The way I see pigeons

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in photography. What inspired you to start taking photos?
I started taking photos at a journalism camp I attended in high school, which made me realize how much I loved trying to notice things other didn’t, to capture a unique perspective. Photography became a way for me to document my own experience and then a way to honor the experience and joy and effort of others.

Everyone has a unique style. Can you describe how you would define your style and what visual or conceptual elements characterize it?
I love color! Especially when photographing live music, it can be tempting to fight the stage lights and their extreme saturations, but I have so much fun trying to lasso them and ride it out. I think my work also shows the way it felt to be at a show, at a wedding, around a person I photographed. Documenting the energy and vivacity of whatever I am photographing.

Photography has the power to tell stories and convey emotions. Can you share an experience in which one of your photos had a significant impact on people or on yourself?
I took a photograph in Paris of a man with pigeons outside Notre Dame. Right as I snapped, one of the pigeons flew across the frame and the man and I both laughed. I posted the photo on Facebook and a year later I met someone who had seen it. She came up to me and said “I lived in New York my whole life, I’ve seen pigeons every day. That photograph changed the way I see pigeons.”

What has been your most challenging photographic project to date and why?
During the pandemic lockdown in New York I challenged myself to create self portraits in my room using only things I had in my room. I did 50 installments including making a music video for 50 and a short film for 25. It was so challenging to be creative with those limitations, and the increasing stress of the world.

Technology and photo editing tools are constantly evolving. Can you tell us about the techniques and equipment that you consider essential for your work?
It’s important to me to do as much in-camera as I can, I utilize double exposures in-camera often as well as shooting through pieces of glass to add interest to the frame. When I tour with bands the turnaround timeline is short, so it’s also important to me to streamline my editing process. I make my own presets in Lightroom for each project to minimize the workload on the night I’m editing.

There are many genres in photography, from portraits to nature photography. Do you have a favorite genre in which you feel most comfortable or enjoy shooting the most? Why?
Live music photography and portraiture. I love being fully immersed in the experience of a concert and making something tangible that an artist can look at to say “woah, we looked like that?” In a similar way, I love honoring the presence of a person I’m photographing and giving them a tangible proof that they were seen.

Can you share an interesting or unusual anecdote you’ve experienced while taking photos?
Everyone thinks it’s so funny to take a picture of the photographer and 99.9% of the time it’s the worst photo of me possible. 

Many photographers find inspiration in other visual artists or everyday life. What are some of your sources of inspiration?
The photos of Ray Spears, Richard Avedon, Shervin Lainez and Pooneh Ghana are big inspirations to me. Films I love are Tree of Life, About Time, Moonrise Kingdom, Paris Texas.

Photography is a visual medium, but it often has a conceptual background. Have you worked on photographic projects that address specific themes or concepts? Can you share information about one of those projects?
I did a project called The Intrepid Sessions where I photographed women in their homes and then a space like a park or coffee shop. I asked them to do their makeup however they would in a normal day and to wear clothes that they were comfortable in. The idea was that as women, it’s hardest to believe you are beautiful and deserving of being seen in your everyday, so I wanted to show these women that they were beautiful and worthy just as they are in their everyday lives.

What inspires you when creating new images? Do you have a ritual or creative process you follow to find inspiration?
Getting into the joy of the experience or person in front of me. It’s always important to me to sit through and acknowledge to myself the tension of the first few moments of photographing anything before there’s just freedom, but feeling the tension before things click into working is a good feeling too.

For aspiring photographers who may be reading this interview, what is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received in your career, or what advice would you like to share with them?
My friend Aundre told me when I moved to New York that I just had to make enough money to “pay rent and not die” and I try to consider anything past that to be more than I need. With that in mind, it’s an honor to give of myself when I can, whether that’s sometimes photographing a local band who can’t pay my rate or donating time to a food bank, I can’t regret what’s freely given and it all comes back when it’s done in love. Take the time to really see the people in whatever you’re doing.

Recommend us the Instagram account of an artist that you like their work.
@rayneutron