Photographer Alex Milan Tracy – Hook & Nail Gallery Event

We sat down with Alex Milan Tracy, a Portland-based photographer who is originally from London. He’s a photojournalist and a photography teacher. He’s also participating in Livestock’s upcoming Hook & Nail gallery event.

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1) Being from London originally, what is it about the Pacific Northwest that stands out to you as a photographer?

For me the Pacific Northwest provides the freedom to explore an ever-changing vast landscape far from the concrete jungle of London. The power of nature is predominant, and no scene is ever the same. From dramatic lighting to epic expanses of land and intriguing people, I am privileged to live and work in this region, and have only scratched the surface of this photographically rich environment.

2) You’re a photojournalist. How has this shaped your overall approach to photography?

Most importantly perhaps is to be ready for anything at a moments notice, in any weather! I do a lot of research, always bring an open mind, and throw all expectations aside. I investigate everything around me, and work with the conditions in the time frame available. Planning is critical, but planning for the unknown is an art in itself.

Every scenario I shoot in brings a unique set of challenges, but by dealing with those challenges on a daily basis I continually strengthen my foundations and confidence to deliver impactful artistic and journalistic content. I meticulously focus on every detail from the macrocosm to the microcosm and everything in between to execute my visual narrative.

3) You also teach photography. What are two key aspects of photography you ask your students to focus on?

Narrative and composition are key. I like to have a purpose in order to create all the aspects that make up a good visual story. Otherwise, I hit a creative dead-end because there are too many things to capture in any number of ways imaginable. I like my students to understand what it means to capture strong single images, but also to look at the whole picture and how a set of images can convey it.

Composition is also crucial. It’s important to work around a subject and explore without being afraid to get close; in fact, the closer the better. Not only will images be stronger, but students will learn more about communication and human psychology. Looking to the edges of your frame while shooting will eliminate the need to crop afterwards, so the shot you want will come straight out of the camera.

4) Working as a photojournalist, is there a specific event you’ve shot that stands out to you most?

Many events stand out, but one February morning in Berlin resonates in my mind to this day. I flew from London at the last minute to cover the eviction of a housing project in Friedrichshain. Typically the projects accommodate artists and activists living on a low income and have been operating this way since the fall of the Berlin wall. The building in question, Liebig 14, was sold to a developer who was going to evict the current tenants for redevelopment.

Over 2,500 police officers filled the area from 4 AM on the morning of the eviction as they began to clear the streets of the mounting resistance effort in well below freezing conditions. It was not so much the riots that ensued in the following hours and days that stuck in my mind, but the expression of one protester who refused to leave the area with his dog. Numerous officers tried to pry him away from his tenuous hold on a tree as they moved people away from the building. Separated from his dog, who was tied up down a side street, he was taken away, and the fear in his eyes set the scene for the chaos that was to unfold.

5) What’s something new you’ve learned about photography this year?

To never stop learning and always have fun. I had a student this year who loved taking multiple exposures, and he reminded me to enjoy the creative process. All too often I get caught up in my daily ritual of shooting, captioning, wiring, and dealing with the business side of things while sitting in front of my computer. It’s refreshing to just forget it all for a few days and to go explore a new place and a new technique.

To learn more about Livestock’s Hook & Nail event, click here.

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