Shawn Brackbill is a traditional, exciting photographer

07.02.12 Words by: Charlie Jones

Text: Meg Sharp

Brooklyn based photographer Shawn Brackbill tells us how he began by studying biology, took a photo class and realised photography was for him, then shot portraits of Henry Rollins at Coachella, shot Gang Gang Dance for Dazed and Confused, who then asked him to shoot New York fashion week for them, and now is currently shooting a music video.

He tells us here about shooting the likes of Dum Dum Girls, Blood Orange, DJ Sega, The Kills, Laurel Halo, Teengirl Fantasy, Twin Sister, The Foals, Kurt Vile, Sufjan Stevens, Paul Simon and Gang Gang Dance, as well as what inspires him visually and who was the most interesting to shoot.

Where do you live and where did you grow up?
I live in Brooklyn, NY. I came up in Central Pennsylvania, in the mountains. Lived there until I left to go to college in Pittsburgh, PA and was there for about 10 years before heading to Philadelphia and finally NYC.

Where did you study?
I initially was going to college for Biology, but took a photo class and realised that was the direction I should be going. I finished at University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Film Studies but my lab classes were all photography, about 5 of them. I took them through Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

Why photography?
Looking back to high school, I feel like I should have realised the draw to photography sooner. I was always going to the bookstores to check out the magazines for both new music and great imagery. I’m not even sure that I can explain why exactly. I love the challenge of heading out on a shoot and coming back with great images that people will enjoy.

And music portraiture?
I switched these around because the music photography definitely came first. I have been going to shows since junior high school so, once I had a camera, I started bringing it to the shows. In 2004, I was headed to Coachella with Q and Not U and decided to work on a portrait project while I was there. Shooting Tri-X, available light, just a few quick shots. Some of the first subjects for that project were Wayne Coyne, Flea, and Henry Rollins, so that project built up fairly quickly. I still revisit the project and will be expanding it next month to include subjects from NY Fashion Week.

How did you get into fashion photography?
I got into Fashion Photography in 2008. I had just covered Gang Gang Dance’s Boadrum 88 performance in Williamsburg for Dazed and Confused. Based on the images from that project, Dazed brought me on board to cover Fashion Week here in NY. I shot for them for a few seasons, Dossier Journal as well. Last season, and this coming season, I have been working with Interview Magazine, which has been great.

And anything exciting coming up for you in the future?
I’ve been busy shooting quite a few bands early this year. Light Asylum, Bear In Heaven. I have been working for the past week or so on a music video for Memoryhouse. In the editing process now so I’m looking forward to finishing that up and being able to share it. I really enjoy shooting Fashion Week so I’m looking forward to that as well. Personally, my wife and I are expecting a baby. Super exciting!

What music are you listening to at the moment?
Well, I’d say that I’ve probably listened to the Memoryhouse song 50-100 times in the past weeks. Besides that, I was listening to the Mark Hollis (from Talk Talk) solo record that saw a vinyl reissue last year. Colin Blunstone (from The Zombies) – “One Year” was on the turntable a few nights ago. Just got a Future Times CD mix the other day and have been listening to VIBES 2 from them as well. Also been listening to the new Steve Moore record that comes out on Cuneiform later this year.

Shawn’s website

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