Photographer Spotlight #11: Gavin Smart

Gavin Smart is our eleventh spotlight this time around. Why? Because he caught our eye at the AOP student awards. He may not have won the competition but hey, Steve Jobs dropped out of college and the word ‘apple’ hasn’t been the same since.

How did you start in Photography and decide it was the career for you?

I came to photography later in life, only picking up a camera around four or five years ago. I originally trained as a professional musician before spending three years in Paris learning the craft of French bakery. Upon my return to Scotland, photography came calling.

Whilst I was successful in my musical career, I think I’ve always been a more visually orientated person. For me photography comes more naturally, with an ability to pre-visualise and imagine a scene much more clearly than I could ever do with music. Armed with a pathological curiosity and need to communicate, photography allows me to go places I could never imagine, and connected with people in ways that I never knew I could.

What kind of photographer would you describe yourself as?

I would say my style lies in the world of advertising. I feel my key strengths are ideas and imagination, dreaming up a concept and bringing this to life with a clear visual narrative. Advertising is such a huge genre encompassing everything from location portraiture to high end composite work, and when you realise that it is so much more than just product photography, the possibilities are endless!

What cameras and equipment do you usually use?

I originally was given a Nikon camera so I’ve stuck with that system ever since. I shoot on full frame 35mm, using a selection of prime lenses as I prefer the limitations of a fixed focal length. For lighting I recently invested in a Profoto B1X which I love like a dear friend! For almost all my work I shoot tethered to Capture One, as I love to share the work with the crew around me.

Which subject is your favourite to shoot?

It must be something with a strong story, someone or something that really makes me think about what I’m trying to say with the picture I’m making.

Which photographers have inspired you most?

My first love has been and always will be Walker Evans. His work speaks to me on so many levels, capturing such a wide range of subjects with empathy and understanding. In terms of more contemporary influences I still adore Avedon’s American West, as well as Tim Walker’s fairy tale fantasy worlds which have been a key influence on a recent project. The final important influence is Swedish digital artist Erik Johannson, who shows that only limitation to creativity is the strength of an idea.

Is there a shoot or personal project you’ve been working on recently?

I work on personal projects on a regular basis as this brings me a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction, as well as a fresh technical challenge. A major project explores contemporary environmental issues in Scotland today, using a surrealist aesthetic inspired by my hero Rene Magritte. Titled “Scotland and the Environment,” it uses fantasy and the hyper-real to present these ideas in a fresh and engaging way, with the hopes of raising thought and discussion about these important issues.

Has your shoot or project been Studio based or out on location?

Scotland and the Environment was a challenging series blending landscape and urban backdrops with studio composite components. A number of individual elements such as trucks, cars and boats were all hand-made, as would have been the norm in the days done before CGI. The hope was to add a more tangible and grungy feel to the project, as well as a unique and personal touch to my work.

Can you tell us some of the locations you have shot across the world, what was your favourite and why?

Of all the locations I’ve captured, the most exciting was a two-week job I shot in collaboration with Falcon Speciality, a green coffee importer based in Lewes. I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Nicaragua in early 2016 with buyer and coffee expert Simon Brown, visiting coffee farms in the mountainous northern region to document the coffee harvest in a series of black and white images.

What’s been your most memorable moment on a shoot or during your career?

The most memorable moment of my career happened this summer, following a recent commission for the Royal Bank of Scotland. We shot a billboard campaign for the Royal Highland Show, Scotland’s national agricultural fair and thorough-bred animal show: one of the biggest events in the Scottish calendar. It was one of the proudest moments of my life as I stood in front of a busy bus stop billboard, watching the poster go up with a tear in my eye, taking horrendous iPhone snaps to send to my mum!

Well, at the rate you’re going, Gavin, we’ll be tearing up at your next exhibition! You can see more of Gavin’s photography here.

If you’d like to be featured in our next spotlight, then please do send an email with some of your recent work and a bit about yourself and we’ll be in touch.