Interview with Kevin Gray.

Kevin Gray is a photographer, whose photographs are an heritage of the work of the color pioneers like William Eggleston. Not that i found Gray’s work to be a mere update of what was been done before but more like he picked up where the others left. An american way of life exudes from his portraits and can be felt in those photographs, for me his works shows the american way of life but not the glamorous LA kind of life that we see on the telly but the true, normal, day to day life.
His landscapes, photographed all over the world, avoid the postcard look and feel, Venice is portrayed from a rooftop, loosing the mystic from the view of the canals that have been photographed ad nauseum by hundreds of photographers and tourists. Sometimes it pays to work hard to get the right photograph, the one no one has never imagined and that shows up in his photographs. So let’s ear what he has to say:

How do you started taking photographs and why?

I went to film school at The University of California at Santa Barbara from 1991-1994 and some of our assignments were to create narratives with still photos. A lot of our exams were written essays on cartoon strips or comic books so I learned the still image tells a lot. Movies and cinematographers were my early influences.

In your opinion, what makes a good photo?

I think the main elements that make up a good photo are design/composition, expression of the subject, and light. Composition is probably the first thing I pay attention to. I like to figure out what motivated the photographer to place the camera in it’s position. In the case of portraiture, the subject’s expression explains what motivated the photographer to push the button. Light dictates where the viewer’s eye starts and ends when looking at the photo. All photographers use these elements differently but if their picture shows a moment of reality or expression, then they have taken a good photo.

What makes you want to capture a photo? What you must see in a subject to make you release the shutter?

I try to find interesting people to photograph. I don’t just mean interesting looking, I mean interesting personalities. These are the people that will give you something worth capturing. They will give you the moment and the reason to push the button. I also enjoy shooting landscapes. I am not really sure what makes me decide weather or not a scene is worth shooting other than I just think it is beautiful. This is a hard question…

Do you have a routine to take the photos for your projects or you just let it happen and see where it takes you?

I think I let it happen and see where it takes me. Travel is a major source for inspiration and it is all about letting it take you. MOST PHOTOGRAPHERS LACK ANY KIND OF ROUTINE IN THEIR DAILY LIVES……

At the end of a shooting session how do you choose the photos that are worth to show in your portfolio?

I try and let as much time as possible go by after a shoot before I do an edit. This is sometimes impossible but for portfolio selection, I think it is important to separate myself from the experience for a period of time. This allows me to look at individual images instead of the whole shoot.

Name a few photographers that inspired you and your work and why they inspired you.

Stephen Shore: His book Uncommon Places is one of my favorites. This book inspired me to start photographing American cars in different environments.
David Tsay: I assisted David for approximately 3 years. I learned a lot about photography and life from him. He primarily uses natural light and can decide where to place the camera and how to run the film based on the quality of light. A lot of photographers think it is important to know how to use additional lighting in order to achieve a great photo. David’s work proves this to not be true. His instructors told him to go out of the studio and in the sun and take some pictures. He basically told me the same thing.
Glen Friedman: I love the attitude that comes through his photos.
Robert Frank: His book The Americans shows the moments of reality that I spoke of in the first question.
Taryn Simon: She takes some of the best portraits and has had some very powerful work published. Look at her book The Innocents.
Gregg Toland: Cinematographer used long depth of field with very long takes.
Jordan Cronenweth: Blade Runner was my favorite film in school.

How digital technology changed the way we look at photography as art?

I love my new scanner. It allows me to easily go back and look at old contact sheets, print at home and see things that I would not have seen otherwise. As much as I resist, it is important to embrace technology and keep learning. I think the photographers that subscribe to the purist school of thought will go exclusively large format just to further separate themselves from the digital photographers. I think I will continue to shoot with film as long as I can. I love my old cameras and the way digital technology is going, I don’t see it necessary to buy digital cameras. RENT THEM.

Port of LA
© Port of LA – Kevin Gray.

Kevin Gray website.


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