Gray Kotze (b. 1992)
What kinds of things do you most enjoy photographing?
People and their interactions with their environments. I like to try and capture expressions or places in a way that is representative of the reality of that moment and tells a story. I also enjoy capturing beauty, landscapes or otherwise.
Describe your photographic style.
Coming from a background of film and cinematography I like to try and photograph in a visually pleasing manner, focusing on light and composition in order to best tell the story of the place I’m photographing. I like working with natural light, finding beautiful spaces and interesting characters.
Photography is also a means for me to test cinematic looks and techniques. I like trying out different equipment which inevitably influences the style in some way.
Photography is a lot about the journey. How has it influenced your personal life
and the way in which you view the world (around you)?
When I walk around with a camera I’m far more aware of my surroundings. It forces you to wake up, concentrate and appreciate the environment rather than walking around with your head down. I started taking photos whilst traveling and found I was always more in tune and engaged with new places when I had a camera and was walking around trying to capture the feeling of the place.
Photography is also about capturing a moment in time. What is your approach to a
shot, and your approach to a new body of work?
Photography is more an interest than my primary creative pursuit so I’m not too serious about putting together a specific project. But when I do have an idea for a series it usually comes out of a desire to take photos that are visually linked, therefore I usually end up limiting myself to using the exact same equipment (same lens, stock, etc.) for the whole series to maintain the visual aesthetic.
Is photography your professional career? Or do you work in another field?
I work in the film industry. Photography isn’t my career but it supplements it.
What gear do you shoot with? Specifically camera arsenal and film stock.
Nikon F3 with a set of Nikkor AIS primes.
I like to experiment with different 35mm stocks. Ideally I’d love to primarily shoot Cinestill 50D (which is rebranded Kodak Vision3 stock) — but it’s not financially viable. I usually shoot Agfa Vista for colour and Agfa APX for black and white — it’s cheap with nice contrast. When I have money I shoot Portra.
Growth is important for any artistic craft. How do you stay motivated and
enthusiastic about your work?
By looking at great work by other artists — cinematographers, photographers, etc.
What are your influences? Please list other photographers you look up to or
things that generally inspire your image-making process.
I’m inspired by both the South African cinematographers that I’m lucky to work with and the work of international cinematographers such as Christopher Doyle, Sean Bobbitt, Emmanuel Lubezki, Bradford Young, Reed Morano, and many others. As well as film-makers/photographers like Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Jonas Lindstroem and Sean Metelerkamp.
I love the work of classic, slightly surreal photojournalists like Gordon Parks, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. Stanley Kubrick also has some incredibly cinematic photo journalistic photography.
What else do you enjoy? (Hobbies, etc – Any other creative exploits or interests?)
Reading, writing, traveling, hiking, going to the cinema.
Any tips for aspiring film photographers?
For any creative field, study the work of others that you love and copy it until your work begins to change from imitation into something original.
What lies on the horizon (any plans for series, exhibitions, travels etc)? And what do you hope to achieve in the future?
We (myself and director Greg Bakker) went to Durban International Film Festival in 2017 with our debut feature film, Relics. Now we’re moving on and trying to produce our second feature. We’re also re-writing a bunch of South African scripts, which we hope will get funded one day.
All photos by Gray Kotze
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