Through The Lens

Greg Swales

October 28, 2009, by Chelsea Coyle


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    model: Jessica Lewis (Elmer Olsen), by Greg Swales

    What photographers have influenced you and how?
    My biggest influence is Steven Klein. His images are shocking and beautiful, surreal, morbid and controversial. He has the ability to tell a dramatic story in one image and transform celebrities into dark and vulnerable versions of themselves. The lighting and unnatural color in his images are superb. He also works in video which is something I am beginning to experiment in. Another photographer who also has a surreal and haunting look yet more fairy-tale than Klein is Annie Leibovitz. She has a way of making people look exposed in a way they are confident about.

    Did you have a moment when you realized, within yourself, that you were skilled enough to do this for a living and if so when was that or what was it like?
    I remember the first time one of my images was on the Sutherland Model Agency's website, that was step #1, and soon after that came a moment where I doubted myself as a fashion photographer taking my first real critique. I go through waves of confidence, interrupted by moments where I begin to feel unfulfilled by my work, I think thats when the real evolution and growth as a photographer takes place. The images I created the first time I worked with designers Evan & Dean made me realize that Fashion Photography was the right direction for my career and something I would excel in. An image from that shoot is still in my portfolio after many years, and is one of the images where people pause when they turn through my book.

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    model: Anna Feller (Chantale Nadeau), by Greg Swales

    What inspires you to continue shooting and how do you keep motivated when a certain shot or moment just doesn't happen?
    What inspires me to keep shooting is to constantly challenge myself and experiment with new ways of taking photographs, just as fashion evolves, so does the photography. The innovation of designers like Alexander McQueen and beautiful collections like Chanel (paper) Couture Spring 2009 inspire me because i imagine the images and stories I could create with those clothes. I have so much respect for designers. They are sculptures, architects, painters. When I feel a certain shot or moment isn't working out, I won't move onto the next outfit until i can look at the screen on my camera and say wow. I don't like to depend on post photoshoot retouching to make an image amazing, which is a problem I ran into in the past. Then clients started depending too much on the photoshop and I found myself staring at my computer frustrated and sick of looking at an image that I felt i would never want my name attached to. Now I make sure it all happens during the shoot. When I find myself unsatisfied and unable to achieve the dynamic photo I have in my head, I turn to spontaneity and the personality of the model.

    As a photographer (and sometimes art director!), where do you find your own artistic inspiration?
    I am constantly collecting images that inspire me from websites. I might be interested by the lighting, mood, positioning of models. I am also inspired by all types of artists that I believe are doing something truly original. Bjork's music has always been a way of putting myself in a creative mood, I often listen to her when I paint. Luckily I am always working on several projects at once, so when I feel blocked or frustrated, i move on to something else. Also thanks to the iPhone, I always have a way of taking pictures at any moment, just to document something that interests me, a location I walk by, a textured wall. I always surround myself and aim to work with people who are passionate and excited about what they are doing, people who will put more than what is asked of them into a shoot, that is when we create amazing mages. I love working with stylists who have a vision, models who understand their body, hair/makeup who understand what works best for the shoot, not just looking to try some crazy new look they want for their book.

    What is your favourite shoot to date?
    My favorite shoot to date was pretty recent. This past July in Toronto I shot for the Fall 09 issue of Spade Magazine with model Jessica Lewis, fashion editor Corey Ng, and hair/makeup Vittorio Masecchia. The dresses by Herve Leger were obscenely stunning and with the location everything looked gritty yet luxurious. There were a lot of variables that had me concerned like when it would start raining, shooting in pure darkness, and the number of homeless people that were around when I did the location scouting earlier in the week. But everything worked out, the rain didn't come until the very end, the homeless were not an issue, and I was impressed by everyones enthusiastic attitude who didn't mind roughing it a bit to get great images.

    What do you look for when casting?
    I look for a model who can do some acting, who can take direction well but also can pose fluidly and make awkwardness look natural. When I am reviewing a model's book, I look for emotion in the eyes which comes from the model being confident in what they are communicating to the camera. My favorite models have a surreal alien quality about them, but can still project sensuality.


    Blogs We Follow

    Cailin Hill (The Model Burnbook)

    Models x Models (Models x Models)

    Liis Windischmann's (14+ LouLou blog)

    Laura Kell (A Model Life)

    Madison Schill (Chic Greek Geek)

    Kathleen Burbridge (Kathleen in Wonderland)

    Ania Boniecka (A n i a . B)

    Shawn Dezan (motivated//ambition)