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September 7, 2020


Photography by John Gellings
Interview by Melanie Meggs

John Gellings’ path in photography has been an unorthodox one. He began his career in the bustling cities of New Jersey and New York, but gradually ventured to far-off places such as Chile and France. With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography, his works are characterized by a mysterious emotional resonance that gives his art a broad interpretation. He captures everyday life and the mundane moments in the streets of New York City with the series called Quiet NYC. This series juxtaposes the chaos and the hustle of a big city with moments of stillness and peace, giving this iconic place another perspective. While some people may think that the present has nothing magical to offer, John Gellings is able to capture its essence and show us the beauty of the ordinary. Through his art, he invites us to take a glimpse into his unique vision of the world.

“Robert Capa once said “If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough.”

In these photos, I took his quote as a challenge to see if I could make photographs from far away (both in proximity and intimacy) and still make compelling photographs. Since I was living in New York City (Manhattan specifically) at the time, I had the perfect backdrop to what I view as the verticality of NYC.”


THE PICTORIAL LIST: John, when did you start getting interested in photography?

JOHN GELLINGS: I was born in New Jersey, USA and I started photographing at age 17. I had always been interested in art throughout my primary and secondary school days, but it wasn’t until I bought a Pentax K1000 with my high school graduation money that I found my medium. Still, it was mostly learning the basics without any direction or influences. I was learning technical concerns, but not conceptual matters. However, the first time I viewed the book “William Eggleston’s Guide” in the mid-1990s, I was truly hooked on photography. I switched from black and white to color photography immediately and started focusing on the ordinary everyday elements of life or, as some call it, the banal. The book was an epiphany to me and it is still influential in my photography today. I graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers University, New Jersey) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography in 1998. I immediately took 10 years off from serious photography. However, once I moved to New York City in 2008, I found my content, like many others, on the streets. I lived and photographed in NYC until 2017. Since then, I have been living and photographing in Santiago, Chile.

TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?

JG: Photography books, big cities and living life.

TPL: Who are your favourite artists or photographers? Who has mostly influenced your style?

JG: William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, William Klein, Saul Leiter, Alex Webb, Gerry Johansson and the large format photography of Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, Stephen Shore, and Joel Meyerowitz.

TPL: Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?

JG: Definitely... I am much more of a formalist now than in the past. Composition is very important to me. Also, I used to photograph my friends in the country and now I photograph strangers in the city. Finally, I used to shoot film when I started and now I am 100% digital.

TPL: Where is your favourite place to photograph?

JG: Any big city with tall buildings. Also, I prefer to photograph in the city in which I live.

I used to photograph my friends in the country and now I photograph strangers in the city.

TPL: How does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?

JG: The camera has to feel right in my hands and cannot be too big. I prefer autofocus and digital over manual focus and film. This allows me to catch fleeting moments while also being comfortable. I prefer post-processing digitally to being in the darkroom as well.

Yes, a 50mm equivalent, though I like anything between 35mm and 85mm. Currently, the Fujifilm 35mm F2 (for APSC) is my favorite.

TPL: What would you say to someone wanting to start out in your genre of photography?

JG: Put in the time walking and photographing. You have to walk a lot and photograph a lot before you get great results. Also, do it because you can't help but do it, because you love it. If you do it for any other reason, you will burn out quickly.

TPL: What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?

JG: I would like to release a book with a legitimate photography book publisher and also show my work in more galleries. Of course, I want to continue growing, learning, and doing more projects.

TPL: Are there any special projects you are currently working on?

JG: I have a few other projects that are either finished or still in progress. I have my Random NYC and Random STGO projects that are important to me personally and a few street photography projects I'm working on in Santiago, Chile. They can all be seen on my website.

TPL: “When I am not out photographing, I (like to)...

JG: Hang out with my wife and son, drink beer with friends, go to restaurants and look at photography books.”

John Gellings' QUIET NYC series captures the ordinary moments of everyday life in the streets of New York City in an emotionally resonant way. Through his photography, John gives us a unique perspective of the city from an outsider's point of view. His work showcases the beauty found in the mundane and encourages us to appreciate the present in its most banal form.

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