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By Audrey Garrett
Photographer Shawn Inglima has one goal: to tell a story without a single word. Based in New York City, Inglima captures the intense emotions of strangers and celebrities alike. Fearless and calculated, Inglima has documented some of New York City's major news events of the past several years, including the 2017 Women's March, Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, and NYC Pride parades. Each photo Inglima publishes tells a story of an individual moment (and often a social movement), creating a sea of emotion for viewers. Her photos have been published as New York Daily News front page covers and she also offers her craft for hire as a freelance wedding photographer capturing personal moments of joy. Never failing to push her own boundaries, she has also explored still life and object-based photography, capturing instants of motion and silence in everyday activities, from pouring milk into coffee to uncapping mascara brushes.
Quail Bell was lucky enough to interview Shawn Inglima on her process, career, and what moments have given her creative inspiration. Here's what she shared:
Why did you want to become a photographer?
Within the same year I started taking photography classes in high school, I watched a documentary film in my history class about the Civil War where they mentioned the "birth of photojournalism." As the documentary discussed the images shot by photographers such as Matthew Brady, it also elaborated on how that documentation of war and its impact on society helped influence politicians to find a means to end the war. I wanted to have that kind of impact. Whether it be documenting a historic event or documenting someone's wedding day, I wanted to be that person who photographed those memories.
Whether it be documenting a historic event or documenting someone's wedding day, I wanted to be that person who photographed those memories.
What elements do you think make a solid photograph?
I think the proper utilization of composition, highlights, and shadows are factors that can make any photograph more compelling. Art is subjective in general, so it really comes down to what you personally find intriguing.
How would you define your style, habits, and preferences as a photographer?
My photography style is very candid. I like to make my photos as natural as possible to further embrace life as it is. I will always have some form of a structured plan before a shoot detailing what gear I need to bring, how it will fit in my schedule, and when my deadline is but prefer to allow myself space for errors to minimize stress and avoid failure.
Do you think the difference between a fine art photograph and a work of photojournalism can be clearly defined for photos in isolation? Or does context make all the difference?
In my opinion, fine art photography has the purpose to evoke emotion or fabricate a story while photojournalism has the purpose to document reality. While both forms can be visually appealing, their overall purposes are what make them different.
Do you have a favorite camera, lights, or accessories?
With technology constantly evolving and different camera brands always competing in proficiency, my favorite camera is the one I can have on me at all times. I also have to add that my Peak Design camera backpack and Hold Fast multi-camera strap have tremendously helped me with my back pain.
My favorite camera is the one I can have on me at all times.
What's one of your favorite memories of "getting the shot"?
I was photographing the memorial service of the late coach Joe Paterno during the height of the Sandusky Scandal at Penn State for a student-run news blog I contributed to. The service was held at the Bryce Jordan Center, and it was packed with press photographers. I felt pretty intimidated being surrounded by mostly tall, experienced, male press photographers as I was just a college student. The press was divided into two barriers: one on the right side of the court floor and one on the left side, with guests seated in the center section. The barriers were parallel to the guest seated area, making it difficult to gain access to the front where the notable guests were most visible. All the photographers clambered to the front of these barriers just to see anything. Once Sue Paterno, widow of Joe Paterno, came out, every photographer scrambled to get their shot; pushing and shoving to the point where I could not breathe. Finding no point in attempting to see over everyone, I decided to crouch down. From there, I had a clear visual through the legs, barrier, and attendees of Sue Paterno, sitting in her seat with her face in her hand becoming overwhelmed by the standing ovation she was receiving. I pointed my camera and started shooting while continuing to be jostled by other members of the press. It was only until I was able to stand back up and rest against the sidelines that I reviewed my images to find that only one was in focus. I was extremely relieved that my attempts were not going to be in vain and felt incredibly lucky.
What's one of your favorite photographs from another photographer?
One that has always stuck out to me is "Gun 1, New York" by William Klein. The photograph is a portrait of two young boys Klein asked to pose for him. One of the boys points a gun at the camera with a face full of rage to mimic a stereotypical portrayal of a criminal. Not only does this photo portray how desensitized children can be by crime and violence, but how something as simple as a portrait can turn into something more in an instant.
Find out more about Shawn and her work or hire her at ShawnInglima.com.
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