Photographer Bryan Sheffield’s client list—Starbucks, Apple, Colt 45, every record company you’d ever want to sign with, dozens more—reads like a cherry-picked who’s who of dream job contacts. His work has graced four books and been displayed in dozens of exhibitions across the country. He has taken pictures of people who are so famous that fashion lines and business models for energy drinks spring up right around them.
He also ventures outdoors into the night and captures wild animals as they go about their business in their natural environment.
For time well spent, spend some time on Sheffield’s site.
The Skeeve: Your photos have a lot of movement in them. What’s so attractive about motion?
Bryan Sheffield: I’m attracted to the emotions of movement. I love watching dancers dance, musicians bounce around on stage. It’s fucking fun to capture that within a frame because cool shit happens like blurrage, awkward faces, and messy hair. Sometimes I find myself getting jealous of moving-picture filmmakers because it is a lot easier to capture movement. Then I stop being jealous and I work harder to make it happen in a still image.
The Skeeve: What’s different about shooting pictures of friends as opposed to shooting people you don’t know?
Bryan Sheffield: The first “difference” that comes to mind is the amount of time I have with a person. If I’m shooting a celebrity, or someone, for a magazine there is usually a time limit I have with them. The other thing is with strangers (whether a dude on the street, or a famous lady for a magazine) I will spend time building trust and explaining what I want for the photos, and why I want it. Friends are more apt to do shit you ask them to do.
Those things aside, I’d like to think that the way that I shoot strangers vs. friends doesn’t change too much. I always go at it with the same style.
The Skeeve: Why photography?
Bryan Sheffield: I have no idea. Yesterday I wanted to be a painter, but apparently I am terrible at painting. My wife says I am a “great father,” but I don’t know of a market for professional dad.
The Skeeve: What feels good about capturing images of wild animals and the outdoors at night?
Bryan Sheffield: I love the sense of solitude and quiet I get from shooting, and looking at, those images. I can’t direct the subjects into what I want…. It’s about finding the right scene, angle, and exact time to press the shutter button. Using film for these series slows my shooting and helps me take a breath. When I was working on LORD GOD, my wife, and friends, would sometimes come with me when I was out shooting. That stopped pretty quickly. I guess it was annoying watching me walk around a tree for 20 minutes in the dark. There are a few photos in Please Be With Us where to get the photo I would have to hide, sitting alone, for 45 minutes or so. That process was fun. Nothing to do but sit quiet with a camera in each hand. I look forward to that solitude sometimes.
People’s different reactions when viewing the work is fun too. To some the work is calming, to others it puts them on edge and feel anxious. I have heard from a few people that LORD GOD is great to look at when on weed, coke, and/or bourbon.
The Skeeve: Where have you lived and what made you move or stay?
Bryan Sheffield: Denville, NJ — Born there. Lived in a house there ’til I was a year old.
Rockaway, NJ — Lived there ’til I was 18. Learned to love Bruce Springsteen there.
Boston, MA — Moved there for college, then stayed another two years after for a girl that I later broke up with.
Los Angeles, CA — Moved there because the weather and people and mountains and friends and work and sky.
Philadelphia Suburbs, PA — Moved there cos seasons and precipitation and great public schools and quality of child-raising life.
All photos copyright Bryan Sheffield.