Photographer: Othello Grey
Location: I’m based in Toronto, Canada. To be honest, it doesn't matter to me where I am, I’ll find what's unique about wherever I am. It’s been harder coming from Canada because there’s a period of time where you pretty much can’t shoot outside due to the weather and we also don’t have the most vast or beautiful landscapes. But, I love it for that very reason. Not having so much obvious beauty at my disposal has taught me how to see things in a different perspective, how to pull from the smallest moments and bring them to life.
Style: Hmmm, it’s hard for me to actually describe my style because I like to be flexible. In my opinion, to have an aesthetic is to be versatile, to be able to create in any range and shoot anything and still communicate that it's yours. I have a certain aesthetic and I think when you have an aesthetic you can dabble in various styles and it’s still recognizable. I want to be formless in my style and the way I approach photography, with that said, my main goal when taking photos is to capture the intangible element/ephemeral moments. There’s a certain feeling I want to communicate. Regardless of what I’m shooting, I love searching for ‘that’ moment.
Equipment: I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-70mm 2.8L for digital and right now I shoot with a Minolta Maxxum 7000 for film. In terms of editing, I go through a process of Lightroom/Photoshop. When I first started shooting digital I use to exaggerate my edits a lot and try to do a lot of deconstruction to my editorials. At this point I do just enough to give the photos what they need and nothing more.
Photography is all about capturing that moment. What’s the secret?
Everyone alive has gone through unique experiences in their life. As a photographer, I think the secret is tapping into how those moments felt, how those unique moments looked to you - then researching how to communicate them. I am constantly researching what I feel or have felt, finding other photographers/directors/painters/artists that have communicated similar feelings and then reassessing how they’ve done it to make it true to me.
I’m constantly breaking down what I’ve done, what I’ve seen, analyzing it to the core and then responding to what I find with ways to improve it. Everything’s been done, so how does one do something original? For me it’s a reassessment, mixing a thousand different inspirational elements and compiling them with my own unique moments/feelings. The end product is new. Pure. True. It’s been a long process. I’ve failed thousands of times, come home with countless black rolls of film, made things that were too similar to other things, etc., but after about 5 years of photography, I think I’ve figured it out.
How did you get into photography? Tell us about your first experience.
I actually stumbled across photography. As a kid I was pretty good at drawing, would read a ton of comic books, was really into cartoons and manga - so I was always into elements of visual art. I still have endless sketchbooks from when I was younger that will probably never see the light of day. I think it prepared me for photography because when I would draw, I was always searching for elements of people, learning how to capture their essence through my illustrations.
I never actually took photos until I was in college (which I dropped out of after one semester). The program I was in gave us a pass to use the photo equipment from the school, so one day I thought I’d borrow a camera and see what happened. I took a bunch of really bad photos of a friend I went to school with. At the time, I knew the photos were bad but there was that element of capturing someone's essence again that really resonated with me.
I bought my first film camera shortly after and started experimenting more. Most of the rolls were black but the ones that came out really struck a chord inside of me, so I just kept going. I went through about 3 film cameras before I found one that felt right for me. After that, I started taking photos of my friends and our daily lives. I still wasn’t taking it seriously, I was really just searching for those special moments. I wanted to have those fragments of time to look back on. Funny, because now when I go back to my old blog, those photos are as nostalgic as I wanted them to be.
“Remember to avoid ‘copying’ and focus on communicating in a new way. We live in an age of constant reproduction and constant imitation. The best photographers are able to live inside the realm of what's current while still pushing boundaries at the same time. So work really hard on constantly figuring things out. ”
Tell us the story behind one of the most memorable photos you’ve shot.
I don’t think I have any really insane stories.
What is a constant source of inspiration for you as a photographer?
I’m able to find inspiration in everything really. I’m always in a mode where everything is extremely vivid. I’m able to live in the moment and see things in a very cinematic way. It’s strange to explain but I’m constantly seeing beautiful things, fragments of moments- and they play out in my mind like short films. I extract those small moments and store them away or write them down for reference as things to capture later. So I’m literally always gaining new inspiration from everything around me.
Who has been a great influence or mentor to you and what did you learn from them that you still carry with you today?
I don’t think I can pinpoint any one person. I live in a way where I’m not really close to anyone in my life outside of my girlfriend, I have an extremely small circle of people that actually know me. Anyone who I’ve met or worked with has influenced me in small ways but I had to figure out who I wanted to be very early in life and I worked hard to become that.
Tell us three photography tips.
1. Work Hard. Beyond the obvious meaning, I’d say to consistently be experimenting, researching and observing what's around you. If you see a style that you really like, study how that person has done that and work really hard to make it your own. Remember to avoid ‘copying’ and focus on communicating in a new way. We live in an age of constant reproduction and constant imitation. The best photographers are able to live inside the realm of what's current while still pushing boundaries at the same time. So work really hard on constantly figuring things out. I personally never think anything I’ve done is too good or too bad. I’m extremely critical but understanding of the idea that perfection doesn’t exist. It’s a constant flux of creating, understanding what could have been better and figuring out how to achieve that.
2. Understand Yourself. Don’t ignore the fact that people who make it look easy have worked really hard. Understand that there is a struggle and a process to becoming great. Some of us are gifted and naturally blessed and the rest of us have to build ourselves up to become what we want. Understand what you’re good at and what you need to work on, the digital age makes it seem like there are so many ways to fast track to ‘success’ but in order to get there you have to improve.
3. Keep Going. I’ve gone through a lot of stages of self-discovery in terms of my photography. Being self-taught allowed me to take what I needed to know from a ‘technical’ standpoint but to really focus on expanding my vision and learning how things I see translate on camera. Through that journey there have been tons of ups and downs, so the last thing I’ll say is that if you’re really passionate about it, keep going. Remember that great things are possible but to receive great things you have to give great things to the universe.
Finish the sentence.
If I weren’t afraid I would... hm, I can’t pinpoint anything I’m really afraid of to begin with.
I wouldn't be where I am today if... I didn’t work for it.
I’ve been listening to... a lot of old Francis and the Lights, INC., random assortments of Thom Yorke songs, old Salem al Fakir, new and old Dev Hynes, the new Kendrick Untitled, Unmastered album, TLOP, and The25thHr.
Kids these days... are the future.
Traveling... is the gateway to an open mind, you can see ways of living completely opposite to your own. It’s revitalizing.
I respect... innovators. Anyone whose found a way to breakthrough, from amazing designers, to song writers, photographers. There are so many pioneers who I admire and respect for their consistent vision and dedication to excellence.
Tag a friend to feature and ask them a question.
Neva Wireko, @_____neva. Explain your creative process.
Neva Wireko answered: My creative process usually starts with an impulse idea, which could be sparked by anything - a scene I see on the street, a night out, a movie, a new artist I come across etc. I then formulate that impulse idea into something more tangible. When I've moulded it enough, I begin to bring on all the right people that can help make it come to life. I like the give my team freedom to add elements of themselves into what we're creating, so once I introduce them to the idea they can add their take on it through the styling or makeup/hair. That way everyone is adding to the idea and building it into something grand.