“Live a quiet life. Work with your hands.” Such is a quote that resonates with photographer/videographer Andrew Ryan Shepherd. This southern native (he’s lived in Mississippi, Arkansas and most recently Texas) resonates that philosophy in his day-to-day life. We know through experience. We met Andrew serendipitously when we were searching for a director and editor for our recent product videos. Through a referral, we were introduced to his incredible work and hired him shortly after. While Andrew’s more recent output is focused on video, his career began in photography and design. After living in NYC from 2006 – 2007 and then Dallas, TX, Andrew made the jump back to NYC (Brooklyn specifically) this past February. He is constantly on the search for coffee shoppes the serve the “breve cappuccino” and is (in our mind) an authority on finding new music.
ARS: My mom and dad used to travel quite a bit before my sister and I were born, and I couldn’t help but be intrigued by that idea (What would it be like to travel?), and such romantic places like the Golden Gate Bridge — places so unlike the suburban Dallas I knew. The photos they took became burned in my mind after seeing them nearly every day before I got on the school bus. Years later when I moved to Arkansas and started at University, my dad offered to let me take the set of photos with me.
I began to really respect and love that old black and white music photography — the grainy, high-contrast Jim Marshall kind and all those old snaps of John Lennon and Bob Dylan. I tried to force myself through a photography course but was bored to death of the rudimentary educational model, and found myself coasting through and meeting just more than the necessary requirements without understanding (or caring about) the creative potential in making photographs.
Fast forward a few years when I first moved to New York. I bought a Digital Rebel and started carrying it with me everywhere I went; photographing the various tile mosaics in every train station on the Red Line, brownstones in the West Village, and the view of Central Park from my fire escape on 97th Street in Spanish Harlem. I look back at the photos now, which are pretty terrible aesthetically, and of course the meaning of them extends deep. The sacred time associated with it and the creative observing process it required prevented me from loving too much, much more than making photos.
ARS: Mostly I shoot with an older Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24 1.4 L. I also have a few different 35mm cameras, Polaroids, a really old beat up 5D Mark I that looks like an army tank from World War II (which has some sort of magic about it that the Mark II lost in the update).
ONA: What sort of project drives your creativity? Follow Up: What is your dream project?
ARS: The project with the most problems to solve. Answering the question: “How can I think from a unique or inverse angle to make something?” That is a good bit of what it means to be “creative.” I think inspiration is only given when invited, and that takes years of work, and rhythm. Paint does not magically appear on a canvas.
A little under a month ago, my buddy Ryan flew to Brooklyn to work with my good friend Eric and I on a multimedia treatment for a band. We were set to squeeze into four days an entire music video, electronic press kit full of interviews and B-Roll, in addition to their album photo shoot, and eventually an album artwork deliverable featuring handmade printing and effectual chemical processes, which we are working on right now in my apartment.
What transpired that week is in hindsight the new standard of what I’d consider my ideal project — collaborating with a team of individuals who share separate but overlapping variety of creative capacity and aesthetic vision. We collectively had to answer with calmness, “How the heck are we going to figure this out in three days?” Every night we weren’t in bed before 3am, and there isn’t any other way I would have preferred it.
When Ryan got on the plane and headed back to Texas at the end of that production, I found myself proud of everything we did, and was ultimately impressed by the transcendence of the work as a result of interwoven social and creative desires that was, ultimately responsible for the final product. I would identify that indeterminable and unpredictable response as a characteristic of a “dream” project.
ARS: I think the hardest thing about being a photographer is probably the thing those who aren’t photographers think is the easiest— to keep shooting. It’s a smaller part of the whole of the Discipline required to do this for a living, but I guess it’s the most fundamental. And I don’t write that because I succeed at it — I write it because I fail at it. This has been my busiest season of work (shooting mostly video now) and even so it lurks in the back of my head how little I shoot out of my own volition, which, of course, is why any of us chose this path in the first place.
ONA: Describe your style of shooting.
ARS: I like to think I shoot with regard for older processes that preceded the time when everyone owned a 5D Mark II. All I can really say is that I think about it, and care for that idea, whether or not I am accomplishing it. I also try to think more intensely about plane and shape in photos (or rather videos, now), and the way depth of field is affected by this. I think the most important thing apart from light in photographs is space, and we have to be good stewards of how we treat and organize that space in the frame.
ARS: Seek early on the discovery of what makes you unique — not by comparison to others — but by digging deep internally to understand your Self, and those characteristics about your personality and interests that no one else can translate and arrange the data of the world in the way only you’re able. That is not only the key to sustaining a living, but it is the key to making a meaningful image.
ARS: A friend of mine in Texas mentioned the brand, and I browsed through the early version of the website. I had been using this huge heavy duty camera bag for lugging around everything in the city, and it looked like this huge black turtle shell on my back, and the cumbersome qualities of it made me feel like a very old man by the end of each shoot. Shortly thereafter I picked up the Camps Bay as an alternative that may have just lengthened my life in New York.