Tuesday, June 5, 2012
James T. Murray: Inside & Out
Whether he’s shooting on the studio tabletop or in the urban landscape, James T. Murray brings an artist’s eye and a craftsman’s touch to his photography
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Recently published in a lavish, large-format monograph titled Elucidate, Murray's personal photography has had a dramatic influence on his commercial work, both in the ways he shoots and in the kinds of projects that clients who see it now bring to him. It's a two-way creative dynamic, far removed from Murray's early, yeoman years, in which he plied his trade in places that might have crushed the passion of a less committed photographer.
Starting in his senior year in high school, he worked as an in-house assistant at publisher McGraw-Hill, shooting everything from book covers to executive portraits, but learning valuable lessons about everything, from view-camera operation to studio lighting. Murray then put in nearly eight years assisting a couple of New York City photographers. When he finally went solo, a "very, very slow" start forced him to take a job at what he describes as "a very low-end catalog house." There he shot still lifes while harboring the hope of becoming a fashion photographer.
Murray's assisting gigs, one with Bob Kiss and the other with David Price, provided other important lessons. The first one, with Kiss, began with a cold call. "Soon after I knocked on his door, I was working 12-hour days in the studio and the darkroom," Murray recalls. "I thought I knew how to make a good black-and-white print, but Bob's skills surpassed anything I'd been exposed to."
Even the 12-hour days were teachable. "Bob's work ethic and his unwillingness to settle for 'good enough' had a huge impression on me," says Murray. "Those traits are deeply ingrained in my day-to-day work."
And while the photographer's intended career as a fashion specialist never materialized, he still applies lessons learned from David Price. "He exposed me to a fashion aesthetic and taught me how clothes should fall," says Murray. "More important, he made me realize that you have to study what's in front of the lens before committing it to film."
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