28 April 2011

The Photographer - A Snap Shot of David McCourt

I came across David McCourt's work while reading about his Slow Photography Camera on another website. After doing a little research, I found David's photo work and liked his  style. I thought people should get to know a little more about the man behind the Slow Photography Camera, which he is starting to make a name for himself. So I decided to contact David to let him know I was posting another blog on his Slow Photography Camera, but to also point out his photography work.  He had a number of images that drew me in with his ominous style. After chatting back and forth with this Scotland based photographer, he was happy to give me a little more insight into his work, back ground and the equipment he uses. I see a lot of talent out there, but most you just see the end product. I like to get into the person behind the camera. 

TZ:  David I know you are making a name of yourself through your Slow Photography Camera, but you are a talented photographer too. Did you go to school for design or photography, and where did you go?

DM: I have studied product design for the past 5 years, first of all at The Glasgow Metropolitan College for 2 years and then at Duncan of Jordanston College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. I never picked up a 'real' camera until about 2 years ago, but it just seems like photography and product design go hand in hand with one another, so I bought my first camera and taught myself everything I know.

TZ:     What influenced moved you into your career field?:

DM: I've always been a total gadget geek, with a tip of the cap to art and design. Studying product design, first at school and then higher education felt like the right move. As for that first influential 'spark', I can honestly say I've no idea where it came from. I just had a knack for concept development. If anything, I've been more influenced to STAY in the field as the years of education have gone by. I always work closely with other great designers in my class, bouncing ideas off of one another. I've had several brilliant lecturers and some esteemed mentors to boot. Dr. Jon Rogers, head of Product Design and Pete Thomas my year head at Dundee are possibly the smartest men I've ever met.

TZ: In your photography, what excites you or what do you gravitate in photographing?

DM: I get a lot of influence from books that I've read or movies that I have seen. I done a whole photography project based on 'American Psycho' by Brett Easton Ellis. I love picking movies or photo-set ups apart and figuring out just how they done it.
You might notice that the majority of my work is quite dark, and if not dark, very moody and ominous. I'm a bit of a horror fanboy, so keep your eyes peeled for even more dark shoots!

TZ: Is there a type of photography you wouldn’t do and why?

DM: One of my best friends is a very talented lifestyle photographer who visits families and takes lovely family photos; candid shots of parent's children etc. I just don't see myself in his shoes, but I appreciate the fact that he has the patience to do those kind of shots. Maybe he's just more friendly than I am.

TZ: How would you describe your own style?

DM: I've been asked this a lot lately... it's hard not to sound like a pretentious moron when answering, but I don't think that is avoidable. I like to think I incite a lot of drama and ominous overtones in my photography: I'm an ominous photographer. Don't mess with me, I have a big heavy Manfrotto!

TZ:  How does your design influence your Photography and vice versa?

DM: Having trained as a Product Designer, I think I take in to consideration all the little details more than your average photographer would. I was a designer before I was a photographer, and taught myself how to use Photoshop (my earliest package was Photoshop 6, those were the days!). This aids both my design and my photography obviously. As for photography influencing my design work, it's quite apparent: I love photography, therefore I design for the art. It gives me the most pleasure being able to use my design outcomes in something that I am very passionate about.

TZ:    What type of Camera(s) do use, what are your favorite lenses to use, What do you use for lighting when you do a shoot?

DM: I do things on the cheap. I have a second hand Canon 30D which has served me very well. I use Canon's 50mm f/1.8 MKII for the majority of things along with Sigma's 10-20 f/4-5.6. The Sigma is my newest lens and I can't wait to use it more often. It's a monster of a thing and sharp as a pin (something that the 30D can sometimes struggle with).
As for lighting, like I said, I do things on the cheap. I have two Yongnuo YN640 Speedlites which I trigger with YN CTR-301Ps. I know guys who own Canon 430/580 Speedlites and have no idea how to use them correctly. The good thing about the Yongnuo brand is that they are pretty much fully manual. You need to teach yourself metering and all the little nuances that come with portable lighting.
When lighting a shoot on location, I'll use beauty dishes, shoot through/bounce umbrellas and softboxes, all of which have been modded to fit my speedlites.

TZ: Since you are a Designer are you a DIY’er with some of your photo equipment and what have you built for yourself.

DM: This is possibly my favourite part of lighting set up; making your own kit. It's very easy to buy all the equipment you need off of eBay, but from my experience, it doesn't bloody fit!
I've made two beauty dishes that work great even at nighttime. On top of that, as I mentioned I've modded pretty much all of my lighting kit to my own specification. I've even created new kit for certain shoots because I knew that I would have had to. Lighting is so important when shooting bands or artists, and no two band shoot will be the same or even similar. That's why customisation is important. You wouldn't keep your camera setting the same for every photoshoot you do, so why keep your lighting rig the same?

TZ: How did the Slow Photography project come about and what are your intentions for it?

DM: I was exploring the relationship between analogue and digital photography in our modern digital climate. At first, I thought that analogue was a dying art that only the purists payed heed to. But after extensive research, talking to photographers from all corners of the world and immersing myself in darkroom photography, I soon found out how much joy analogue photography has to offer.
With this in mind, I took in to consideration the processes and methods that analogue photography birthed, that digital photography has adopted. Composition, framing, the film output, aligning shots in TLR camera format, gauging light... all of these things could be applied to digital photography. All of these methods can be applied to digital photography on your mobile phone. Why not?

People, especially young people, are being exposed to the world of photography via the camera built in to their mobile phone. While this is not a bad thing (the iPhone has become the second most used camera in the community of Flickr), the traditional processes and practice are being forgotten in lieu of applications such as 'Hipstamatic' doing them all for you.
The point I raise with my Slow Photography camera is that there is a definite mid-point between taking photographs on your iPhone or mobile phone (and calling yourself a photographer) and using a professional grade DSLR. The Slow Photography camera fits that mid-point to let people experience the processes and choices they will have to make once they buy their first DSLR.

I think David's work is something to keep an eye on, whether it's his photography or Design. More can be found at his website www.dmccourt.com.The images in this article are the property of David McCourt and were used only with his expressed permission.

We are always looking for new and upcoming photographers to write a feature story on. Please send us a link to your website, a friend, or someone whose work you admire. If they are selected, they must be willing to allow us to post their images on our site with credit to them and agree to a short interview. Please email to tony@photzeh.com.

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