Interview with Photographer – Davey Warren

DJ Cobalt 60: How did you get into photography and why do you love the art form?

Davey Warren: My first camera was an old Konica T reflex with an external light meter. My dad got a new camera for his birthday and threw his old camera at me. He showed me the basics of how to work it and how to use the primitive light meter that came with it. At the time I didn’t realize how sick the 50mm 1.2 lens was but I knew I could shoot in really low light settings and I got really into doing that. Those were the really early days. I guess there are too many reasons why I love photography but one that always stands out is the power a photographer has to freeze a moment. It gets obsessively romantic.

Hangzhou, China 2011

DJ Cobalt 60: A lot of your early work was you doing street and documentary photography, a large portion of which focused on daily life in Mainland China, what first grabbed you about the country? How did a three week trip turn into seven years of your life?

Davey Warren: When I first moved to China I had high hopes of becoming a photojournalist but I learned very quickly that a handful of older photographers had the monopoly on that. I started digging deeper into myself and photographing the sometimes mundane things around me. Life as it was and living in a strange country where most things caused confusion.  Three weeks turned into seven years very quickly. I made a lot of really good friends over there from all over the world that I’ll love forever. We partied hard but enough was enough.

DJ Cobalt 60: Although your time there lead to your series “Seven Years in Mainland China” which you hope to someday release as a photo book you said at the time you decided to leave China you had become so jaded by what you saw there on a daily basis the magic was kind of gone, which lead directly to your series “After the Palace” because you wanted to return to Canada and see what it would look like from a new perspective. When did you exactly know you needed to make a change and leave China? There are some photographers like Saul Leiter who can spend their whole life documenting the same city, what fuels your curiosity? How important is curiosity to your art?

From “After the Palace” series

Davey Warren: It’s incredibly important and that’s another reason why it was time to leave China. When things started making sense it got boring. To me education and curiosity work hand in hand. Once I’ve learned something new or find it utterly boring I’ll move on.

DJ Cobalt 60: At what point did you become interested in fashion and portrait photography which has become more of your main focus as of late?

Davey Warren: I’ve always had the interest but I’m a very impulsive person and setting up a photo shoot takes planning. I must have matured to the point where I’m ok with a little planning now.

DJ Cobalt 60: Was it easy to transition into another genre of photography?

Davey Warren: Absolutely yes! I’m having a great time shooting with great people.

DJ Cobalt 60: Looking at your work there seems to be a natural evolution there. How did your experience as a street photographer inform your fashion work?

Band – Queen Sea Big Shark

Davey Warren: It does transfer over quite naturally. Both street and fashion photography rely on impulsiveness and the ability to see the shot before it’s there. It becomes a meditative thing for me.

DJ Cobalt 60: I love your fashion editorial work! You bring a great sense of realism and poetry to a genre that is normally all fantasy and artificial or unauthentic. That isn’t to say your images aren’t fashion because they are but, you take a beautiful model and place her in a less than glamorous environment creating a duality that acknowledges beauty yet, soberly doesn’t veer too far from truth. Your images almost look like the behind the scene photos of a fashion shoot or a model right before or after a fashion shoot when she is allowed to be herself again and relax.

Model – Caitlind Kisson

It’s not an easy feat to bring street sensibilities to a fashion shoot and make it feel right. I’ve seen a lot of people try it and fail and ultimately their images seem as fantastical if not more had they tried to straight up go for a more conventional fashion look, it’s like a kid from the suburbs unsuccessfully pretending he grew up in the projects rolling with gangsters. I think everyone should check out your editorials featuring models Caitlind Kissoon and Julia Kay and see what I am talking about, it’s seriously some of your best work. JunnnkTank.com also did features about your editorial with Caitlind and about you shooting with Julia, if anyone is interested.

Model – Caitlind Kissoon

The photo set I want to ask you about though is the editorial you did for Sticks and Stones Agency titled “Ice Storm” featuring Julia Kay, I think those images are some of your most poetic, you normally always shoot in color since you started using negative colour film, was there a specific reason you chose to shoot in black and white?

Model – Julia Kay

Davey Warren: I really love shooting with Julia because she’s just an awesome person and so much fun. I shot that one in black and white because we decided to shoot in the middle of an ice storm in Toronto and there was no natural light. The indoor lights were all different color temperatures that didn’t look pretty at all. I thought screw it and went to black and white.

DJ Cobalt 60: What do you consider beauty to be?

Davey Warren: I honestly don’t know. I feel my idea of what’s beautiful changes so quickly I’ve given up trying to understand it.

DJ Cobalt 60: Has your idea of beauty changed much since becoming a photographer?

Davey Warren: I would say yes. Photography taught me to find beauty in things that wouldn’t appear to be beautiful before. Mundane things mostly.

DJ Cobalt 60: Did you associate a particular look with beauty?

Davey Warren: Not really aside from things that look awkward.

Model – Julia Kay

DJ Cobalt 60: How does beauty relate to the images you create?

Davey Warren: Beauty is one of those funny things that’s always subjective. I try to find beauty in everything and quite often have people asking me why I’m taking a photo of something they have no interest in whatsoever. It’s become normal for me.

DJ Cobalt 60: What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?

Davey Warren: Looking down at the world from an airplane. It’s beautiful in so many ways.

DJ Cobalt 60: Young women and animals, particularly cats are a recurring subject in your work, what fascinates you about them?

Davey Warren: I would never say young women in general are fascinating but their presence in photos is. I can never tell what they’re thinking. Cats have always been a part of my life and I feel some strange connection to them. Maybe that’s a past life thing.

DJ Cobalt 60: What is an image of yours that you believe best represents your style and aesthetic and what was the situation surrounding it?

Davey Warren: That would probably be a photo I took of the moon through a broken telescope on a freezing cold night. The photo doesn’t look like the moon at all and I guess the idea of using something broken to get a shot tells a lot about me. I’m an in the moment type.

DJ Cobalt 60: As an artist the highest compliment you can receive?

Davey Warren: That would have to be when my contemporaries like my work. I thoroughly enjoy the comradery between photographers.

MY DREAM CAMERA I don’t have one but I wish shooting film didn’t have to become such a drag.

EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER NEEDS independence.

TOO MANY PHOTOGRAPHERS talk too much.

I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO SHOOT Jack Nicholson.

3 ARTISTS I CAN ALWAYS LISTEN TO Henri Cartier-Bresson AKA God. Araki Nobuyoshi and Helmut Newton.

GOOD PHOTOGRAPHY IS full of feeling.

Model – Valerie

DJ Cobalt 60: For people interested in your work where can they go?

Davey Warren: I have a few places. My website is daveywarren.com or on instagram @davey.warren.

DJ Cobalt 60: Is there any you would like to thank who has supported you throughout your career or been instrumental to your career?

Davey Warren: Yeah. My parents have always been very supportive and never ask questions. Love!

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