10 minutes with Nick Ray McCann

Interviews with Photographers November 5, 2012 7:32 am

When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?

I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, where I got involved in various live music shows, both either as a spectator or performer.

After beginning an entry-level photography class I loved covering the various shows in the area, ranging from swing dances to wild crust punk throw-downs.

These were places with a lot of energy, and inevitably a lot of unique characters, two factors I look for in my subjects to this day.

After a knee injury left me benched on the high school wrestling team I even turned the camera on my teammates and covering the tournaments, another unique environment full of personality and energy.

I was easily bored by landscape and still life work, I loved working in the moment, with people, on location, and capturing the pulse of anything from a wrestling tournament to a sweaty hip hop basement party.

 

Nick Ray McCann – Coney Island Mermaids

Nick Ray McCann – Coney Island Mermaids

Nick Ray McCann – Coney Island Mermaids

Nick Ray McCann – Coney Island Mermaids

Nick Ray McCann – Coney Island Mermaids

 

Who were some of the first photographers that inspired you?

I came across photographers like Martin Parr, Morad Bouchakour, Susan Meisales, Richard Avedon, and Pieter Hugo. These were people who crafted their own unique aesthetic while simultaneously telling amazing stories. To me the key was this marriage, one part photojournalist, and one part master craftsmen.

Parr and Bouchakour share a keen eye for oddball beauty that inspired me to hold a comical magnifying glass to society while projects like Hugo’s “The Hyena and Other Men,” Avedon’s “American West,” and Meisales’ “Carnival Strippers” taught me to always keep my eyes open for subjects and stories that may get overlooked or be deemed too bizarre, taboo, or just plan boring at first glance.

What’s most exciting to me about all those projects was that they were real. No propping, no art director, none of that fluff.

Anyone can be a good photographer if you give them enough cash and an amazing crew. What interests me the most are photographers who set out with nothing more than an idea, maybe some seamless, and the camera on their shoulder.

 

Nick Ray McCann – Gwar Fans

Nick Ray McCann – Gwar Fans

Nick Ray McCann – Before Burning Man

Nick Ray McCann – Before Burning Man

Nick Ray McCann – Before Burning Man

 

 

What are some of the best, and some of hardest aspects of being a professional photographer?

The biggest obstacle is the financial security, both to fund your own projects as well as paying the bills. I work as a digital capture technician to make ends meet and really love it. Still being a young photographer I don’t expect to be the one calling the shots all the time, and it’s a great opportunity to learn everyone’s different tricks and processes.

When I shoot my own jobs I love steering the ship, but I still know I’m young and need to stay open to learning new things, especially when working in a team.

In the long run it feels much more beneficial to stay humble and assist as many talented photographers and their teams as possible. Learn the ropes and make worthwhile friendships, as opposed to running and jumping on every headshot or wedding job that pops up.

 

Nick Ray McCann – Zombie Bar Crawl

Nick Ray McCann – Zombie Bar Crawl

Nick Ray McCann – Zombie Bar Crawl

 

If you could go back ten years and give yourself advice, what would it be?

I wish I shot more, I bet everyone thinks that, but it’s true. Stay busy, put in the time and your vision will grow.

 

Nick Ray McCann

Nick Ray McCann

Nick Ray McCann

Nick Ray McCann

Nick Ray McCann

 

Any words of wisdom for the up and comers?

Photography is one of those worlds where it’s easy to look good without working too hard, especially these days. Don’t be that person, after a while your true colors will show.

Being a great photographer, like most things in life, is about being a great leader. Focus on your work ethic and your passion will show. Others, from your subjects to your editors, assistants, and agents will want to be involved with someone who works hard and has a clear vision.

 

(Nick is based in New York. See more of his work, here)

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