Kieran E Scott
Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got into photography?
My name is Kieran E. Scott. I was born in Waimate South Canterbury in 1963. My father was a sheep shearer and my mother was district nurse. I have been interested in photography as a form of communication since I was approx 14 years old. My mother gave me a camera when I was very young - and I got film to go in it some years after that. I spent my formative years at high school failing at everything except guitar and hiding in the Art/ photography section of Timaru public library. They had books by Ernst Haas, Penn, Frank and HCB etc. By the time I left high school I had a rough understanding of the history of photography and because I was drawn to documentary and reportage photography I had a grasp of the social and political issues that plague the world. I worked out that my career as a guitarist wasn’t going to be easy in NZ so I switched to photography and moved to London to study and work in 1987.
Your portfolio showcases an unique photo-documentary style, but there are also staged portraits/studio setups - what do you enjoy shooting most?
I shoot mostly photo collections for books and corporate clients or personal projects, so to me It’s all documentary photography. To stage or arrange something to better explain it is an important part of story telling. Think of the work of Penn, Weston and Avedon or contemporary photographers like Pieter Hugo or New Zealander Henry Hargreaves. To my way of thinking that’s all documentary photography. Of course it changes when the commission is from an Advertising client.
Then it’s advertising plain and simple - which can be stylised any way you like. So, to answer your question, I don’t care what style I’m working in, it’s all the same to me, only the technical approach changes. In the end it always comes back to story telling.
What is the '200 women' project about?
Equality in all it’s forms. I shot 224 portraits over 10 months everywhere from the Arctic circle to Kathmandu. We asked every women the same 5 questions and photographed them in front of the same piece of canvass. It’s a book that is published in 3 languages and in 8 Countries at the moment. It’s also an Exhibition planned for NYC in May next year and Munich in October at this stage. The project was created by Ruth Hobday and Geoff Blackwell at B&R.
How did you find/choose the women for this project?
We had producers and researchers in different regions around the world - and a great team here in New Zealand putting the schedule together. There are super famous Women and totally unknown women.
What gear do you shoot with currently?
What ever works for the job, we do hire specialised equipment - But, what’s in our cupboard at the moment is: Canon 1dxmk2, 5dsr and 5dmk4 and a Fuji XT 2. A set of Sigma Art primes for the Canons. I also use a Leica M4, Pentax 6x7, Mamiya 6x6 and a Toyoview 4x5 field camera. Broncolour flash.
You have also worked on a few other publications - talk us through your process from planning through to publishing.
I’ve done more than 50 books and worked for magazines everywhere from Russia and India to NYC London and Australia and everywhere in between and thousands stories over the last 30 years. It’s always the same. ( more or less ) Editor, photo editor or designer makes contact - outlines story / brief - talks through stylistic approach, timing, budget and deliverables. I’ve shot film for longer than I worked with a digital camera - so in the days of film we would discuss film format and film stock ( especially with Magazines in the US and Europe ). Then we would talk through expectations re content and visual rhythm and style. EG: mix of landscape, portrait still life etc. Then I’d get some sort of contact list or story - and off I’d go.
How do you promote your projects? What is the importance of social media in this day and age?
I work through publishers and an Agent. They have PR and marketing companies employed to promote the work. I don’t really promote myself it’s never been my strong point - I wish I was better. I have a website and a terrible instagram account that I do my best with - social media looks important on the face of it but your asking the wrong person as I don’t fully understand it. My agent does lots of good work in this area - I think you need to really engage in it and exist in that environment for it to work.
What would you say is the most rewarding part of being a photographer?
Existing in the world and being fully engaged. The photography bit isn’t that important to me any more, I’m amazed at how it’s a medium for teaching you how to be a better more thoughtful human being, and showing others stories and situations that might change the way they think. It forces you to interact with others - building a feeling of empathy and understanding.
If not a photographer, what would you be?
A guitarist - which I still think of myself as. I was asked recently how I managed to survive playing the guitar - I said I had this little side line business as a photographer.
Your dream project?
My partner and I do lots of interesting jobs and we feel very lucky to be doing them. I guess you make your own life by walking towards the things you feel passionate about, surround yourself with good people, be patient and don’t worry about getting knocked back. Just keep walking in the direction you want to end up in and the dream job ( what ever that is ) will appear.
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow your footsteps?
Don’t follow in my footsteps, choose your own path , be original, creative and take risks - who wants to be a sheep, youth and that youthful energy is what makes the medium so engaging and keeps it evolving. Photographers like Ryan McGinley and Bieke Depoorter are great examples of that idea. Exciting challenging and really creative.