Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Maloy from Megan Maloy Photography a portrait and lifestyle photographer based in Jersey City, New Jersey. Megan has been in this industry for over 20 years and Her work has received countless awards and been commissioned for numerous well known clients and publications. She received a BFA in photography from School of Visual Arts in 1997.
Megan, How did this beautiful photoshoot overlooking the New York City Skyline come about?
I’ve been shooting photos for A Small Green Space since the beginning of their business. I usually photograph most of the spaces in which Emma has done a complete redesign. If you look at A Small Green Space website or Facebook page those are all my photographs. So when Emma asked me to photograph this space, of course I agreed. I always love working with her.
Tell me about your business Megan Maloy Photography
I’m a freelance photographer based in Jersey City, NJ. I’ve been shooting for almost 20 years. I have a BFA in photography from School of Visual Arts. I shoot primarily portrait and lifestyle photography for a range of clients from editorial, to advertising, to stock photography. I also try to exhibit my work in galleries, when I have the opportunity. I have an exhibit up now that’s been shown in 2 locations in Jersey City. It’s a mix of landscapes from Iceland and contemporary dancers I shot for a local dance company.
Over 20 years you have done so much from beautiful landscape shots to even celebrities, how has your work evolved?
Yes, my work has evolved over the years. A lot of the change has come about because of my clients and the jobs they have hired me to shoot. Each job comes with different challenges. That’s one of the things I really like about what I do for a living. It’s great to get a request from a client for something a little new (or even not so little). While sometimes it can be stressful, I love the problem solving aspect. It’s rewarding to deliver a job that my clients are happy with. The challenge keeps me on my toes, keeps me from getting bored, keeps me learning, and evolving. Also, a lot of what I’ve shot for my clients are people or things I wouldn’t have had access to if it wasn’t for the job. It opens up a new world to me. Like I said earlier, I primarily shoot people, so working with A Small Green Space and photographing exterior spaces has been a nice change of pace for me. It has also helped me with the rest of my work. Being able to make beautiful photos of a space has helped elevate my portrait photography because I like to incorporate the environment as part of the portrait. I feel like it often helps to tell a story because the space can give the viewer a lot more to look at than just a face. Shooting for A Small Green Space has helped me to see a space differently and be more aware of the environment while I am shooting my portraits.
You do all kinds of photography, what is your favorite kind personally?
I love shooting quirky narrative portraits. When something is just a little “off”, or makes you think, or see someone or something in a new way. If I hear someone giggle when they look at one of my photos I’m really happy. I love what I do and if I can make other people happy with my photos then it’s a win all around. Sometimes life gets too serious and we all need to lighten up. Shooting some fun portraits helps me keep that in perspective.
You seem to enjoy adapting to your subjects in an element of surprise and working around them vs staging. What do you look for in those moments?
That’s exactly what I like to do when photographing portraits. I start with a pretty solid idea of who or what I want to photograph. I often brainstorm ahead of the shoot to come up with some concepts for inspiration, and ideas of what I want my photo to look like. Then when it comes time for the shoot, I use those ideas as my starting point, but then let the situation unfold naturally. It helps if I let go and just let my subject be themselves. What I am usually looking for is the moment when that person has let their guard down and is their true self. By being observant, I can find the moment I want. I start with an idea and then I let that idea go and leave it up to the moment. If I try to control the whole shoot and direct my subject too much, then the photos usually end up being a bit boring.
Do physical differences in say shooting in Iceland vs New York City, force you to be different technically and how do the two change your personal process?
The biggest difference in shooting some of my projects is whether I’m shooting for a client, or shooting for myself. Iceland, for example, was a personal project. I shot those photos because it was beautiful there and I loved every second of it. I shoot personal projects (for example photos of my daughter) just because I really love taking photos. When I’m taking those type of photos I usually just shoot in the moment and just enjoy it. When I’m shooting something personal I can make it look or feel however I want. When I’m shooting for a client, I have their end goal and needs in mind. I’m shooting for them. Even though they’ve hired me for my style of shooting, I still need to deliver what they need. When shooting for a client the photos need to be technically spot on and precisely composed. When shooting for myself I can loosen up a bit. That’s my work vs my art.
Everyone these days seem focused on the technology of photography, what are your views on tech vs art?
This is just my personal taste, but my favorite fine art photography always starts with a strong technological base. I think that you can be really creative and have wonderful ideas, but if you can’t pull them off technically, you are cheating yourself and your viewers. I find it really frustrating to see really poorly made art. It doesn’t have to be technically perfect- that can distract from the artistic aspect. But I think that often you need a strong foundation to start with. It just raises the level of the work- and why wouldn’t you want that? For example someone like Gregory Crewdson. There’s no way he could pull of that type of work if he didn’t know what he was doing technically. It just makes the work more impressive to me.
What new projects are you looking to get into?
I think I need to shoot some new quirky portraits. I don’t have a specific idea in mind. Just portraits. I’ve been thinking lately about how many really interesting people I know. I should take advantage of who and what I have access to, and start shooting and see where it takes me. Kind of in the same way I approach my portraits- come up with an idea and then see what I end up with. I’ve been shooting a lot for clients lately but not much for myself. All work and no play… I need to get a new project going.
After all your years of experience in this industry, what are the important things amateur photographers should focus on?
I think it’s important to come up with a strong voice. Find your voice and grow from there. Study what other photographers (past and present) are doing and learn what you like and don’t like about their work. Use that as inspiration, and then go out and create something from your own personal perspective. Show us something we’ve never seen before. Also, figure out what you love to shoot - that passion will show in your work. Lastly, keep in mind that in art there are no right or wrong answers, so just do what makes you happy.
Lastly, Zeke seems like he’s camera ready at all times…
Zeke is not only camera ready, he’s just always ready! That boy has way too much energy. I always tell him that he’s lucky he’s handsome. Zeke is my second pit-bull I’ve had. My dog before him was named Tilly. She had a beautiful soul- a really loving dog. I photographed her a lot too. I love photographing any dogs- they all make me happy. Especially my crazy Zeke.