Gary Reais a fine artist (photography, abstract painting and sculpture)
I have been making art in several media all my life. I have a B.A. In graphic design from the University of Central Oklahoma and, with that and $5.00, I can get a cup of coffee anywhere. 😉 I was born in Oklahoma City in 1952 and spent all but the two and a half years or so I was in the Air Force living in Oklahoma City and Edmond, Oklahoma, until 2009, when I relocated to Seattle, where I live now.
I spent 31 years as an architectural and engineering draftsman/CAD technician and, now that I'm retired, I spend my time doing what I call abstract B&W street photography, abstract expressionist painting and abstract mixed media sculpture. While in the Air Force, I was a photo lab technician, stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, near Lompoc. This was during the early seventies, after I graduated from high school.
I began doing photography during this period, in 1971, and I've shot a bit of everything (abstracts, still life, landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, etc.) in the years since. In 2012, I segued from cityscapes and architectural subjects to street photography, at first in both color and B&W, then exclusively in B&W. In my early days as a photographer, I was reading all the photography magazines and following the work of people like Ralph Gibson, Duane Michaels, Joel Meyerowitz and many others. What attracted me most, at that time, was the abstract and surreal, in both B&W and color.
I wanted to develop a style of my own and separate myself from the herd more, so I began using a technique, around 2014, that I still pursue today, in which I'm looking first for areas in which there is a contrast between shadow and light, whether this be in daylight or at night, and secondly, for foot traffic through that space.
I'm interested mostly in the way this contrast abstracts the scene and the people in it, and there are always people in my scenes, though they are there to supply the human element and that element may be either the main element or a peripheral element.
The subject, is thus, the scene itself and the people in it are mostly props I use to complete the scene. This becomes most evident in the many series I've shot using the same backdrop, but with different people. Typically, I position myself where I have an interesting composition with the contrasting light and shadow I'm looking for. Then I wait for people to enter the scene I've framed up.
Sometimes, there are what I like to call “ready made” scenes, in which all the necessary elements are already present and, thus, all I have to do is frame and shoot the scene as is. Shooting series is an important part of my work, though, and I typically return, over and over, to the same scenes I've shot many times before, in all weather and seasons, at different times of day, and so on. This way, I can fully explore all versions of a scene and develop a stronger body of work.
I use a Sony a5100, currently, but I have also used a Sony NEX-5N and, when the NEX failed on me, I temporarily used a Kodak Easy Share C513 point-and-shoot and, later, a Ricoh HZ15 that was a gift from a friend in England. I found that I could still achieve everything I wanted to, regardless of which camera I was using, which sor of proves the old addage that it's the photographer, not the gear, that really matters.
I use only one favorite lens (the Sony 55-210mm zoom I bought for the NEX in 2012), though I have several lenses.
I find it satisfies every situation and I tend to shoot mostly at a distance that allows me to use the maximum focal length.
The graphic designer in me sees images in terms of flattened perspective and graphic page layouts, so I find composing a shot at around 210mm yields the best results. The Ricoh has a built-in zoom lens with a maximum focal length equivalent to 360mm, so, when I was using that camera, I'd tend to shoot at around that focal length.
The compression of distance really helps to make a scene more graphic and surreal, someimes, and since I'm already familiar with most of the places I shoot, I know exactly what I can expect, in any lighting situation. I have many routes I take through downtown Seattle, so if I get bored with repeating the same locations, I can switch routes to shake things up a bit.