Photojournalist Adam Gray
"I try to fairly and accurately capture the reality of the situation"
Interview: Nezih Tavlas / January 12, 2022
(Courtesy of Adam Gray)
Photojournalism News: What drew you to photojournalism?
Adam Gray: I was a relative latecomer to photography and photojournalism - my love of photography was sparked whilst traveling the world with a little point and shoot before university at 18. I then studied History at university, with a particular focus on conflict in the 20th century. With each major subject I studied it was always the photographs that had the biggest impact on me, which led me to doing my final dissertation on the impact of photojournalism on public opinion during the Vietnam War. Somewhere around this time I figured out that being a photojournalist would be a fascinating career for myself, especially being able to witness and document history being made first hand.
Photojournalism News: What equipment do you use? Do you have a favourite lens/camera?
Adam Gray: I use Sony cameras and lenses - an A1 and a9ii. Lenses everything from 24mm to 400mm but my favored combination is the a1 and a 35mm 1.4. The iPhone is also great for street photography.
Photojournalism News: What social media platforms do you use?
Photojournalism News: How do you prepare yourself before any assignment? What would you put in your camera bag for a typical task?
Adam Gray: Research and reading up on the story and location. Speaking to people on the ground and working out what equipment I’ll need alongside my cameras - protective gear etc.
For breaking news I’ll mostly take a 24-70 and 135 or 100-400 to cover all possibilities. For features or where I can work a little slower I might just use a 35mm and a 135 in a pouch in case. Spare batteries, MacBook, chargers, GoPro for video and audio equipment if needed.
Photojournalism News: How would you best describe your style of work? What are you trying to say with your photography?
Adam Gray: I would say my style is traditional photojournalism. I try to fairly and accurately capture the reality of the situation, to help people understand what is happening and to feel the scene.
Photojournalism News: How many photos do you take for one story?
Adam Gray: Anything from dozens to hundreds, it completely changes on the nature and length of the event and story.
Photojournalism News: What is the last trip you made?
Adam Gray: To Texas and New Mexico to cover the border and migration and to New Mexico for the Virgin Galactic space launch.
Photojournalism News: What projects will you be working on next?
Adam Gray: The nature of the job and breaking news is that I never really know what I’m working on next in advance.
Photojournalism News: Which of your photographs would you describe as your favourite? What makes them so special to you?
Adam Gray: It’s hard to pick out a favorite photograph but meeting and photographing Asal Habibi, a four year old girl refugee from Afghanistan with her family on the Hungary-Serbia border in 2015 stands out. Watching her family, and thousands of others make it to Europe and its relative safety and freedom was an impactful moment in my life and career.
Photojournalism News: What message do you want your photos to convey?
Adam Gray: I hope to create more of an understanding and if possible to open people’s eyes to things which they might not know. To invoke emotion.
(All images © Courtesy of Adam Gray)
Photojournalism News: What does a photo need to be a great in your eyes?
Adam Gray: The best photographs for me are the ones which provoke an emotion, discussion, are meaningful and people stop to look at it. You can add things like light and layers but it needs the previous things to be really great.
Photojournalism News: In the digital age people consume billions of photos every single day, under the circumstances what could make a photo memorable?
Adam Gray: The same reasons I gave in my previous answer. Although often it just comes down to the event itself, the picture is sometimes simply the documentation of something extraordinary, historical, funny etc.
Photojournalism News: What motivates you to continue taking pictures and what do you do to keep motivated?
Adam Gray: Motivation isn’t an issue for me as I love taking photographs. I also still believe strongly in the power of photography, I’m not going to change the world but I might make one person learn something they didn’t know or just smile for a second. I’m lucky to get to do what I love.
Also being surrounded by really brilliant friends and colleagues who are photographers, I’m constantly inspired to improve by them.
Photojournalism News: What was the biggest professional risk you have taken and what was the outcome?
Adam Gray: Earlier in my career convincing my bosses to let me cover the 2015 European migrant crisis with no major prior experience. It went well… we’ve all go to take that first step.
Photojournalism News: What would be your dream assignment?
Adam Gray: There are far too many… for one I’d love to document society in Cuba.
Photojournalism News: What are the essential skills/ qualities a photojournalist should have?
Adam Gray: Adaptability to different situations and thinking on your feet, being able to interact and communicate with others, especially those that you may not necessarily agree with on a personal level. Awareness of your surroundings. How to use a camera and remembering to charge your batteries.
Photojournalism News: What do you think about the digital manipulation of images?
Adam Gray: Manipulation that changes the content of a photo is unacceptable in photojournalism. Light editing that is accepted like cropping and levels is fine.
Photojournalism News: What does it mean to be an ethical photojournalist?
Adam Gray: To be accurate, fair and honest.
Photojournalism News: How do you see the role of photojournalism evolving in the world? Do you think photojournalism is losing its importance?
Adam Gray: Photojournalism will never lose its importance - social media has only heightened people’s awareness of the medium and their interest in pictures. For photographers we all have to evolve and embrace other tools for telling stories such as video and drones.
Photojournalism News: Do you have any advice for aspiring photojournalists?
Adam Gray: Get out there and shoot, photograph everything, make mistakes, ask for advice, don’t be afraid. The best stories can be right under your nose at home, you don’t need to go somewhere exotic.
Adam Gray is Chief Photographer with the British press agency SWNS, currently based in New York City covering breaking news and feature assignments across North America and internationally. Born in the North of England he studied History at University before starting in photojournalism. He has covered major stories around the world ranging from politics and elections, migration, natural disasters, social movements and unrest and the capitol insurrection.