Interview: Photographer Shane Coker
Shane Coker has a compelling way with storytelling and moment-capturing that drew us to him and we can’t thank him enough for sharing his story with us!
How did you end up picking up photography? Why did you stick with it?
Well, I grew up surrounded by creatives. My mom an interior designer + art teacher at my elementary and middle schools, my grandfather an illustrator, architect, painter, and photographer, and my uncle a master of fine art who also runs his own Atelier. I always knew I wanted to pursue a creative path in life, but I never knew quite what that was. I stumbled through art classes in high school, completely ignoring photography as a whole. I wanted to become an artist, not a photographer (at the time I thought there was a difference). As I entered into junior college, I still wasn’t filling that void. I jumped all around trying to fill that creativity. From creative writing, to poetry, Astronomy, Psychology, and even Philosophy while I loved these, I still felt lost.
After being persuaded numerous times by my grandfather to try out photography, I ended up taking an intro course at my junior college. I was hooked at the ability to capture a moment in time. Completely encompassed by the idea of creating a piece of art in a millisecond was astounding. I loved it, all you needed was an idea, or a beautiful location, or an interesting subject, and within seconds your art was created. There was something that drew me in to the fact that I could create something at a moments notice. No easel, no paints, no brushes, no canvas, amazing.
This obsession led to taking all of the photography courses offered in the department, including a 35mm film class, and a 4x5 large format slide film class. As I enjoyed the simplicity of these past times and studying the masters, I did not enjoy the dark room. It felt monotonous to me. I wanted that spark I felt from digital. So I began there, and everything quickly fell into place. I started landing paying jobs with brands I loved through posting my work on Instagram, this income began to outweigh what I was earning at my 9–5 job.
My path was clear at this point. Quit junior college, and quit the tireless 9–5 routine to pursue this crazy craft full-time. I am currently one year into running my freelance photography business and loving every wild second of it.
How would you distinguish your style?
Photojournalistic would probably be the best way to describe my work. I want my images to read candid, not heavily staged, or posed, but extremely natural. The way I post-process my work would best be described on the moodier side of the spectrum. I want my images to convey the emotions I was feeling at that point in time.
What would you like to see come out of your photography?
I am a strong believer in protecting the environment, natural places that have been here far longer than any of us. I hope that I can turn people on to the idea that these places are sacred and need to be protected now more than ever. If I can change just one person’s outlook on the way they view these places, I will be content.
How would you describe the perspective you go about life with?
I would like to believe I am a very open-minded and accepting person. I feel this is the only outlook you can have about life. Being kind and humble is a huge part of who I am, and what I hope to convey most about my perspective and personality.
What your favourite experience you’ve had that photography brought you?
Recently I was asked to travel to the Redwoods + Shark Fin Cove of Santa Cruz for an engagement session. It was by far the most intense and beautiful photo related session I’ve been asked to be a part of. Getting to mix travel with my work is so incredible, and I’m humbled anytime I get the chance to mix the two.
What was your last shoot like?
My last shoot was described in the previous question. I got the opportunity to travel to Santa Cruz, California for the very first time which was about 9 hours of travel from where I live in San Diego. It was an amazing and beautiful engagement session, but also extremely muggy and hot (which was not something I was expecting from the NorCal Redwoods, but apparently its a thing).
The couple I got to work with were some of the coolest people I’ve been able to shoot with thus far. We began our session at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and ended on the coast at Shark Fin Cove in Davenport. I captured some of my favorite images on that trip.
In what ways do you pour yourself into your work?
I try to convey my feelings and emotions into each image I capture, whether that’s a flat lay, or a portrait, or an intimate forest elopement. I don’t compromise my style or approach under any circumstances. Which is to create every image with intention and passion.
How has your life changed since being involved with photography?
Oh man, in so many ways! I was able to quit my full-time 9–5 job in order to pursue this full-time. I get to connect and meet with interesting and talented people regularly, while getting involved with brands + companies I would never had access to otherwise.
My life has taken a dramatic shift since photography became my primary focus. I am still very early on in my career, and stoked for what lies ahead.
Anything that you wish people understood better about you and your work?
I wish people understood the hard work and dedication it takes to become a full-time photographer. A lot of people underestimate, and even undermine photographer’s these days with how technology is advancing. As much as I love Instagram there is a huge flaw with how we share images. You don’t see the behind the scenes of how much time and effort was put into capturing that sunrise, or that portrait, or beautiful flat lay. You may be seeing the 100th attempt after days of culling through a 1,000 images, and those hours spent trying to capture that one millisecond.
I guess what I am really trying to say is that, I wish people understood the patience, time, effort, and dedication that some images take to create.
Is there anything, anything at all, that we didn’t ask about that you’d like to share?
Close friends and some family members know that I struggle with social anxiety, depression, and introversion. Often times I don’t feel comfortable enough to leave the house. But, as I began to indulge in this craft and share my work more thoroughly with other individuals these symptoms began to get slightly tolerable. Meeting new people through Instagram and photography has helped me tremendously become more outgoing and sparked my love for travel + adventure.
I want to thank you guys for taking the time to interview me and share my work on a much larger platform, I am extremely humbled by this experience.