Interact with the moment & be aware of your surroundings.
As a part of my series about “5 Strategies To Take Stunning Photos”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shane Anderson. Shane is a NYC-based Photographer and Producer forging a *brave new world* of fashion-forward Beauty, Advertising and Editorial Content. Inspiration for Anderson’s work can be found in this clash between art and logic. He is able to take seemingly simple situations and elevate them with a mystical touch via artistic allusions, various religious & historical references and a precise, distinctive post-processing technique. This unique contrast allows for a universal connection between not only his body of work, but also threads a relationship between the viewer and time itself.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Hello! Yes, such a pleasure.
I have been inclined to the arts as long as I can remember. When I was a boy, my grandmother would take me on outings to the art galleries around town, little cafés and symphony shows. I grew up in Midwestern America, so I was very fortunate to have someone to expose me to these things at such a young age; it has certainly been fundamental to growing my whimsical worldview.
I used to, and still to some extent, do a great deal of multimedia artwork — everything from portrait drawings to avant-garde finger-painting with coffee, wine and cigarette ash! Photography was really a natural progression for myself as an artist. And for me in my post-production process, it’s like creating a painting when compositing or touching up images. Couldn’t be happier.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There are so many! My career has brought me on so many adventures and stories I am thankful to have experienced. So to tell you the story of my most interesting experience, I will tell you of a time in my life that has impacted me and the way I create my artwork. I hope my words allow you to feel as I did.
There is something I like about a thick, heavy heat. A sort of suspension occurs; one becomes stuck perfectly between sweet daydreams, endless ambition and a lazy stupor — like an intoxicating and sweet summer wine. I was young and very broke in the middle a very hot Italian summer. Cities were empty to the beach. A sweet lull suspended the air. Somehow I found myself at a table surrounded by perfect strangers and one good friend at a small taverna hidden deep in the rolling hills and vineyards of the Northern Italian countryside. Next to me, a dog sat stoically: a breed half wolf and half husky. The soft hum of cicadas and glow from the country house secured the warmth of the night as round after round of local aperitif and grappa came to the table.
Hours later we soared through the winding mountainside, the taste of the night still on my tongue. Warm air poured onto my face through the open windows of an old minivan. The Alps sat solemn behind crystal waters, populated with rainbow unicorns and floating frogs. Perched atop were screaming children wielding mighty cornetti as swords, guarding the beauty that surrounded them. Soon we sat atop Il Sacro Monte di Varese under laundry hung to dry between needle-narrow cobble streets. In the cool morning breeze, we looked onto the blinding sparkle of Milano on the horizon.
I draw on these experiences to keep me inspired and for energy when shooting. Immersing yourself in an experience when it occurs — good or bad — and being okay with the reality allows you to tell narratives that others may not be able to perceive. With art we have the powerful ability to translate this mystery into tangible reality, which I think is beautiful. Each of my photos then contains a bit of myself and a bit of my experience in it.
Being able to infuse these things in my work has been crucial to my development as an artist and career.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I remember when I first started assisting, I got booked on a magazine cover shoot job. It was the middle of winter and the studio in which we were shooting at had an issue where the heating was actually not working. Little space heaters were scattered about, which didn’t do much in warming the large, open studio. Needless to say the Talent of the shooting was absolutely freezing! So, being an ambitious and caring assistant, I took two extension cables, plugged them together, and then plugged in 5 space heaters into this extension cable so the Talent could be warm.
(A quick note : if you are not familiar with running power (as I was not), a general rule of thumb is to not overload a socket, or the fuse will blow. It is also important to remember that space heaters actually are one of the highest power-consuming devices you can plug in.)
5 minutes pass — everyone is happy, the Talent is warm and suddenly we are in darkness. Every light in was off. Everyone is a bit confused, but then I catch the gaze of the Set Designer who waves his finger at me. I quickly realized what I’d done and scrambled to unplug my mess, changed the breaker, and all was well.
It was a simple, yet very important lesson of how to run power. But it was also an important lesson of accountability and on-set professionalism. I suppose I learned to … not blow a fuse.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
People are always a bit surprised when I tell them I have quite an obsession with mathematics and the sciences. Which, is funny, as I feel like when I talk with people and I tell them what I do, the thought of having a mathematical brain is automatically out the window. I suppose maybe it’s not so common, but having this side of myself is actually one of my most favorite parts of my career because it allows me to be both the “Creative Director” and “Businessperson” of my craft. For me it is really the most fun to mix these two abstract ways of thinking together, not only in the “backend” of my business, but also how it translates visually in my work!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Burning out I think is something that can be much more likely to happen to someone who doesn’t work a “typical” 9am — 5pm job because there is a lack of boundaries — there is no office to leave your work at. Specifically though for fashion, the job doesn’t even end on set! Much of my job is to socialize … at events, parties, etc. Which don’t get me wrong it’s fun for sure, but there is still an element of professionalism you have to present. You can’t be “SHANE — that photographer that was off babbling in the corner,“ (even if all you want to do is to relax) you’ve got to be “SHANE — the really cool photographer who takes beautiful photos, dresses well and was ‘oh so charming.’” When you live a life that is 12 hours on set, followed by 6 hours of socializing after it becomes really, really easy to neglect time for yourself and your own mental and physical health.
So if I am speaking directly to my colleagues — set healthy boundaries for yourself, please I beg you — eat well, and don’t take yourself too seriously. You are probably the one putting the most pressure on yourself. Remember we are all human and have emotions. Indulge.
As someone who works a lot themselves, this is crucial for me and something I really take to heart. When you are sleep deprived and overworked, your judgment gets clouded … which in the end is actually counterproductive for your career … it’s a bit like we are plants … if you do not nourish the soil please do not expect to grow.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
If I could list all the people that have given to me aide with nothing to receive back, this article would be 10 pages long! There have been so many kind-hearted people who have seen … hmm I don’t know … a spark in me? I have always said that being kind, having good work ethic, having (a bit) of good taste and having an open heart are the only things needed for success. Skill will come, refinement of craft will come — and when I say these things I mean for any industry! But how you are remembered is key. My heart is with forever my two first mentors in the fashion world, brilliant fashion photographers Simone Lezzi & Antonio Putini, who taught me how to live and work with a little more thought, awareness, work ethic, depth and most importantly art. I hold many good memories and late nights in East London with these guys … and dare I say even better Italian food. I love and thank you both dearly.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Always! I have been very intrigued by shimmery, sparkly (yet still moody) aesthetics and long hand gloves recently, so perhaps expect some of that coming out soon.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe that at this stage in my career, the most goodness I can bring is to impact others’ daily lives. Sadly most of us live in a world of attrition. If I can make anyone a little bit lighter, a little bit brighter, I believe I have done my job! The same goes for my works as well — I want the viewer to have a dialogue and connection with my art. I want to provoke a new thought, or a sense of wonder and fantasy; new thoughts bring goodness and growth in life.
Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”. Please an example for each.
1) Don’t view your equipment as a limitation.
The number one reason I hear why “the photo is bad” is because the camera (or phone in many cases) “is bad.” Of course certain equipment has limitations, and perhaps the pixels won’t be as sharp. Of course. But the moment we begin to use our equipment as the reason for our own lacking is the moment we stop to learn and grow. If the photo is bad — fantastic! Analyze it. What can be better? What can change? That *bad* photo is now a tool instead of an excuse. Mistakes are O.K. !
2) Interact with the moment & be aware of your surroundings.
Notice how the light falls — is it soft, harsh? Ask yourself : “How can I use the elements in this situation to make magic?”. Perhaps you can use the elements of the foreground to create depth. All of these are things to think about. The best photographers I know can take a small frame of reality and make it look a whole universe! Being mindful of where you are, what surrounds you and how you can use it to your advantage is not only and advice for photos, but for life as well. Learn to see.
3) Capture the moment in-between.
Posing for photos is actually quite difficult. We tense up and become a less pretty version of ourselves; we aren’t relaxed. It takes serious practice to exhibit yourself as yourself in front of a camera! If I am working with someone who is a bit camera-shy, the best photos I get of them are when they think my camera is down. Even some of the most experienced models this is true for! Try taking photos while your subject is switching poses, or when their guard is down. You may be surprised to catch a priceless softness in their eyes.
In my years working, my biggest grievance with society has quickly become sidewalk gum. Something so small can cause eons of wasted time in post production. Because of this, my eye for detail has increased greatly! The tiniest of details — a stray power cord in the background, the bottom of a sleeve folded incorrectly, etc. etc. — can take a photo from “W.O.W” to “meh.” in a heartbeat. Before you shoot, take a moment to make sure everything is in order!
We live in an age of cheap information. No longer do we have to pay per roll of film, and pay then more for developing that film. This allows us freedom to play more. If you have a situation you like, work it! If something doesn’t work, change it! Try different angles, compositions, poses — experiment.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Wow there are so many directions I feel I could take this! I think right now though I have to default to the environment, and specifically personal consumption. I think plant-based eating movements are very interesting, which has taken quite the forefront in recent climate efforts, but I think personal sustainability is far more important. We need to be far more aware and less complacent as a people how much waste we are creating. Imagine your consumption multiplied by a few billion. Enquiring to ourselves how we can use less, reuse and use more efficiently is crucial. I hope also that moving forward the fashion industry goes down a path of greater sustainability, as historically it has been an industry of great waste. To me, if these ideas can be amplified they can easily to bring a great amount of good to not only our personal, but out lives as global citizens.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow my professional work + life on my Instagram site — it’s @thatstylishnerd ! The handle is the same for Facebook, TikTok & Pinterest as well.
I also make YouTube videos primarily post production processes, but there’s also a bit of fun on there as well as some of my fashion films. You can find me at youtube.com/thatstylishnerd .
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
You are most welcome. Thank you very much.