10 Urban Photographers Unveil the Secrets to Their Craft: Muses

The muse, or the source of inspiration for a creative artist, can be the be-all and end-all for many. Whether she be a special person, place, or thing, creativite stimuli can be drawn from every corner of the globe and for those with a discerning eye for visuals, her importance transcends beyond just a mere source of inspiration. She is the bustling city and the stillness in the air. HYPEBEAST culture has always been drawn towards strong visuals such as urban cityscapes, natural wonders, candid portraits, and street photography -- the raw art of capturing human nature within public places. With the popularity of Instagram and Tumblr and the like, visual-centric social media sites have served as incredible platforms for point-and-shoot enthusiasts to share their noteworthy captures from their surroundings; as a result of this, some have steadily risen from photography amateur to pursuing the medium as a means beyond personal passion.

In part one of our photographer series, we gain insight from @trashhand, @visionelie (also @whateverelie), @ecolephoto, @stevesweatpants, @1st, @13thwitness, @jayscale, @alinatsvor, @black_soap, and @ryanmillier on what motivated them to pursue their respective forms of photography, and what continues to inspire them and the scope of their work.

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How did you get introduced to photography?

@trashhand

I was introduced to photography by always having a camera on my phone. I always took pictures but never really thought about it or did anything with it. It wasn’t until Instagram until I started taking it seriously and trying to get artistic with it.

@visionelie

Being in design school (OCAD) in Toronto, it was only right for me to get into photography. It goes hand in hand with design.

@ecolephoto

It was all fun. I just started using Instagram while in my previous job, because I was given an iPhone to use. I needed to have a smartphone for communication, and the phone became like my first camera. Then over a period of time and traveling over various parts of the UK with the job, I started to realize that I was into taking pictures with the phone. It just went from there. It’s still kind of funny using the term “photographer,” seeing as though I’m only still in the first year. With photography, it was something I started not knowing what I was doing, and just through going out on a daily basis and using my phone and then seeing things differently as weeks went by, and months went by. I enjoyed it.

@stevesweatpants

Well, I used to really be into looking at family pictures since I can remember, but I never took a photography course in my life, or anything art related. When I first got on Instagram about 3-4 years ago, I noticed people were taking photos with their iPhone and they were crazy landscapes, cityscapes, etc. It seriously opened my eyes, and I started using my iPhone to start off. The iPhone was a good way to start, but then I got a film camera a couple of months into it and it was a wrap after that.

@1st

I first became interested in photography when I was involved in the car scene. I started to become aware of what angles and perspectives made cars look more flattering than others, and the effect that different focal lengths had on the subject.

@13thwitness

I got into photography after borrowing a camera from a friend and shortly after I became fascinated with the idea of creating something more out of a photograph.

@jayscale

I was introduced to photography through Instagram. I used to just use it for fun about a year and a half ago. I always followed a good photographer or two, and one day I told myself that I wanted to take pictures and post them and see what happens. I saw what others like 13th and some OGs were posting at the time and I felt like I could at least give it a shot. I was at a point in my life where I realized university wasn't for me so I was trying a bunch of things, and photography was something that stuck with me.

@alinatsvor

I got into photography at the end of high school, and mostly through my brother who was in a band. He documented all of his travels and mixed his Snapchats with graphic design which to me was fascinating at that time. I picked up a camera myself and documented everything around me. When it was time to decide what to study in college, photography was the only thing on my mind, and now I’m here doing this for a living.

@black_soap

I graduated from college with my degree in graphic design. I was first introduced into photography when I took a photo film class elective. I loved the class but I still didn't start to take photography as seriously until I joined Instagram.

@ryanmillier

I was introduced to photography by my father as a child. He always took photos of the family on trips, and the idea of capturing a moment of time fascinated me. However, I didn’t get into photography until after high school when I joined Instagram. I started following other photographers from my hometown, Toronto, and was inspired to go out shooting with my iPhone. I instantly viewed the world around me in a different light.

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Who is your muse? Where do you draw inspiration from?

@trashhand

Chicago is my muse. I draw inspiration from the city, its people, the colors, the weather. I draw inspiration from everything. I feel like that’s the only way I’ve been able to progress -- to be that open minded to new inspiration.

@visionelie

The World Wide Web and the world itself. There’s so much to learn from everyone and every single culture on this planet.

@ecolephoto

That’s hard. Nowadays, if I was to answer that question based on the current stage I’m in, it’s quite difficult. Because now I’m always pushing myself to find new inspiration that’s not on Instagram. But because Instagram’s where I discovered my visual side of myself, all of my early inspirations were on Instagram. People like @13thWitness, @trashhand, people like that were huge influences to my beginnings. Even @jasonmpeterson, because I’ve started doing a lot of black and white stuff, so he was a huge influence in that respect. But now I consider myself more of a street photographer, so a lot of the people I draw inspiration from now don’t use Instagram -- kind of old school photographers, like a guy in New York, Jeff Mermelstein, he was actually on the Everybody Street documentary. I kind of find myself searching for inspiration on a daily basis from old school photographers who kind of maybe still shoot or don’t shoot anymore. I want to try to approach the street side of things more.

@stevesweatpants

My muse is NYC, as cliche as that may be. Getting into photography, I never looked at the city the way I do now. Everything from the conversations you hear passing by to the amount of diversity all over the city; it's the epicenter of life to me. That's why I wanted to really capture what NYC means to me. From doing that, I became obsessed with all forms of photography.

@1st

The streets of NYC inspire me everyday. It's something I really used to take for granted, but with my relatively newly found love for street photography I've become aware of just how amazing this city is, particularly at ground level.

@13thwitness

I like to draw inspiration from the city, from movies and also from music especially.

@jayscale

On instagram, @jasonmpeterson, because his creativity outweighs everything. Other creatives like Joe Kay and Ta-ku are individuals I look up to in regards to their work ethic and what they've accomplished already. I draw inspiration from anyone who is doing what they love, and reaping the rewards of their hard work, whether it be a chef, painter, or producer. I love to ask them questions about how they keep getting better when people already tell them they're the best. It helps me, and it reminds me that there's always room to grow and improve.

@alinatsvor

My current muse is my sister-in-law. For some reason my best work has been shot with her, and we just get each other when we work together. A lot of my inspiration comes from films and literature; I love storytelling and I hope that is reflected in my work.

@black_soap

Right now I would say that my muse is one of my best friends Ron (@nevasatisfied). I try and draw inspiration from everything I see daily, from walking to work after I get off the train to cruising through my timeline on Instagram. My friends Steve (@stevesweatpants) and Ron are really big inspirations because I shoot with them all the time. Traveling to different abandoned places and cities I haven't been to also always inspire my work. And of course light. If you don't know how to use light then you're missing out on a lot of beautiful images.

@ryanmillier

I draw inspiration from cinematography and music. I also gain inspiration from photographers that I follow through Instagram -- it’s how I initially was inspired to shoot photos, and it’s how I constantly get re-inspired to go out and shoot. Every day someone is doing something breathtaking, and it’s amazing to watch all these different people with their own unique perspectives capturing the world around them.

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What subjects are you drawn to?

@trashhand

I love shooting cityscape and street photography. I also really love shooting portraits but it’s just got to be completely organic and natural. I don’t like forcing them.

@visionelie

People. Especially my friends -- I don’t have many, but they’re the best subjects.

@ecolephoto

It’s funny because whenever I’m answering this question I find myself starting with one and then eventually I’ve listed like four, five different things. But if I was to go through it by order, it’s definitely still portraits at the top being my favorite. Street photography, cityscapes for sure, because there’s something nice about being able to capture the energy of a city in one picture. So that’s always something I enjoy. And architecture as well. But mainly street and portraits. Portraits were like another level for me to be able to execute direction skills or how to see something and have a subject and try to make something come to life that I had in my mind.

@stevesweatpants

I'm really into portraits, even though I don't post them on Instagram or whatever. I take them all the time. Usually it's portraits of swagged out elderly Asian woman in Chinatown. But I love shooting cityscape, and seeing the scale of everything. It looks like a Lego set sometimes, and composing it becomes a game to me.

@1st

Candid street shots of life unfolding.

@13thwitness

Cityscape/Landscape/Urban/Portrait. I don’t like to put myself into a box and generally like to shoot whatever catches my eye.

@jayscale

I love shooting portraits of people in the city or landscape setting. I find what I like shooting constantly changes. I don't believe I've found my niche yet in terms of what I like to shoot, but I wake up everyday with that as my goal.

@alinatsvor

I love portraits; I could shoot faces all day. Travel is another subject that I can never get bored of shooting -- new scenes and new cities.

@black_soap

Landscapes (preferably dirty, dark, grungy places), abandoned places, apparel portraits and candid portraits.

@ryanmillier

It's always been architecture. I find it incredibly stimulating to capture symmetry in buildings. Landscapes come in as a close second because we are surrounded in a world filled with natural beauty.

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Favorite city to shoot:

@trashhand

Chicago is my favorite place to shoot. It’s home. It’s life. To document the city of Chicago is my never ending project. I’ve been all over the world and nothing feels better than coming home and seeing the Chicago skyline.

@visionelie

I still haven’t been there but planning to go there ASAP -- Tokyo it will be.

@ecolephoto

A dream city for me to shoot for a while was Hong Kong, which has definitely lived up to its expectations. New York is definitely one as well. But one that surprised me is Istanbul, Turkey -- it’s probably by far my favorite city I’ve shot and I’ve probably produced some of my favorite work there as well. It has to do probably with the energy, and I think I’m drawn more to cities where there’s energy, there’s quite a large population, it’s got a busy nature with traffic and people, and kind of heightens all my senses just hearing the atmosphere around me, seeing things.

@stevesweatpants

The easy answer is obviously NYC. But after traveling around a bit, I would have to say London is my favorite city to shoot so far. Everything about London is fascinating to me, from the people to the architecture, to the overall culture, and even the weather patterns. I'm not sold on beans and toast though.

@1st

None other than NYC, simply because it's the most diverse city on the planet.

@13thwitness

I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled a great deal already, but I would love to continue to see the world with any chance I get. Next must-see destination might be Santorini in Greece.

@jayscale

I love shooting in New York, there is so much going on. Living there, there's no excuse. There's so much commotion, there's so much life, so much character. Being able to just walk down a street and pass an interesting subject or scene is a luxury not many other cities can say they have. I also love the wilderness along the Pacific Northwest, there's so much room for creativity out there. I think @fursty is the perfect example who can attest to what's possible over there.

@alinatsvor

New York is always inspiring to shoot in -- never-ending scenes and stories.

@black_soap

My city, NYC. You can find something new everyday. The characters in this city give me energy and a feel for NYC that you can't find anywhere.

@ryanmillier

Out of everywhere I’ve been, I think New York City is the best place to be as a photographer. Every street and every person is a subject. To be honest, there is no better place to be. Toronto is a great place to shoot, it pushes you to be a little more creative because there is much less available to you than New York. Living in Los Angeles has been incredibly motivating for my photography, and shooting places along the coast are breathtaking. I’m looking forward to travelling to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Iceland, and Italy in the future.

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