One shot interview with Paul Treacy
What made you push the shutter button to capture this image?
I was struck by the strangeness of the scene and immediately made a photograph. This is the first frame I made and I continued to work it for several minutes but as is so often the case, when it came time to edit the negatives, I thought the first frame was the best. William Eggleston only ever makes a single image of a scene, apparently. If there’s time and the situation allows, I will work it but often end up using the first image.
Is this image part of a wider project, if so what is the projects focus?
No it is not part of a specific project but it is part of a body of work on the streets of New York City during my various stays there between 1994 and 2008.
Why is this image special to you?
This image is special and important to me for a multitude of reasons. There are many images that are special to me, such as portraits of my wife from our early days together and of our sons and that kind of thing. But this image goes beyond all that because photography is my life. It is my way of going at life, of appreciating and trying to understand it.
I was studying at ICP (International Center of Photography) when I made this image. A gang of us had just left a late evening class and were heading out for some food and drinks when we happened upon this strange scene. Two of us noticed it but I was the only one with a camera so I lingered and worked the scene. When I finished I noticed everyone had left and I tried to find them but couldn’t so I went home. But I knew I had a cracker.
This picture was made in December 1999 on a Konica Hexar, a superb camera. I had been struggling a little on my assignments and workshops up to this point because I had been a news photographer at the Press Association in London before attending ICP and I couldn’t quite break free of the news photographer conventions. Seeing and making this picture broke the mould for me. It’s loosened me up and freed me.
There are certain techniques and standards that news photographers have to use to satisfy their editors. And I also thought that a photograph was not important or any good unless it was news worthy or of historic significance. Making this picture was a turning point because from then on, I was only really interested in mundanity. I started to appreciate the mundane, the everyday, the ordinary moments between significant events. And to this day these are the things that matter to me photographically.
Is there any photography books that inspired you to capture this image?
I think making this image inspired me to seek out photography books that revelled in the mundanity, exuberance and humour of life on the streets. My interest in photography books really kicked off after making this photograph. I do, however, have favourite photographers that I revisit all the time - Sylvia Plachy, Jeff Jacobson, Miguel Rio Branco and Harry Gruyaert.
What camera are you currently using?
I have two cameras I use, both Fujifilm at the moment. An X100T and an XE3. The XE3 with 16-50 zoom is my go to these days. The sensor is superb and I can stretch the images for large prints a ways beyond what the X100T can achieve.
However, I continue to crave a Leica M and will do whatever I can to get a good one. For too long I could not justify the expense but I am 50 years old and have decided that I want the very best tool for the remainder of my career. A good Leica M, well maintained, could see me through to the final tape. I just need to figure out how to afford one. But I will get one.
Please tell us about yourself
I’m an Irishman in London. I have been married since 1999 and we have two teenage sons. I was a stay at home dad for a number of years and this too was a major influence on my photography. I spent three years in art school in the late 80s studying graphic design and this, in combination with my time at ICP, fuels my interest in making handmade photobooks. I am currently developing a sort of hybrid approach to publishing which I would like to teach about and apply to my future books and projects. More on this soon.
I have a bravery medal and citation from the Irish Government's Deeds of Bravery Council for a winter river rescue in 1990.
I was born in Dublin but never lived there. I was adopted within weeks. I grew up in Ireland, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. I have a half sister that grew up here in England. I met her when I was 40.
I came to England to study in 1991 and met my wife here in 1993. We have lived in south east London since 2008.
My work has been represented by Millennium Images in London since 2003.
I’m a better photographer than I am a business man and freelancing has been a struggle. Learning of my dyslexia late in life has helped enormously though. I worked as a corporate staff photographer for a while and enjoyed the steady income but it took a toll on my health and I left in November 2019. I plan to make a sustained success of self employment when this pandemic situation eventually ends, combining assignment work, personal projects, book publishing, print sales and teaching.
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Keywords: camera, documentary, flash, interview, leica, Paul, photography, portraiture, q, review, settings, street, street photography, Tracey
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