Gary McGovern is an award winning London born designer and photographer currently based in Dubai, UAE. He is a Hons graduate from the Kingston Art School and has spent the last fifteen years working in the branding and advertising industry in the UK, Europe and the Middle East.
Coming from a traditional film, print and darkroom background, he now shoots and directs high end digital imagery and is at home in the studio and on location, shooting portraiture, lifestyle, documentary and travel.
Gary has been a Dubai resident for several years and finds the region to be visually rich and inspiring. He likes to discover people, places and culture through his images and love of travel. In 2011 Gary won the Corbis Images and ArabianEye competition ‘creatives behind the lens’ with the image ‘Night Hawkers’.
1. What sparked your interest in photography?
As a child I was fascinated by Polaroid’s instant OneStep land cameras. They were beautifully designed and packaged and produced instant images; magical for a kid. The British artist David Hockney produced some amazing art pieces using a series of individual Polaroids. The idea of using a collage to create an image was very creative and powerful. It made me realise that photography had lots of possibilities and was something I really wanted to try.
2. When did you start shooting?
I bought my first serious camera – a Nikon F-501 – when I was a teenager, it was second hand, but it cost me a fortune! I studied graphic design and photography at art school in a time when film was used, thus I spent a lot of time in the darkroom processing and developing my work. After graduation I migrated more towards graphic design, purely for economical reasons. Developing your own work was extremely costly. I got back into photography with the advent of digital SLR cameras and through my design and advertising work I’ve art directed many photo shoots. I now shot my own commercial and personal work.
3. How often do you shoot?
I shoot two to three times a month. Personally, I try to shoot as often as possible, planning projects and photo trips. But the summer heat in the UAE makes outdoor work almost impossible, so I’m off to London this July/August to shoot some Olympic Games action.
4. Why do you love photography?
For me, photography has always had a magical quality to it. From those first magical experiences with instant cameras to the alchemy of the darkroom and now to the endless pixel possibilities of the digital era. Wow!
5. What gear do you own?
I’m a canon user and I have a Canon 5DIII. I use a variety of L series lenses depending on what I’m shooting but my favourites are the 17-40mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm. I sometimes hire a 17mm tilt and shift for architectural and interior work. For lighting I have two 580EX II Speedlites triggered off-camera by my PocketWizards Flex and Mini. If I need more power I hire Profoto heads and a large soft box and various light shaping tools. Oh yeah, and my iphone 4s is always with me!
6. Other than your camera, what piece of equipment couldn’t you live without?
In this digital age you need a digital darkroom. My Apple MacBook Pro, Lightroom & Photoshop are just that. I do a lot of processing and editing and I’d be lost without them.
7. Who are your biggest inﬂuences as a photographer?
I have a fab four of influences. William Eggleston for turning colour photography into a legitimate artistic medium. Steve McCurry for his thought provoking and visually rich iconic portraits. Martin Parr for creating fiction out of reality by twisting society’s natural prejudice and Andreas Gursky for his large format digitally manipulated architectural and landscapes images. All inspiring!
8. What’s your best advice for someone starting out?
You need to be passionate about image making and focus on creativity and ideas. The technical aspects are important, but don’t be intimidated by labels or get bogged down in what equipment you have or don’t have; they are only tools. Study the aesthetic details of composition, balance and light. Post and share your stuff on-line and get advice from other photographers. Also there’s so much free study information and tutorials on the internet to learn and get inspired by.
9. Tell us about your “UAE Instagrammed” project, what role do you think Instagram plays in the world of photography?
It’s a collection of 100 images of the UAE, all shot on my iphone through instagram. When the Instagram app was first released for the iPhone, it didn’t take me long to shoot and share hundreds of images of the UAE. I wanted to explore the whole retro aesthetic, so I used this project as a vehicle to do that. But I also wanted to give these images a life beyond the stream, hence the book. I haven’t seen this done before and I’m looking to get it commercially published!
iphoneography and apps like instagram have opened up new creative possibilities. The mobile phone camera is a very liberating artistic device and is now capable of producing great quality images. In two ‘clicks’ I can shoot an image then ‘share’ it instantaneously – this is why Facebook bought into it. It’s like having a printing press and audience in my pocket. I embrace new technology, but I think many traditional ‘photographers’ will resist this change, declaring that it’s ‘not real photography’ or just a passing fad. Whatever the outcome it has allowed millions to become citizen photographers and be inspired to make images.