Through The Lens

Mackenzie Duncan

September 10, 2009, by Chelsea Coyle



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Montage's Jessiann Gravel for Malibu Magazine
by Mackenzie Duncan

What photographers have influenced you and how?
I didn't do any traditional schooling for photography, so I learned a lot - quickly - from the handful of people I assisted. When I first started out, these people had an immense impact - not as much on my personal style - but more on the technical nuances that reoccur frequently in my work. As far as those who I currently look to for inspiration, I really like the dreamy images of both Paolo Roversi and Tim Walker, both very fantastical in their own way. I love dirty, grunginess of Steven Klein, and the clean beautiful images that Mario Testino creates. Recently I got directed to Bob Richardson's website - a successful photographer in the 60's and 70's - I love how dark and moody his images are.

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?
Prior to working in photography I had been a relatively successful graphic designer. I grew bored of spending so much time in front of a computer, with little face time. So I took off to Central America for 6 months to surf, travel and clear my head. When I returned up the coast to Vancouver Island to see my parents, a long conversation was shared with my dad about the idea of me becoming a professional photographer. As cliché as it sounds - and in the characteristic role of a father - he had a wealth of important things to say, making me realize, should I choose photographer, it could be a life and lifestyle within my reach.

What inspires you to continue shooting and how do you keep motivated when a certain shot or moment just doesn't happen?
I go through pretty intense ups and downs when it comes to shooting, but what motivates me the most are the people I get to work with. It can be a blast (and satisfying) on set when you have a strong team, a strong model and when you get to be creative. At that point, the pay matters less and less.

As for moments, if one isn't happening, I think it is important to just try it from a different angle, you can't force a moment when it comes to shooting, it just happens.

As a photographer (and sometimes art director!), where do you find your own artistic inspiration?
I find it from all over, I have been busy brain storming an upcoming shoot, and I have been doing a lot of reading related to the topic, as well as looking up old images. Most of all though, I get really inspired by a location, when I arrive on to a location and it is bursting with potential, you can't ask for much more.

What is your favourite shoot to date?
It would be hard to decide which was my favorite, I have a few that stand out for different reasons. I have a shot of Andi Muise that I took while she was outside smoking at a runway show, and I only snapped two frames, but they are still two of my favorites. That was years ago, but when something like that happens, you just get attached to the photos somehow.

Last fall I did a shoot with Felix. We were shooting in what can only be described as 'questionable' motel just north of Montreal - the kind of place you didn't want to sit down in. We had Jenn Finkelstein and Steven Turpin there, laughing and having a great time, and the images are, again, some of my favorites. As well, as the memories of the actual shoot are pretty entertaining.

Then lastly, I did a shoot with Billie-Jazz and Delphie for Malibu magazine not too long ago. The art director and I ended up finding this amazing abandoned church / building that we got permission to shoot in. The walls were falling down, the paint peeling, things lay smashed on the ground everywhere. It was perfect. Once we started shooting, everyone hit it off and it turned out to be a really long and lovely day, and I love the end result.

What do you look for when casting?
It's all about personality / chemistry. As I write this I am just off set from a shoot with Jessiann. Not only is she one of the most beautiful girls around, she is also great on set, so much fun, so much energy, and the two of us have great chemistry. That, in the end, is the most important thing. If I don't get along with the talent, or don't get a good vibe from them, then I am not inclined to work with them, no matter how attractive they are.


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)