as well as photography would be a dream come true. That is the ultimate goal. Apart from the that, it’s the same old recipe – whatever comes my way.

You can see more of Ines’s work at her portfolio site, on Instagram, and at her Flickr gallery.


Photographer Interview: Darrell Vannostran

Darrell Vannostran is a photographer and videographer based in Oklahoma City, OK. I follow Darrell on Instagram (@thecontinue) and enjoy his mix of abandoned and derelict locations with beautiful landscapes.

Where are you and what do you do?

I’m a photojournalist, videographer, and photographer based in Oklahoma City. I sword fight in my free time.

How did you get started in photography?

I’ve enjoyed taking photos since I was a little kid. My first camera was a Polaroid OneStep Close-Up, and I mostly used it to take pictures of my television and my dog. When I got into middle school my mother bought an SLR and signed me up for a photography class at the local vo-tech, where I learned to develop black and white film. I eventually took an introductory photography class in college, but I became much more interested in video production. In the last few years I’ve picked up photography again and realized how much I’ve missed still photography.

What do you like about your photography?

I have a lot of trouble remembering things, especially the photos I take, so when I get around to editing I’m constantly surprised at the images I’ve captured. Occasionally it’ll bring back memories and emotions, and sometimes I have no recollection of having ever seen what I’m looking at. Now I focus on making photos that are impossible for me to forget. I love it when I’m able to make a photograph that feels as if it has texture to it.

You do a great mix of decay and beautiful landscapes. What kinds of themes do you explore with your work?

I’m in love with the fact that nothing lasts forever yet something can have a lifespan much greater than my own. I like to think of my photos as mugshots of spaces or objects, without people, that have lost their purpose or have been left alone giving them a sense of isolation or emptiness to them, wether it’s an abandoned warehouse or an open field. This is that object at a single moment in its life and what you see are the details that I think define it.

I also love windows. They have so much character that it’s impossible to ignore them.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

I’m constantly looking for new places and adventures to be had. I love road trips, and I’m hoping to go on several this year. You never know what you’ll find out on the road.

Learn more about Darrell’s work on his website, and follow him on Instagram.


Photographer Interviews, Year Two

Jackson, Michigan

Last year I did a series of photographer interviews as a fun winter project. It was a great way to chat with photographers whose work I enjoy, and to learn about some photographers who I’ve followed on social media, or connected with through On Taking Pictures.

Let’s do it again!

I have a list of people I’m going to reach out to, but if you follow the work I do, and you’re a photographer with good work to share, I’d love to feature your stuff.

Easiest way? Send me a note!


Photographer Interview: Seth Duimstra

Seth Duimstra is a Jackson, Michigan-based photographer, and good creative friend of mine. Seth and I (along with his lovely wife Aynee) have shot together a few times, but what I appreciate about Seth is his good advice.

By the way: that’s me in the first portrait shot above. Part of our fun urbexing trip.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Seth Duimstra, a husband, dad-to-be, and I guess I’d consider myself as a “creative” so how’s “creative photographer” sound? Aside from photography, I paint, do graphic design, and recently I’ve been exploring video among other random creations.

How did you get started in photography?

I’ve always enjoyed taking a good pic but I started really messing around after I got out of tattooing. I still needed an artistic outlet and I had a DSLR that i never figured out how to use properly. so I jumped down the proverbial rabbit hole.

What do you like about your photography?

What is there NOT to like about photography? It’s like seeing through other people’s eyes, reliving a memory or a feeling, and so much more. Not to mention the human element in itself just is so interesting to me. People are weird and I love it.

Your work is varied: products, people, landscape, urbex. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

I feel like a dabble with a little bit of everything. I have my favorites but they all fit into one of two ways for me, documentary or artistic. I think keeping things mixed up keeps me from getting bored. I love product photography because I generally work with local artists; so not only do i get to get a first hand private viewing of some pretty amazing work, but i also get to have a small part in their own success.

Landscape and urbex are all about the adventure to me. I generally do this with other photographers, so not only are we hunting for those great images but I get to document the adventure as well. Street photography is also a blast when I get the opportunity to visit other cities. Portraits/candid photography has to be my favorite though. People in general fascinate me… no two alike (even twins), your personality shows through… not to mention just the random expressions we all make in the moments that are only there for a split second and they’re just oh so wonderful.

What themes do you like to explore with your work?

I just recently started messing around a little more with themed type shoots, Its fun but I’m just getting started so the jury is still out on that. 🙂

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

Always pondering something, as of late I’d say testing my newsletter concept. I’m itching to get outside more now that color will be back here in Michigan soon. The best way to know what I’m up to would be follow my Instagram or blog. 🙂

For more of Seth’s work, visit his portfolio page, his Facebook page, or follow him on Instagram.