David James’ current obsessions are Polaroids and fall in New York.
The 37-year-old, Napier-born photographer has been working in the fashion industry for the past ten years and now calls New York his home. Though he never saw photography as an obvious career move, it was a pure fascination with cameras —these things that make fantasy, that drew him to photography.
Initially shooting musicians, he eventually began shooting fashion campaigns and he cites German fine-artist and photographer Juergen Teller as a major inspiration. One also can’t deny the dark undertone in David’s work which he readily attributes to a fondness for the haunted nostalgia of old family photographs and Polaroids.
Whether it’s an editorial shoot for a fashion magazine, model test shots, or capturing action behind-the-scenes for Karen Walker’s New York runway show, David’s work is refreshing and unexpected. He is adept at creating a brooding moodiness, imbued with elements of mystery and intrigue. Raw, gritty and understated, his work is reminiscent of imagery found in 90’s editions of The Face and I-D magazine and one can’t help but think that he is likely to become a fast-favourite amongst he cool, anti-fashion norm core set.
With a cinematic edge to his work, when it comes to shooting David often has an idea of ‘story’ in the back of his mind, though he is not one to overplay a scene. He says that spontaneity and energy are crucial, which means he never over-plans. “Good images always have some resonance with something innate in all of us. You follow your gut instinct, squint your eyes [and] look at the shapes in the photo. The details never matter to me, just the shapes.”
Prompted by friends to make the shift to the United States, he currently resides in the densely-populated Manhattan — a far cry from the ease of life in New Zealand. Back home David had more room to move on the creative front, but New York is without question the right place to launch an international career.
He is savvy and quick to identify different sets of priorities between countries and regions.
“New York is as different to Europe as to the UK and New Zealand. There’s a greater sense of achieving more commercial value in NYC and you see a lot more experimentation elsewhere. However, I do appreciate the honesty of money—it’s the great leveler.”
Making a life for himself in the highly competitive, cultural and financial capital of the world doesn’t come without a cost. No longer correcting people who mistake him for an Australian, his biggest challenge to-date is one of mental survival in city where attempts to make plans invariably requires contingency. On the upside however, he is overjoyed to have met and recently married the love of his life, and refers to himself as ‘almost American’.
David is content to stay put in New York for now, though having packed light to make his journey, he longs for his family photographs and collection of books. For all it’s worth, being behind the camera might be fun and working in one of the major fashion capitals in the world is a bonus, but when it comes down to what he loves best, his favourite shoots are those completely removed from a fashion context and take place amongst family and friends. “I get to have fun and explore new ways of shooting by manipulating my friends and family into getting their photo taken,” he says.
To find out more about David, head to his website.