10 minutes with Gregg Segal

Interviews with Photographers August 22, 2011 11:10 am

You cover a wide range of styles in your work, from architecture, documentary to the very conceptual shots. I have always admired how fantastic your photos are in every ‘category’. When you first started working as a professional photographer, did you have a specific style in mind of what you wanted to shoot and how did your work evolve through the years?

One of my earliest influences was Diane Arbus. When I started shooting in high school, I found myself drawn to the sorts of subjects she photographed, what the poet Phillip Levine calls “the ugly who had no chance.” You can’t make a living if this is your subject, so I adapted, evolved over the years.

I’ve always been interested in going for the jugular, whatever the subject is. I still like to fuse pathos and humor in my pictures.

 

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

With your conceptual work, what is your process like when coming up with scenarios for each shot? Do you prefer more or less art direction from photo editors and art directors?

It’s more fulfilling creatively if it’s a collaborative process. If the direction is very prescriptive you begin to feel like a brick layer. When I’m a participant in the process, I brainstorm to start, using any text (the article) as my springboard. I’ll also look to see what has already been shot on the subject so as not to be repetitive. I’ll often look for one aspect of the story or subject to accentuate or emphasize.

 

 

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

 

I love your project, State of the Union, where you photographed Civil War reenactors on the actual sites where battles took place. Seeing an actor crouching in front of a Staples store just blows me away to think of all the history underneath piles of mouse pads and pens. What inspired you to take on this project and how long were you working on it?

I’d read Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic several years ago, a book addressing the Civil War in the modern world of the South. One of Horwitz’s subjects is Re-enactors and his accounts of them triggered the idea for this project. I contacted one of the central figures in re-enacting, Robert Hodge, who’s on the cover of Horwitz’s book, and Rob was instrumental in finding locations and other re-enactors. I made 5 trips to the South over the course of a year (2010), wanting to shoot during each of the seasons as a way to illustrate the passage of time.

 

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

 

If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?

I would go back 20+ years to when I was at Cal-Arts – before I switched my major from photography to film and then screenwriting/playwriting and told myself to stick to photography, play to your strength. It didn’t seem like enough then, one frame. But it’s a hell of a lot more difficult to get a movie made than it is to make a photograph.

 

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

Gregg Segal

Any words of wisdom for the up-and-comers?

The marketplace is flooded, but you may have a great future in plumbing.

 

(Gregg is based in CA. See more of his work, here)


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