The photographer talks inspirations, staying creative and helping the next generation of creatives.
Dubbed the Warhol of the 21st Century, international photographer, producer and educator Shane Anderson has been challenging the conventional realities with his abstract perspective and perceptions of beauty and power. Drawing on influences from his time in London, Milan and New York, the creative explores sepia-toned aesthetics overlayed with his appreciation of light and colours. The self-taught photographer relies on his in-depth understanding and curiosity of human nature to create stunning work, expressing human behaviours while challenging the gender norms.
Having worked with clients including Daniela Zuccotti, Elite Model Management and Numero Russia, the educator is teaching aspiring photographers and creatives how to manage their careers, setting the pace for the younger generation. We sat down with photographer taking his inspirations, stand out moments and what’s next.
Hi Shane! How has lockdown been for you?
Hello, hello! Lockdown has been… well an experience. I am certain that I have changed as a person, as I am sure many of us have. What good is being stuck inside for months without a little heartfelt introspection? We are still riding out the final phases here in New York. It is exciting to see the city cautiously come back alive.
How have you stayed creative during lockdown?
Things have become a lot more intrinsic. Day-to-day we take for granted the amount of beauty and inspiration-inducing things around us. Having being separated from the world we thought we lived in, I think a good deal of disillusionment has been removed. Collectively I think we are greater attuned to things of value. I have certainly found much more of a muse in music as well.
I see you studied mathematics and even practised as a bassist – when did you realise photography was your passion?
The arts have always been part of my life. What has changed is how they manifest. Music is an art, and for me, so is mathematics. Going deep in all of these facets has really informed my style as an artist. Days spent wandering museums as a child and riddling math equations still float around my head every day; I am never without constant inspiration. Photography is my passion these days, but it is really another form of expression with which I happen to identify most.
Which photographers have influenced you, and how did they change your thinking, style and career path?
There are two Italian photographers: Simone Lezzi and Antonio Putini. I met them when I arrived in London, by complete chance, thanks to Airbnb. They took me under their wing in many ways, especially when my entire portfolio was comprised of happy families and students who had just finished their studies. Life and art are intimately connected; I dare to say not many people understand this as well as the Italians. These two taught me to live, love, work and create with more depth, art and beauty.
From the American Mid-West to Milan and London, how have all your travels impacted and informed your work?
Having travelled in my early career has profoundly impacted me. I remember one night deep in Hackney specifically. Over a few pounds’ pints somewhere by the canal, I sat next to Antonio, “You have to do dirty things to be a great photographer,” speaking with a light in his eyes, “you’ll be able to tell stories that normal people cannot even think of!” Your experiences seep into the aesthetics of your work; it is unavoidable. And of course not everything you do has to be dirty.
Your exploration of identity is fascinating – is there an ultimate goal you’d like to reach whilst you explore gender and identity through photographs?
I think that the most beautiful thing photographs can convey, or at least that I like to play with, is the intersection between fantasy and reality. The finer the line, the better. When we look at a photograph of another human being, at the very least we relate to the subject on a primal level. Questions like “who is this?; why is that expression on their face?; what are they thinking?” begin to race through the mind. As a photographer, these mental processes interest me very much! No matter how fantastical the photograph might be, I want the viewer to feel like the character I have fabricated is real. Perhaps they could exist in an alternate dimension with different cultural customs and laws of physics, or perhaps they could be your neighbour down the road. If my art makes you question your own perception through the life of someone that does not exist, I have succeeded. Dreams weave reality.
How do you make your photographs say exactly what you’re trying to express?
My photographs often take on a life of their own; this is what makes them so potent. I try to never have an exact outcome in mind. When you expect an outcome, you spoil the prospect of serendipity. This all sounds a bit estranged, yes … and it is, but there is also a logical side to it. When you refine your skills to a point that you can work without a lack-based mindset, you begin to tap into a headspace of ideas you did not know existed!
What’s the most challenging aspect about completing your work?
The post-processing. I wish my wildest ideas could be realised with the snap of my fingers, but alas – back to the darkroom. Retouching is an under-appreciated technical art.
You’ve been compared to Andy Warhol and Steven Meisel by model Vanessa Brown, what do you think this says about your work?
Vanessa was a Supermodel of the 90s, covering countless editions of Vogue and running around foreign streets making her career without the aide of Google Maps. I tremendously respect anyone who has made such a success pre-internet. As such, I take this compliment with the utmost respect. Meisel’s work imbues what I hope to. A peek into a reality that has been completely manipulated. One of his images that always stands out to me is a masked woman lounging poolside with what I believe are Doberman dogs passing by. The scene is so familiar, yet fantastical and unnerving at the same time. This is brilliant to me. What I appreciate about Warhol is that not only is he a renowned artist, but he himself was also a work of art. Just last year I was in Manhattan and I came face-to-face with a large billboard of Warhol eating a hamburger. It was an ad for Burger King. Can you believe it? What an amazing thing to not only have invented an artistic world of his own, but also to continue to this day to be a starring role in it. The world in which Vanessa grew up and worked in was vastly different than the one in which we live. It was a renaissance of artistic expression, emotion and extravagance – unfiltered in a great many ways. Androgyny and self-expression existed in a manner that today does not really exist. The age of information has connected us so well that we have become inundated with information to a point where Andy Warhol’s “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” has certainly come true. Authenticity takes the hit. Which is really too bad because we are storytellers! Artists have the power to mingle in all levels of society; this is what propagates the cultural landscape. But now we find ourselves at a crossroads, which is very interesting to me. If I have any mission, it is to reclaim the title of “artist” to a point where, like most recently Warhol, has reenvisioned what it is to be an “artist.”
What motivates you to continue taking pictures?
The day I need a motivation to make pictures is probably the day I need to reconsider why I am taking the photos in the first place.
Should you not have taken up photography, what do you think you’d be doing now?
I have so many interests, so who knows … with the right amount of work, integrity and the slightest bit of good taste I think you can achieve anything. That being said, perhaps in ten years time I will find myself studying exotic animals on The Galapagos! Ha!
Do you have any advice for fledgeling photographers trying to catch their own big break?
Yes! In words, it’s quite simple but harder to do in practice. Photography and life is one big lesson of learning how to see. You must be able to see potential in a situation; even if it looks bleak, there is probably a gem hidden somewhere in there. Leverage it to your advantage instead of complaining the game isn’t fair. You *must* be willing to fail; these are the moments you learn to succeed. These are very important throughout your whole career, especially if you come from a life without lots of money or an extensive network. Have faith in yourself and intuition, but in the same respect take your ego down a few notches and enjoy the ride.
Finally, if you could take your art in any direction without obstacles like fear of failure or money, where would it lead?
I constantly daydream about taking my most favourite collaborators and couture to somewhere with the most pristine natural beauty like mountains in Peru, or the Mongolian plains. But, of course, I am afraid that would rank up quite a bill.