Interview: Emily Shur

April 2nd, 2010

Morning in Shibuya ©Emily Shur

Morning in Shibuya, Tokyo ©Emily Shur

Issue 13 of Fraction Magazine included my interview with Los Angeles-based photographer Emily Shur. The issue, edited by David Bram, features photographs by Jessica Todd Harper, Emily Shur, Tom Leininger, Dalton Rooney, William Greiner, and an exhibition review of “Unmarked” by Mary Goodwin.

Here is an excerpt:

LL: I am drawn to what you choose to include in the photographic frame. For example, “Morning in Shibuya” – in what seems to be a chaotic urban landscape you have created a certain spatial order that I pick up on in all your photographs. Can you talk about this in your work and your thoughts about composition for this photograph?
ES: Composition is very, very important to me. In this photograph, “Morning in Shibuya”, I would say it’s calculated luck that I caught everything where it is. When taking a photo like this one, I usually try to move my eye around the frame and shoot when I think would be a good moment, but it doesn’t always work out. I rarely take more than two or three pictures at a time…meaning, I don’t shoot a whole roll trying to get a certain shot. I shoot what looks good at the time, and I’ll go as far as to wait until a street gets more or less cluttered, for someone to walk into frame, for someone to get out of the way, etc. If the picture doesn’t look how I envisioned it once I get my film back, then that’s unfortunate, but just how things go sometimes. I am also not afraid to crop images or remove small items from the photo that are corrupting an otherwise very nice composition.

LL: That spatial order, composition, and attention to detail seems to be inherent in Japanese culture especially in traditional Japanese landscape gardens. Do you find calm in this meticulousness both photographically and in your own life?
ES: Yes. I have been toying around with the idea of a project or edit revolving around traditional landscape gardens. Every time I go to Japan, I always visit multiple gardens. There is something very comforting to me about Japanese culture, and the landscape gardens are a perfect encapsulation of so many aspects of Japanese life. The respect and attention paid to the vegetation is wonderful. Even insects and spiders are respected enough to be left alone. I love going to a garden and watching the workers tend to the trees and plants. It’s a bit of a fantasy world where everything is important and in it’s place. It’s quiet and peaceful, and there are always older Japanese men with very serious cameras taking photographs. I love that they are out on a weekday morning or afternoon with their cameras; quietly, patiently taking photographs. I’ve even seen some 4×5 view cameras out there, and I always smile and give a thumbs up. To me, this seems like such a lovely way to spend a day…in a beautiful place, with nowhere to be…just looking and seeing and appreciating.

Read the entire interview in Fraction Magazine.

Two Trees ©Emily Shur

Two Trees, Ise-Shima ©Emily Shur

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