Photography Sotlight: David Macgillivray
In David’s own words: I grew up in a town near Calgary, where I spent a lot of time drawing and painting. After finishing school, like many Canadians, I gave myself a year in Australia to figure it all out. I had preferred working with large canvases, so it was much more comfortable to travel with a camera. I was obsessed with photography and documenting my trip, though I was far too shy for portraits. I decided to postpone my studies to teach English in Moscow, which is where someone gave me the confidence I needed to photograph people. In the meantime, my brother had been taking some really great photos, and he encouraged me to study with him in Vancouver. It was a really good time for the both of us. I continued to teach English and shoot on the weekends for a few years and finally moved to Paris to dedicate myself entirely to photography. I’ve been here for almost a year and it’s been going really well.
When did your love of photography begin?
When I was ten, my parents took me to the celebration of my grandparents’ anniversary. It was the first time I’d been on a plane. My older sisters and brother stayed at home, had a massive party, and I think all of us felt a new independence. I had a few disposable cameras with me and as the only child surrounded by adults, I explored the area, taking photos on my own. It was the first time I remember making the decision to create something. I felt responsible, and was sincere in my composition. It was mine. I feel the same now, and often the rush is all too brief, but it’s enough to keep going. Just chasing that, really.
Which photographers are you inspired by?
Alice Springs and Ernst Haas are who first come to mind, though Alasdair McLellan is someone who I really admire.
What is your favourite subject to photograph?
Portraits are what I love most, though for some time I’ve been shooting products and people through windows. I feel like a spy, knowing that someone is unaware of being photographed and their circumstance recorded or admired. When doing this, I know that before long they’ll notice, and the urgency is a huge thrill.
What are your plans for 2013?
Photographing men was foreign to me about six months ago, and it’s turned out to be a real strength. This year, I’m focusing on developing my portfolio in menswear editorial and advertising. Recently I started to blog my personal work at have a nice dave. I’m having a lot of fun with it, and can’t wait to visit some new cities in Europe this summer to expand on the street work I’ve been doing here.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
I read books about photography, criticisms and reviews, but what I’m most interested in now, is producing expressions that the viewer can relate to, or want to be a part of. In reading artist biographies, you can learn some interesting tricks for doing so. Also, there are many teenaged English kids who’ve made the technical aspects of photography and processing easily accessible on youtube!
Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?
My favourites come and go, but one which has stayed with me for some time is the portrait of Daria Pleggenkuhle. This was taken on the street in New York, where a rather serious crowd had formed around us. She didn’t appear to have noticed them staring, taking photos or whistling at her. It was me who began to sweat. On the surface, it’s a portrait of a beautiful woman, but to me it’s a reminder that when working with others, you’re all in it together. No one truly has the upper hand. Things happen which you cannot control, and you pull each other through. She pulled me through and it was pretty cool.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
I wish that I’d known how silly it was to compare my work to that of other photographers, or to see their progress as an assessment of what I had not yet achieved. It takes time to get into the right mindset for taking portraits. A long time, in my case! A couple of years went by where I was shooting and shooting, and felt nothing inside. I wasn’t being honest with the people I photographed. There was passion, but my driving force was recognition, and once I let go of that, my work began to change.
Visit David’s Website – davemacgillivray.com
By Vincent Nord