Picture above – Noel Gallagher – Oasis
Having featured the photographer Kieron in my very first interview, my eye has been significantly redirected towards the genre of street photography. I have even tried a few myself on the iPhone but it was whilst researching that I happened across some Twitter posts of an English Photographer from North West of England.
Manchester photographer David Gleave has a succinct style, with monochromatic interpretations of people around various cities. His main passion is Manchester and I can agree that this is a gritty city and offers a photographer many shooting opportunities with its fabulous backstreets which as yet have not been dealt the developer blows of ruination. I love to work in the backstreet of Picadilly and David has clearly capitalised on its uniqueness for not only architecture but the cities original individuality and personality which sets it aside from almost all others.
His embodiment to frame the personalities of each city he visits places him firmly at the top of the UK’s list of street lifestyle and people photographers.
What was your desire to become a photographer, when and how did this take shape? Were you inspired by a family member?
I didn’t really have any desire to become a photographer and it actually happened to me late in my life, like 7 years ago. I came to photography through my interest in cultural and social history. I always enjoyed looking at those books Your Town 100 years Ago. And I’m a musician and I always liked to look at photos of bands like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dylan and so on. I got a camera and started taking photos in Manchester that I hoped would become the photos that people looked at in say 50 years. Also being a musician I had access to musicians and I was photographing the Manchester scene, Noel Gallagher, Happy Mondays and many more that can be seen on my website. But definitely the moment where I knew I wanted to take photographs was after seeing and exhibition of photographs by Manchester photographer Samuel Coulthurst. Coulthurst shot candidly on the streets of Manchester and Salford in the last 20 years of the 19th I was looking at his photos of people, all long since dead and gone and I was amazed that somehow he had kept them alive with his camers. From then on ( 2015 ) I wanted to go out and find some people that I could keep alive.
Where are you based?
I am based mainly in Manchester as it suits my own particular style. It has lots of authentic people and I like to photograph people. Manchester has a great music scene.
What are your top 3 places to shoot in and why?
Some of the top places in the world for me to shoot in is America although I’ve only really photographed in New York ( 4 times ). India is also a very interesting place and I have travelled there a few times. I think I would like like to go to Vietnam. The first time I went to NY with my camera I came up onto 7th Avenue out of Penn Station and I couldn’t believe it.
Most of my influences come from New York and it was just like I was on a film set. I’d just got off an 8-hour flight and my hotel was about 2 blocks away but it took me about 3 more hours to get there. There were potential photographs everywhere I looked, so I was happy staggering down and around the streets carrying my bags and shooting away. India is amazing for different reasons. The vibrant colours, and the fact that life is lived on the street. The amazing people. Again everywhere I looked I saw photographs. It was just like you could point the camera anywhere and shoot. The cultural difference makes it so interesting to us. Everything you see is interesting.
What helped create your style. It has a strong in your face feel- how do you work with the subject? Ask or not and how do they react?
I’m a firm believer in filling the frame with people. So many people take photographs of people where the people are like ants. I like to get up close and I think that has a bigger impact. I generally don’t ask people and usually don’t hang about long enough to discuss but there are times when I will stop and talk and maybe ask for a portrait. Depends on the situation but if I can get the shot without disturbing the scene that would usually be my preference.
What is driving your creativity right now?
Looking at other peoples’ photography always. I absolutely devour photography in all its forms. Prints, books, online, films and that fires me up. I’ve literally just got back from Paris photo. I think I walked around it for about 4 hours and still didn’t see everything but I certainly came out of there wanting to take photos.
Do all of your subjects agree to shooting with you?
I don’t usually ask but when I have I have mainly found that people respond positively. I have no nightmare stories for you I’m afraid.
David, can I ask, what is it that you are looking for within your subjects?
I really don’t know the answer to this. I know it when I see it but I can’t profile it. It’s just an instinct that makes me click one person and not the next.
Personally, as a Fashion and Advertising Photographer when working with models I have permission to take pictures but I am interested in how do you engage with your subjects and is it easy?
I’m not sure I know the answer. I suppose if they have agreed to let me photograph them then that’s half the battle. The only direction I would usually give is not to smile. I may position them so they’re in good light but nothing more than that. If I look through the lens and it’s looking good then I’ll tell them sort of as encouragement.
Your style of shots seems slightly eclectic even though they are similar subject matter why is this. Do you use black and white to create continuity or is monochrome your chosen format?
My subject matter is 99% people but I do struggle with storytelling or narrative as people tend to go on about or discuss in depth. Most of my shots are single shots. I think I use B&W because most of my photographic influences use it. Another reason maybe because I’m shooting for the future and not for today I think the B&W instantly dates them and makes them a little abstract to the viewer.
Is your desire for photography driven by early growing up or studying at a later date?
Good question. I think there is definitely something from my early years but maybe it’s subconscious. I didn’t think about it. Want to preserve the past or document the present for when the present becomes the past. I’m still amazed that we have this little machine that can freeze time and save people long after they’re dead and gone.
As an avid monochrome photographer myself, Can you run through some of your workflows, please for our readers?
I take the photos and then I process each one individually in Photoshop. I make very few changes and most of them are made whilst converting the RAW file to a Jpeg. I sometimes apply Just minor exposure details. Maybe increase some of the contrast a little to enhance. Each image takes no longer than a minute to process. If it needs longer than that then I just admit I missed it and got it wrong and move on.
Quite a few photographers find inspiration from art Do you like art and if so, does this affect your work?
I do like art. I have become interested in The Impressionists and post-impressionists and love that whole Paris scene of the late 19th and early 20th I’m not sure it affects my work although I do love shadows and someone like Caravaggio was master of light and shadows.
So here is the big question I often get asked – Who is your number one photographer who inspires you?
That is a very difficult question as I love so many but if pushed I might have to say, William Klein. Although I would mention Robert Frank, David Bailey, Peter Lindbergh, Joseph Koudelka, Garry Winogrand, Todd Papageorge, Daido Moriyama, Bruce Davidson, Sergio Larrain, Ed van der Elsken, Richard Sandler, Herbert List, Alex Webb, Krass Clement. to name just a few!
Photographers these days tend to have a few cameras with them or in their arsenal What is your camera system, how many do you have and why?
I have 3 cameras. The main one is a Ricoh GR2 which has a fixed 28mm equivalent lens. It is perfect for travel cos it’s so small and all you need is a charger and a few spare batteries. 75% of the images I have created have been with this. Then I have a Fuji X100v which I try my best to use but it’s just not as easy or discreet as the Ricoh. It has a fixed 35mm lens. Finally and least used of all is a Nikon D800 with 24-70 / f 2.8. I might use this if I shoot a live band but that’s very rare for me now as live bands tend to get on my nerves and it’s so difficult to get a good shot as they all play in the dark.
David, I like to highlight people and of course their work but I like to find out a little about what they are working on and so what is David Gleave working on right now?
I always have a couple of projects ( usually ongoing ) on the go. At the moment I have a project Mangle Street Blues which is a collection of street portraits in the Manchester Northern Quarter. Through December I am going on the road with a band doing a UK tour. The band are called Cabbage and I’ve worked with them since early 2016. And I’m tidying up my digital archive. I just had an exhibition in jersey where a guy walked in on the 4th day and bought all 23 pieces so I’m hoping that happens a bit more so I need instant access to all 7 years worth of images.