Interview with Courtney Shaw – Using an analogue camera in New York City

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I would like to start with a quote mentioned by Courtney in the interview:

That is what inspires me; challenging myself to look at something I have seen a million times and look at it from a completely different perspective and then capture it.

This comes to another quote I heard from a photographer back when I was starting. “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

That’s what photography is about. To find the perspective that’s most creative and tells a better story.

I really love how Courtney captures her world, especially by using an analogue camera which is far more difficult than using the camera gear with smart AI features, etc.

It’s also fascinating that she can’t see the results immediately, but I will let you read the interview to learn why she does it this way!

Interview with Courtney Shaw

Share a few things about you and photography.

Hey, I’m Courtney. I have been living in New York City for the last 13 years and work in the fashion industry. Photography is one of my favorite hobbies.

I am a very nostalgic person. Ever since I was little, I have loved taking photos of things so that I could remember the moment. I love being able to look at an old photo and remember what my life was like at that time.

Even though I have been capturing moments through photos for the nostalgia of it all, I never thought of myself as a photographer. I would just see something I liked and would feel the need to capture it.

That’s why I always had a disposable or digital camera with me 🙂

It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I really started to learn the technical aspects of photography and work on developing my skills. All of the cameras I ever used before were just basic digital or disposable cameras to capture the moment. I had no real knowledge of how to take a picture manually.

So I bought my first real digital camera and started teaching myself. A few years after that I bought my first analogue camera and completely fell in love with shooting film. It really brought out my passion for photography and finally being able to capture images in the way that I have always seen them.

Do you shoot only film or digital too?

I shoot both but have found I prefer shooting film!

Why did you choose film over digital?

I naturally gravitated towards film because it was more challenging. For me, shooting digital was a great way to learn all the mechanical aspects of photography.

It was beneficial trying different settings and techniques and get instant results to see what works and what does not. Film, on the other hand, is more challenging in learning how to properly meter light and depth.

You don’t get that instant gratification of knowing how your shot turned out. I like the anticipation of waiting to see if I properly metered something or if a new technique I learned translates on film.

I also like the look of film over digital. There is something about the tones and the grain that I find more fitting to the look I am trying to capture in my work.

What do you notice while you’re framing your shot?

I don’t really try to frame up my shots and just capture what I see in the moment. Most of the time I get lucky that I had framed my shot nicely in the moment. However, there are times that I will see something and notice that there is a perfect opportunity to frame the shot.

For example, the shot I took on the Q train to Coney Island. I have been to Coney Island a million times and know that you can see all of Coney Island from the subway window right before you get there.

While I was on my way there one time, I noticed the sign above the window on the subway car that said Coney Island. I immediately knew I had to frame up the view of Coney Island in the window right under the sign. It is probably one of my favorite photos.

What’s your favorite lens to shoot and why?

I use a Canon Zoom Lens FD 35-70mm f/4 for analogue cameras.

I like that it allows me to zoom in or out just a little. I haven’t really experimented much with different lenses or felt the need to.

What’s your main camera?

I currently use the Canon AE-1 Program.

Do you have a dark room?

I do not have a darkroom or develop my own film. I take everything to Bleeker Digital in NYC. They are the best! Developing my own film is something I would like to learn soon though.

How do you improve your skills?

Practice, practice, practice. You just have to get out there and shoot. Everything I have learned and improved upon has been through trial and error.

Name a few photographers that inspire you?

I could name a bunch of famous photographers, but honestly, some of the people who inspire me most are fellow photographers sharing their passion for their own work with the photo community on social media.

Social media is such a great platform to be exposed to so many different types of work and styles. I love coming across a photo by someone and thinking wow they saw that or captured that in such an amazing and unique way.

That is what inspires me; challenging myself to look at something I have seen a million times and look at it from a completely different perspective and then capture it.

What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer in New York City?

The most rewarding part is that I live in one of the greatest cities in the world. I am very blessed to walk out of my building and just start capturing the essence and energy of this city. There is never a shortage of inspiration or subjects to shoot.

What’s your favorite place to shoot in New York?

Dumbo. I had this poster of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Twin towers when I was younger and living in Ohio. I would stare at it and dream of living in NYC. I have been living here for 13 years now and I never get tired of that view.

I could sit there for hours marveling at the beauty of the buildings and the bridge, especially as the sun sets. There is just something about that spot that is magical to me.

How does photography help you in life?

Photography is a creative outlet and a huge stress reliever for me. I like to put on my headphones, listen to my favorite music and go out shooting by myself.

When you are caught up in the present moment of capturing an image, there is no room in your mind for anything else. It is such a freeing feeling.

I also love the creative process of making a photo. I try to capture the city through my eyes and then translate that into the final photograph.

Did you like this interview? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! Also, if you’d want to help further, I’d appreciate it if you could share this interview on Facebook or anywhere on social media! 

You rock! Have an incredible day!

John 🙂

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