10 minutes with Lexey Swall

It started in high school with my first class in photography. I took photography my junior and senior years. I was so lucky to have a high school that had a photography class with a full dark room. Many schools since then have cut those classes out of the curriculum because of budget restraints. I don’t know what I’d be doing now if it hadn’t been for that opportunity. I had no idea what it meant when I told people that I wanted to be a photographer. I couldn’t visualize at that time what I would be photographing or how I would make money. I just knew that I loved taking pictures. Also, I quickly realized that since I wasn’t even enrolled in a dance class, my first dream of becoming a dancer was probably NOT going to happen. I pretty much knew through high school that I wasn’t going to go straight in to a university. Because of money and my own desire to stick close to home for a while, I went to junior college first. I enrolled in the student newspaper at Bakersfield College and I have never looked back. I was a very social person and I think photojournalism was the perfect blend of creative freedom and working with people.

Lexey Swall - Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall – Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall - Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall – Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall - Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall – Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall - Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall – Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall - Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall – Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall - Hip Hop Dreams

Lexey Swall – Hip Hop Dreams

Who were some of the first photographers that inspired you?

Diane Arbus was the first photographer I ever researched. I loved that she was showing me parts of society that I had never seen before. Her subjects were odd and quirky and so beautifully human. I always had a natural inclination to photograph people rather than landscapes or inanimate objects. (I really really suck at photographing landscapes.) My work doesn’t resemble Arbus’ work at all. But, she made me more curious about the world around me. To be perfectly honest, during the first part of my career as a photographer, I was really terrible about seeking out the work of great photographers. People would ask me who my favorite photographers were and I would be like “uh..” Then I’d pull names out of my brain that I was very familiar with like Salgado or Nachtwey, who are obviously amazing, but chosen because I saw them speak at a seminar and not because they were who inspired me most. The older I get, the better student of photography I become. I’m a huge fan of Larry Towell and his approach to photographing his own life. I think he proves you can strike a balance with art, journalism and family. I admire the tenacity and guts of Lynsey Addario and the poetry found in the work of Ami Vitale.

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

If you could photograph any living person, who would it be?

Yikes. ANY living person?? That is a tough question. I am by nature an indecisive person. I’ve spent the past several days thinking about this question. I’ve gone through comedians, world leaders, the average Joe. There are SO many people I want to photograph. But, today, if I have to pick one I’m going to go with Malala Yousafzai – the young Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for simply believing girls have the right to an education. I can think of no other person right now who embodies such pure courage. I’m thankful she lived through the ordeal and I’m hopeful she continues to push for what she thinks is right. Our world needs more people like Malala. 

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall

Lexey Swall - Where Grace Flows

Lexey Swall – Where Grace Flows

Lexey Swall - Where Grace Flows

Lexey Swall – Where Grace Flows

Lexey Swall - Where Grace Flows

Lexey Swall – Where Grace Flows

Lexey Swall - Where Grace Flows

Lexey Swall – Where Grace Flows

Lexey Swall - Where Grace Flows

Lexey Swall – Where Grace Flows

If you could go back ten years, what advice would you give yourself?

I would probably tell myself to take more risks with my craft. Use photography to push boundaries. Find your voice. Stop doing the things you think you’re supposed to do, and do the things your heart is telling you to do. Because in ten years, when this thing called social media comes around, your voice is going to be what sets you apart from everyone else. This is all advice I should still be taking. But, honestly, I love where I’m at in my life right now. I have two amazing partners in GRAIN, Greg Kahn and Tristan Spinski, and if I had made different decisions, my life wouldn’t be as it is.

Full Article found HERE

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