Lifestyle Photography The Survey

The Survey Vol. 2: Behind the Lens

By Lena Dystant

Jul 13, 2022

The Survey Vol. 2: Behind the Lens

Ever curious, Drake’s calls on friends, family and acquaintances for a new episodic enquiry focused on a single theme.

Following our debut installment of The Survey, a fascinating reading list with a summer theme, we turn our attention to the art of photography. Gathering a group of our favourite professional image-makers, we ask participants to choose a significant shot taken by their own fair hand. Exploring both the familiar and unfamiliar, at the core of each contribution is the desire to capture a fleeting moment, a mood or a feeling, transforming the temporary into the permanent. Our group, including Kevin Davies, Kat Irlin and Jamie Ferguson among other talented friends, recall the stories attached to their chosen shot: from a master craftsmen in rural Japan to the abandoned beach clubs of bustling Beirut, and two very different takes on a snow-covered New York. Read on.

Jamie Ferguson

Toronto-born menswear and lifestyle photographer based in London

During a trip to Japan last year I had the opportunity to visit one of the last remaining knife and scissor makers in the country, located in a relatively small town outside of Osaka. I didn’t really know what to expect when we turned up. He appeared and slowly started to set up his bellows - which he operates with his feet - in a small garage attached to the side of his home. Afterwards he very kindly allowed me to take a few portraits of him. This image resonates with me for many reasons: the humble nature of this master craftsman and the quiet dignity with which he carried himself was something I very much admired. This was a world I had never seen before. It was almost like a secret was being shared, and the experience has formed a memory that will forever stay with me.

Kat Irlin

Russian-born fashion and portrait photographer based in New York

Here, one of my favorite shots taken on a snowy day in New York. It portrays one of the most epic buildings in NYC - the Empire State Building. I remember it was a very cold day and any time it snows in New York I can't sit still, I have to be out running around trying to get that perfect shot because the snow makes the city truly magical. This particular photo was more of an accident, taken through a pile of snow on a roof of some random building in midtown that we managed to access. It was beyond freezing but the photos were definitely worth the pain.

James Harvey-Kelly

Freelance photographer and art director living in London

I took this photo on my first visit to Beirut in 2008. I spent days walking along the Corniche photographing the old beach clubs that had fallen into disrepair during the war. Beirut is a place of unfathomable contrasts. That summer there was still a strong military presence and sporadic fighting but the day-to-day experience was one of a decadent and easy-living Mediterranean city. There is something about that combination which really gets under your skin, and since then Beirut has held a deep fascination for me.

Kevin Davies

London native and contemporary portrait photographer

If a New York 'moment' exists, this is mine. It wasn't my first time in the city, so everything was familiar. I had used the subway, hailed a yellow cab etc: all things I'd long had in my head from American cinema - films like Taxi Driver and The Warriors. There was always excitement seeing the skyline en route from JFK. The surprise of sliding onto the hot plastic seat of a cab in August. I could mention many more. For all my transatlantic visits, none had included the city covered in snow before. It transforms a place into another world. There is, of course something magical about snow. Romantic as well. To be clear, I was in love. I was meeting my partner in New York and arrived at the hotel early. Writing on the table was a little surprise and a way of making it personal. Looking back I realise I was preserving the moment.

Fred Castleberry

Menswear designer & photographer currently based in New York

I shoot New York and I shoot it a lot. The astronomically high rent I pay in this city essentially gives me carte blanche to its storied cityscape. The initial idea was to create this wide hero shot for my eponymous label on the steps of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan. However, the composition with Alex (actor/director/screenwriter) on the grand stairway wasn’t working after some time largely due to a 4th grade class eating their field trip lunch on the stairs…and they were eating really slow. Behind us, I noticed a pair of pay-phones diagonally sliced by a brilliant ray of light. Often times, light dictates the shot. I set Alex in one of the booths and made a beeline to the Nathan’s cart on the corner to pick up a couple of dogs (spicy mustard with a touch of relish). Food is not hard to come by in my photographs. There’s something vulnerable about eating that I love. You can tell a lot about someone by what’s on their plate. I like the idea of my photographs as a snapshot of people in the middle of something. A meal. A call. A smoke. Anything that gives us more insight into who they might be.

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