Artist Q&A: George Byrne
1. How do you go about photographing your street scenes?
I rarely go out specifically to look for photographs, they usually land in my lap while I’m getting around town doing things. The locations I shoot are mostly in and around East LA and Palm Springs. Once I find a cool looking situation, I’ll park the car and take a look. Sometimes I get to the location and decide the light isn’t right or there is nothing really there, and sometimes I take 5 rolls of film. It’s a very inexact science.
2. What is your day like? What do you like to look out for?
My day-to-day life is pretty varied and depends mainly on what commissions are due and whether I have an exhibition I’m working towards. During the week I like to get out of the house by 830/9am. I recently got myself a studio at Werkartz, which is a multi-purpose art studio / gallery space in Chinatown. This has changed my life considerably as I’m now able to split my professional life from my home life and possibly made me more productive. During the day I’m either there working or running errands in the truck. The roads in LA become asphyxiated by traffic after around 3pm so the challenge is to get everything done by then. So I’m basically either working towards a series for a show or printing work for private sales.
3. How do you think Instagram has changed your eye as a photographer?
The key thing about Instagram / iPhone photography, for all its short-falls; its free, easy and quick. It’s an incredibly good way to practice seeing and taking photos. This benefited me (as an artist 5 years ago with absolutely no money), as I was suddenly able take thousands of photos and practice what I was doing + get real time feedback and validation at the same time, for free. I then applied these refines skills to my film photography practice.
In terms of how its changed the way I take photos, I think it more just helped me refine and explore a type of minimal urban aesthetic I’d been practicing since the very first time I started using cameras – but this time in color.
4. How has Los Angeles changed since you first started photographing it?
Aesthetically not a great deal but culturally yes very much. I arrived in 2010, when the city was still recovering from a terrible recession. In the 10 years I have been here LA has bounced back with a vengeance, it's booming on all fronts and has gone through a sort of cultural renaissance.
5. Why LA?
I really love LA as a city & I’ve have always found the landscape particularly beautiful. Its raw aesthetics are all washed out pastel planes, run down low-rise 80’s architecture. It’s kind of playful and post-apocalyptic all at once. I think it’s primarily the light, the air and the buildings and the fact that there are so few pedestrians that you get to see things really clearly and unimpeded. It’s a strangely captivating place.
6. Who are some other artists whose work actively informs your practice? What is it about these artists that interest you?
I am always inspired by all the great masters but of late I’m really loving the work of my contemporaries: Patricia Treib (for her color and form), Lilah Lute (for her concept and process) and Brian Lotty (for his story telling). Please look them up!
7. What sort of skills do you think is important for an artist to have?
Durability, focus and the odd good idea.