Interview: Photographer Clay Moss
We’ve been fans of Clay Moss for a while now and have always speculated about his work and persona, constantly seeing photos that absolutely floor us and inspire us and we finally asked for some of his time to get to know a little more about his story behind the camera — and we couldn’t be more excited to share it!
Where and how did you find yourself first exploring photography?
I first found myself exploring photography at a young age. I was always intrigued by the old photographs my mom had kept over the years, seeing a glimpse of the past frozen forever. Growing up my mom would bring a camera with her everywhere she went, she was always snapping photos of me and my brother. I always hated being in front of the camera and having to smile, and it was always such a process for her to snap the photo. I remember it seemed like hours that my brother and I were forced to sit and stare into the sun with a forced smile for a photo, an occurrence that happened way too often. Somehow those years of my childhood didn’t completely ruin photography me, and about 7th or 8th grade I asked for a camera for Christmas. Lucky enough my parents pulled their money together and made it happen. It was a Pentax K-X she was a white DSLR camera, and me being the ever so clever kid, named her Black Beauty. From there I would use it occasionally here and there to take photos of flowers in my front yard or at the beach. Around Feshman or sophomore year of high school I figured “why not use this for self portraits?” That’s when I began to really fall in love with the architecture of the face. I used a stack of books on a stool to hold my camera and a lamp that I would use to highlight different areas of my face. I learned two very important things doing this, one that a face looks different depending on where the lighting is and two, that I would never be a model. Endless hours of shooting like this in my room every night really helped develop the photographer I am today.
How would you distinguish your style?
My style is very, soft? I’m not really sure. When people ask about my style I still have a hard time describing it myself. My style is many different variations of things. I think I can be edgy when I need to be or kind and light hearted when the time calls for it. Most my work though has a bit of a mix. I love a good even and smooth contrast between my highlights and shadows and I think that’s what a lot of my work has, good transitions. People always tell me “I don’t have to look at who posted it because I already know just by looking at the photo” which is a good feeling, sometimes I’d like to ask them what about it lets them know it’s mine but I don’t want to come across as vain. I definitely think that my work is a range of things, which I absolutely love. I’m not this or that but I can be this and I can be that if you need me to be. I guess the only set back to that is not having a concise Instagram feed but at this point, screw it!
What concepts inspire your work?
I absolutely love high fashion editorial shoots, I think those get me pumped the most. I’ve come to realize though that I don’t think I’ll ever be shooting something quite as grand, in the sense of a whole scene with the perfect lighting, because thats just not who I am. Don’t get me wrong I’d love to be able to do it but I don’t think that I would ever become known for it. A lot of the inspo shots I send to my makeup artists are very editorial, rarely are they dull or basic. I want to be loud but somber with my work and I think that i do it in a way that’s loud but also subdued and it lingers there for a while. Sometimes high fashion just kinda blurs together so i try to create a nice compromise with maybe high fashion makeup but an up close and personal shot of the model.
What do you often aim for when shooting?
I honestly don’t aim for much. Before every shoot I do I get the worst anxiety and In my head I’m constantly thinking I won’t get a good shot, the shoot will be a failure, etc. Although it has happened a few times, I am usually able to get at least a few good shots. Being more of a portrait photographer, I usually take photos right up close to the models face which 9/10 I can always get a good shot. More recently something that I do think about when shooting is not just about my Instagram feed, but now I always try and get a series of four good photos that way I can post a photo set on twitter. That sounds so lame but what ya gonna do?
What kinds of things did you learn that advanced your skills and creativity?
My first year of college I took a photography course that was part of my degree plan. I probably wouldn’t have taken the course if I didn’t have to. Being stubborn I thought I knew everything there was to photography, even though I was self taught and shooting on auto. I went into the course with kind of a big head you could say. As soon as the class starts my professor tells us two things: one, “I’m not an artist but I know how to use a camera” and two, “you’re going to learn to shoot on manual by the end of this week.” Hearing that was such a shock because manual was basically a foreign language and I thought I would never be able to learn it. Sure enough, the second week came around and I was shooting on manual. After that I was off, I was constantly shooting because I could now do so much more with my photos and how I wanted them to look. It was such a cool thing to me that I had finally grasped something I had avoided for so long.
What do you wish more people understood about you and the work you do?
I think people are often shaded by the fact that I’m extremely extremely picky with who I shoot, and the photos I give out to the people I shoot. I come from a place that’s not super saturated by the young photography and modeling craze thing. Although it’s growing now, it’s still very new to my area and I stay extremely selective with the people I work with. Reasons being that I don’t want people to flood my email hoping for a free shoot, I don’t want my work to be associated with someone I don’t wholeheartedly believe in or know and three, it’s my brand and my business and I want to maintain a certain look. People often look at that as me being mean and negative or that all I care about is numbers and whatnot, but it’s actually the exact opposite. I’m looking at talent and who they are as people and also what I can do to help them succeed. I love helping people. I love doing things behind the scenes versus being on stage and the star of the show, hence why I’m behind the camera. I’m very much the guy you can call if you need to be picked up across town at 1am on a Thursday night. I’ll be there.
Where do you pull your inspiration from?
I pull my inspiration from the ones around me. I’m always very careful to never copy or get too close to someone’s work that inspired me, just enough to hint at it with it still being my own work. I love using concepts I see from magazines, and I find myself pulling a few different ideas from photos and trying to combine them into one shoot. I follow a few very underrated art accounts on twitter as well that help me keep thinking and that creative mindset flowing. I guess to answer the question, I pull my inspiration from the world around me. Anything I see that I can mesh together with something else is what inspires me.
What do you believe the photography community is lacking?
Humility. So many people I’ve come across are so into their work. They know their work is good so it’s almost like they disregard others and their feelings as well. I see this a lot on twitter, twitter is a super cool platform but it can also be extremely dangerous and controversial. Given it’s a public platform, you can say and do what you want but sometimes I feel like there’s no thought about “who might see this?” Or “who’s going to be affected?” I think we all need to respect that we are all at different levels of experience, and the we’re all completely different. What you think is good might actually be terrible. You never know.
What are you looking forward to achieving and doing in the future?
When I started photography I had always told myself “You’re going to shoot a vogue cover one day.” I think with the work I do it could possibly be in a magazine, a lot of people try to go for the full high fashion look but, like I said before, that’s just not me. I would love to shoot for a magazine one day and do some amazing shots or a series of extremely up close portraits of women to highlight their ethnicities and beauty with their varying bone structure. Although I feel like I have a long way to go hopefully I achieve that goal one day and look back on this and laugh. I always tell myself to keep reaching, because often times people think they are on top but in reality they never are truly on top. There is always someone doing something different or better than them. I tell myself I’m in 3rd place so I never stop reaching for 1st.
Is there anything, anything at all that we didn’t ask about that you’d like to share?
So to end this all off, I would just like to say thank you to everyone, you guys have helped me get to where I am today. Although it’s not much, it’s more then most people can say. I wouldn’t be where I am today with out all the love and encouragement from those around me, your support means the world to me