My friend David Shaw is really interesting so I did an interview with him for a Journalism Unit on my course, here it is;
Photojournalism student David Shaw has already achieved a large body of work and an identity as a photographer. Gaining his experience through a range of mostly self-initiated projects, including staying with migrants on the border of Calais, photographing resistance in Palestine and being arrested while photographing refugees in Greece. He sees himself not just as a photographer but an activist too. At a time where more students are becoming politically involved, Dave is a prime example of a student and artist who’s political beliefs and values drive him and form a basis for his projects. I met with him to discuss what his work means to him and where his passion for politics, people and photography comes from.
Dave’s work has been familiar to me for a while, as a colleague and friend I wanted to know more about how and why he chose photojournalism.
Dave begins by telling me about a school trip in year 8 and how he became the designated photographer. “I can remember really starting to think about actual pictures rather than just pictures of my mates, and I was actually photographing what everyone had had for dinner and all the different things, and making sure I got a portrait of all the bus drivers.” Despite leaving photography behind in year 8, he picked it up again in year 11. Dave was properly introduced to photojournalism at sixth form and remembers being “attracted to it instantly”. He smiles as he talks fondly about his first influences such as Robert Cappa and being drawn to this “raw” form of photography that’s “easy to read, but hard-hitting at the same time”, showing viewers what’s really happening in the world- an unveiling of the truth.
Just like the images he’s influenced by, Dave speaks very truthfully about where his interests and beliefs lie. “I love the idea of travelling and I like the idea of photographing things I find and people I meet”, clearly an appeal of social documentary for Dave. It becomes obvious to me quickly that he has a huge sense of empathy for others and that this is fundamentally what makes Dave’s strive for awareness so important. “People deserve respect and are important, all people are born equal or should be born equal in my eyes. That’s what I want my work to campaign for if that makes sense?”
Often parents can influence your political place, so I wanted to know from Dave where his parents stood politically and if this has affected him. With a chuckle he says, “My dad’s a massive socialist and a complete lefty!” Firstly clarifying what Socialism means to him; “For me, in an absolute nutshell, its that every person whoever they are and wherever they are born has an equal opportunity at life. Everyone should have a chance at being equal.”
It is clear that this is a passionate belief of his but as he speaks about equal opportunity and struggle and his absolute intolerance for racism it feels more than a passion but a keenness to fight for a cause and do something about inequality. As we talk more about what grounds his work, the visual images I have seen begin to draw parallel with who Dave is as a person and what he stands for.
We talk more about Dave’s political views and beliefs and his feelings towards Occupy, “I think the Occupy movement is really good, its good to organise all the squatters and people who have a really bad reputation as lazy people, sitting around and drinking beer- its really good to organise that force ‘cause it is a big force of people who are aware of the world and aware of how difficult life is for some…It’s about creating A: a sense of resistance to how people are made to live in this society, and B: to prove to people that they don’t have to live like this there is another way. I don’t know what the other way is and I don’t think the Occupy movement really know what the solution is but eventually it will happen.”
As an anti-Capitalist, Occupy embodies many of Dave’s beliefs, but there’s a conflict between two different lifestyles for him that I first sense through his confession “I still shop at Tesco’s though!” He continues to say “ I mean I boycott Marks and Spencer’s ‘cause all their money funds the occupation in Palestine but I mean I’m sure Tescos do just as evil but I can’t afford to eat anywhere else that’s why they’re so good! No one can literally afford not to eat…It’s Capitalising on a very, very basic need which is cheap food.” A valid point that I feel many politically inclined students can relate to.
Dave expresses that he feels he has to make a choice between what could be seen as an activist lifestyle and his love for photography, “I’d love to go off and hitchhike around the world and squat everywhere and eat out of bins ‘cause its everything that I believe in. But I love photography and I want to be a photojournalist and I’ve got to make that choice between being a bit of a career boy…”
As such a career driven person Dave’s focus is his photography and getting his images out there, but as he talks about winning competitions and wanting to get commissioned he stops to reiterate that although success and recognition make him “ecstatic”, Dave is firm about the importance of his work lying with the people he photographs. Whether he is successful or not, their life stories and struggles come first to him which is obvious as he talks about his “Palestinian Olive Harvest” story;
“It gets to the point where they’ve stopped posing for the pictures or they’ve stopped looking at the camera and I just become part of the whole harvest. And you know, spending time with this one family in particular. They get to know me, they get to trust me, I have dinner with them every night. I’ve sent a few photos home to them.”
As we near the end of the interview we talk a little about Dave’s up coming project photographing migrants in Malta and his next big project in Gaza and his humorous but grateful reaction to being asked to run with the Olympic Torch for his university, be finishes by reminding me again what his real cause is;
“You could spend all day setting up some sort of still life or some lovely landscape but taking pictures of people, help you learn how to relate to them and help to illustrate them and it makes it interesting…”