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theprintspace Interview - Gavin Mills

8 years ago

This week, theprintspace’s Harry Rose talks to photographer Gavin Mills who has an exhibition at theprintspace with a private view on the May 5, 7:30pm and runs until the May 16.

Hi Gavin, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Lets kick things off with what drew you to the world of photography?

I was travelling a lot with my job as a DJ and wanted to preserve the memory of some of our adventures. With absolutely no experience of photography I bought a little ‘point and shoot’. To be honest my first pictures weren’t that great but I loved taking them. I’d take a camera with me everywhere we travelled and soon found myself just going out for walks on the streets wherever we happened to be, just for the fun of taking photos.

Your background in DJing and being a people’s person must really help when working on portraits. What would you say are the main strengths to have when building up a level of trust with a subject?

If I’m shooting people in clubs then the being a DJ thing is definitely an advantage as many of the people I’m shooting know me as Gavin from Copyright and they’re probably more relaxed about me taking the photo. On the street its a very different ball game, people I’m photographing have no idea who I am so its about being able to get a feeling of trust and building rapport between myself and the person I’m photographing. I want the people I shoot to like and enjoy the pictures and I get a lot of satisfaction when we make something good. I think if you approach people with a genuine honest attitude, then a feeling of trust can happen naturally.

In your early stages of taking pictures, whose work in particular stood out and helped you hone your skills and style?

In my early days I learned a great deal from being a member on Flickr, which I joined back in 2005. I’d be on there almost everyday both sharing pictures as well as commenting on other peoples work, which I found helpful in understanding what I liked and disliked in peoples work. Having constructive feedback on photographs I wasn’t fond of helped me develop my relationship with photographers and photography. 

Photographers I’d follow had an influence on my own work like Stephen Cosh a Street photographer from Ayr who I eventually I teamed up with along with Olaf Willoughby to create the Leica Meet group. Mike Pratt aka MJP whose portraits of local people in his hometown of Winnipeg Canada, along with his short narratives influenced and inspired me to start approaching people and making portraits and then adding a few words to go with the pictures.

Later on I began looking at other luminary photographers work. I particularly like the work of William Klein how he used wide-angle lenses to get in close and personal to a scene and how his pictures are full of energy and sense of movement. Some other photographers whose work I enjoy Lee Jefferies and Don McCullen.  Alfred Eisenstaedt, Vivian Maier, Terry O’Neal, Dougie Wallace, Tatsuo Suzuki, Dean Chalkley, and of course Henri Cartier Bresson.

Can you tell us of one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced whilst working in the creative industry, and the valuable lessons you have learnt?

In any kind of creative industry it’s about finding the right balance of working on something for your own artistic satisfaction or being able to do it commercially. Something I’ve learned both with my music and my photography is you always have to be true to yourself and give it 100% even if sometimes means that means going back to the drawing board and starting over from scratch. The biggest challenge for me is that I’m often my own worst critic.

On a more personal note, what’s next for you?

I’ve just returned from a family trip to Japan. Whilst over there I had the idea of making a book about Tokyo aimed at travellers and photographers. Not going to say anymore about it for the moment as I have a lot of work still to do on it.

Finally, what inspires you?

I love Jazz music and sometimes if I’m out street shooting I might be listening to a soundtrack from Dave Brubek or Michel Legrand.  I love watching old movies especially classic black and white films, which perhaps has had an influence on my own practice.