Shayne Gray is a creative commercial photographer/videographer based in Toronto, Canada who has made a name for himself shooting for some for some of the most notable magazines and clients. His work has been seen in British Vogue, Italian Vogue, Vogue China, GQ Brazil and has been featured as a valuable established resource on CreativeLive, SLR Lounge and Retouching Academy. In addition, Shayne Gray was a winner at the 2015 SNAP! Awards. Shayne Gray currently sits on the Board of Directors at Gallery 44. We had the pleasure of chatting with Shayne to learn more about his inspiring career.
- When did you discover your passion for photography?
Actually my mother tortured me with her camera – “go stand over by that tree and look regal!” I felt crazy awkward and sadly that was the end of my modeling career, although the camera definitely seemed interesting. Like so many other people I’d always been attracted to it and somehow over the years always came back to it. I studied music through school and university in Europe, but when I came Toronto I started to take it more seriously and it somehow turned itself into a full-time job, which is still amazing to me. I think the music training was very relevant to photography in considering how to translate ideas of form, colour, contrast and composition abstractly from one discipline to the other. I think the real magic though, which is where the “passion” comes from, is working with other people, organizing, planning, setting everything up and finally looking at the back of the camera and being amazed at everything that’s come together in a single image or series of images as a result of various people working together to create. That excitement has never gone away and as long as it’s there I always look forward to the next project.
- What was it about fashion photography that intrigued you the most?
I mostly work with creatives and quirky artsy types in addition to the commercial promo work I do, but when I do fashion, I like to know that the rules are more relaxed and that anything goes. Doing more conceptual work meant that I was usually the one coming up with ideas for everything, which takes a lot to create something from nothing, but if there’s an interesting designer onboard then you already have a place to start, which might inspire perhaps a location and a theme and everything often unfolds from there. Even models are often dictated by the garments and overall style of the designs.
- Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration is a funny and fickle thing…. Sometimes I look at photography from various decades of the 20th century and feel really inspired, but also modern photography and film. Sometimes it’s an environment that you find yourself in that gives you ideas or even the feeling you get from a stranger on the street and the persona you create for them, but honestly…sometimes that inspiration is a very active and less passive thing. Inspiration doesn’t always just come and I think that if we sit around and wait for it to hit, we could be waiting a long time. When a client comes with a deadline and we need an idea, we have to be able to produce something whether we’re feeling particularly creative or not and that’s where it takes real work to sit down and brainstorm with yourself to come up with something. Any creative is faced with that whether they’re a writer, musician or painter. There are the very few who complain that it’s sometimes too much that the art just flows through them and just wants to come out all the time, but unfortunately I’m just not one of those people and I often really need to push myself.
- What has been the biggest achievement in your career so far?
Hard to say, although I’m amazed at several things that have happened along the way. Having worked for big brands like YTV and IKEA is something I never thought I would do early on, but I also got to shoot Stewart Copeland, the drummer from The Police with his new group. We shot their promo material on the first day and shot the concert the next. Those guys are absolutely amazing and huge musicians!! Awards are also wildly flattering though and it’s always a little crazy to see your work in magazines. A collaboration I did with a local designer came out in British Vogue, which we were all very excited about, although when I look at some of the other publications in recent years, I definitely feel proud to be featured in some amazing places. There’s still so much to do though and to answer the question more directly, I’m going to say that I still have my biggest achievements yet to come and I’m looking forward to whatever that turns into….
- Any advice for aspiring #CREATORS?
We’re all wired a bit differently, but many of us have a fear of approaching people we really want to work with and that can be intimidating. Approaching someone doesn’t cost anything and I’ve often been surprised that almost anyone will say yes as long as you come across as a decent human being. The other important component to that is that as soon as you start a conversation, you set a whole machine in motion and suddenly you’re accountable to other people, which keeps us creating new things and not getting too static. It’s fine to take time to come up with ideas, but if none of them actually turn into anything in the real world, then unfortunately they’re not much good.
The other piece of advice is to find community or create your own. Community is a big deal to me and I’ve “collected” a lot of people from other photographers to other industry creatives and they’re often there when I have questions, need help with advice or other logistics. I’m fortunate enough to have others around me who are there to build me back up when I feel like I’m not at my creative best because let’s face it, part of being a creative is going through the cycle where you’re excited about creating, you create it, don’t know if it’s worth anything, question it and think it’s terrible before you massage it and (hopefully) come out the other side and decide you like it again and those people are there to help with that. I would encourage people to just try to challenge themselves and of course I’d love to see what people come up with!
All images taken by Shayne Gray