I'm continuing my series of interviews with creatives I personally find inspiring. Australian fashion/urban photographer David Cowe happens to be one of them. I met David about a month ago when we collaborated on our first shoot (yes, more is yet to come). Once I got to know him a little better, I knew he's the right fit. David speaks out about creativity, his love for photography, and much more.
How did you start out in fashion photography? Do you remember the exact moment you realized photography is gonna be a huge part of your life?
I started in fashion photography just under three years ago after starting University, studying Photography Design as a BA. The way I found myself in fashion photography was that I didn’t feel challenged enough through school projects that I went outside of school to find something that pushed me more. I worked at a magazine focused around youth culture, where I was a music photographer for gigs, and even then I felt that I wasn't offered the creativity that I wanted from even before you pick up the camera to create art. From there I connected with the fashion department at the magazine and fell in love with the whole process of creating a shoot where there is so much input from people who wanted to make unique work just like me. In my 9th year of high school I took my first photography and Photoshop class. Before that I had always been average to good student across the majority of my subjects, but in that class everything made sense to me. Everything was interesting and made me want to push myself to be better.
Who were the first artists you found inspiring?
The first photographer that really grabbed my attention in a huge way was Annie Leibovitz. When I looked at her images I could see that she saw things differently from anyone else in the world. There are a lot of people that have somewhat unique views of their surroundings but looking at her images I feel that there is no one else in the world that can pick up a camera and capture a person's essence as she does.
How would you describe your style and what do you find the most fascinating in the art of photography?
I always find that a hard question to answer. The reason why is that I'm still trying to find the best style for me, still experimenting with things that I think can build a more unique style to my images. Currently, I'm trying to create a 'fly on the wall' feeling to some of my shoots or the emotions of a conversation. A big part of my portfolio is that I tend to shoot in locations more often than the studio. I do this because it embraces the possibility of recreating that 'fly on the wall' feeling. The best part of the art of photography is the hope that you can create an image that makes someone stop when they see it, whether it is to think about the feelings it brings out in them or whether it makes them feel a little bit happier on a shitty day. For me, when I see a photo that I admire, it can change my day or my thought process on my work, or can even pull me out of a creativity rut, and when that happens, it is just fantastic.
What does it come down to when you look at the image - composition, lighting, concept or all of the above?
Analyzing images comes down to whether I believe it or not. Its not just the lighting, or the composition, or the concept – everything has to be as believable as possible, you need to have a great team to make it work because I can control the concept, composition and light but if I don't have a great stylist, MUA or model, I'm just not going to believe it.
It’s extremely hard for professional musicians to listen to music as amateurs because they immediately start analyzing everything they hear and breaking it down into technical aspects. When you look at the photograph, do you tend to analyze it from a technical standpoint?
I relate to that. In my opinion, everyone has something to teach you, and if you can learn just a little from every person or photograph, that will influence you to create strong pieces of art.
It seems like almost everywhere there's a constant battle between art and commerce – music, movies, photography – you name it. When it comes to art versus commerce, what do you personally tend to lean toward?
My father may not be happy with this answer, but for me it is about the art or just doing work that I love and working with people I find inspiring. I don't think there are many artists that say they wanted to get into the creative industry to earn lots of cash. Don't get me wrong, it's important to pay rent, but if you are only ever worrying about paying bills and upgrading your gear, then you are not focused on creating the best artwork possible.