Interview With Filmmaker and Photographer Glashier

Words by Nathan Wright.
Photography by Glashier.

Glashier, filmmaker and photographer based in London and Berlin, has invited us at Peachy Magazine to learn more about his life and his experience as a creative individual.

For those who don’t already know who you are, please can you explain a little about who you are and what you do?

My name’s Glashier, I’m a film photographer and music video director. I’ve been shooting photos for 6 years, the first few were digital and then one day I threw my digital camera in to the sea and started film photography. I made a pact with my friend Nima Elm to only shoot on film. There’s a lot of support in just having someone to do something with and not being left to your own devices. You’re not able to back out of it because it got too hard or too expensive, or if the result wasn’t there. People tend to call my style cinematic and they assume that comes from doing videos first, but I think that it’s based more on the fact that I’m not trying to sell something. A lot of my style is based on lighting and the fact that I shoot on film; it adds more than the clean, digital stuff – there’s something there. Lots of people talk about certain images and they’ve read so much in to it. On one end, you don’t want to kill the mystery but on the other end, it started raining so we hid underneath this shelter and she lit a fag so i took a photo. “How did you light that photo?”,  “With the light outside the kebab shop.” There are a lot of things that just happen with photography, my happy accidents are art and I learn a lot from them.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the creative industry?

I don’t think I ever did. I think I was always quite creative, the kid that looked out the window in school instead of working. I think that dyslexia and shit like that sort of helps you focus your brain in a different way too. I was always probably attracted to creative circles, and music was that first love or first escapism from wherever you are or what you are. I put on concerts and festivals to start with and then one day I got drunk and said that I would make a video for one of my mates songs. I got a little gang together and we went off and made this video and then some other people started asking for us. That’s when I went from physically promoting to something more creative. There was nobody there to say “oh, you can’t do this, you can’t do that” which was really nice. You can spend all of your time in your head and I think that’s the beauty of art. Putting something in to the world and actually doing something is what I’m interested in. 

How has your upbringing and environment influenced or shaped you? – specifically in regard to your work.

I think it’s about imagination and looking out the window, that’s what cures the boredom of a normal life. I didn’t wanna do that so I used my imagination a lot and escaped in that way. By doing parties and festivals, I could create something. Then, when I moved on to music videos and photography, my imagination became very useful. You can understand subjects that you want to explore and figure out what your narrative is. Photography is an amazing record. Some of it is 90’s London, or the start of the rave scene, but you get to see how relevant everything is. There is a photographer called Tish Murtha, she was a single mum who lived in Newcastle ,She lived on that estate, she was part of that community – so kids and people would let her in. There are certain times when you can get close to certain things. It’s like why I didn’t shoot any Black Lives Matter photos – because I think there’s a lot more relevant people to shoot it. There are people who are living in it and involved behind the scenes who will be documenting it – that will be the true voice of it. Whatever you want to try and create, these people have captured it in real life.

Your job is to tell a story, like Gordon Parks gang photography in 50’s Harlem, and work on civil rights was amazing, and Tish Murtha – someone who took pictures from where they were. These are the sort of things that inspired me when I went to Benidorm. For one, I had a personal relationship – me going to Benidorm as a kid, something I hated. When I go back, I didn’t see racism for a while. However, I lived in a very privileged world and mix with cool people in bands – so I’m not likely to come across racism. And I’m not black, so nobody was aiming that shit at me. But then I go back to this place and I didn’t want to hide from it. I stayed in the same hotel, maybe even the same room with the same bedding that I did when I was a kid – it was that awful. At fucking 8:30, the whole building shook to the sound of Eastenders. Then, they would all go to this bad comedy and see the 70’s Beatles cover band with the Elvis guy.

I shot all this on an Olympus point and shoot 35mm, using Kodak Gold. These were all things that would have been around when I was a kid, I was trying to make it as authentic as possible. I kept the camera at the sort of height that I would have been at that age (7 or 8 years old), and I just shot from the hip for the whole thing. I didn’t want to exploit it, originally I think I felt like I was probably over judging this and it was all cool. I thought maybe these people had found a little window in how to live a decent life and they can do gigs every night or whatever. So I went down there and I go to the first one and it’s like an Elvis thing. The bar is pretty empty, because it was just past summer, and Elvis goes: “Oh for fucks sake, is that it? I hope you lot are drinking a lot because I get a percentage on the bar.” It’s just like wow, that’s an introduction. The street is lined with Union Jacks and English supermarkets. All I saw was how you can encapsulate time and place and sentiment, in a town that only British people would go to. Spanish people wouldn’t dream of going to this shit hole, they don’t even work there. It’s fully British for the British. Some of these shows in the evening are comedy shows and you just think: “that joke was a bit racist, oh, so was that one”.  It’s so full on and it sort of took me back, like I’m seven years old thinking “You lot are cunts.” It was sort of shocking and weird but at the same time you start learning more. Suddenly you’ve gone from taking pictures to nearly wildlife photography where you’re reading body language and movement. “Is this a hug? Is this a fight? Oh shit this is someone coming for me with a glass, this guy’s angry”. It’s an interesting thing and I really enjoyed how engaging the process was; it was horrible, but it made it exciting.

How do you cultivate your artistic style – where do you draw inspiration from?

I think it’s pretty organic and it probably comes from movies and that sort of thing. I suppose, I’m not a fan of people looking in to the camera overly, so I think they’re in a little movie of themselves. Their own world is sort of interesting and it removes me. I don’t want someone looking at me down the fucking camera. They are the shots that I don’t really use. I shot that singer from Mumford & Sons, he looked in the camera but he had a hand gesture that was sort of like: “You’re in my way.” So I probably pressed the button because there was something happening. When I was doing music stuff originally, I found it quite interesting when the singer Richard Hawley got asked a ridiculous question in an interview. I just span the camera round and took this picture. His glasses dropped to one side just enough that you could see how angry he is in his eye, and he has his finger in this woman’s face. You’re just like: “Wow, that’s fucking mental.” There’s a few bits like that. I’ve shot in riots and things like that in Italy which I found really exciting. Everything being torched with petrol bombs and that.

I remember this one picture where I’m in the front walking towards the police in a road block, and the only person in front of me was in this smoke and fire – it feels exciting. A lot of the time I probably want that, but a majority of the time I’ve got what I’ve got – and it’s usually some model looking off in to the distance. How it’s perceived is not the image that it really is. I’ve gone: “Look over there.” Sometimes it’s because the lightings better facing that way and I wanna get some stuff in the background. I want to get the most flattering light, and her looking in to the camera is gonna break that wall. But I think that’s all it is. It’s like when someone on television looks in to the camera and you’re just like: “Oh, that’s weird.” I don’t want that, I want you to believe that they’re somewhere else in a world that you are intrigued by.

I did this project called ‘Pretty Youth’. I wanted to make a little film but I never got round to making that little film, so I ended up changing the idea and making something else. By the time I got to the end of it, I realised that the whole thing was one picture anyway. I’d just gone and pissed away shooting for days and days and I’d never even gotten the picture that inspired the thing in the first place. What I realised that I had done is like, told everyone how to think about the final image that I never got round to shooting – and trying to give something context. It’s just like, “Nah, you’re taking the imagination out of it.” It’s like over-explaining a song and that sort of thing. All you’re doing is limiting your audience, because then it can’t apply to me – I know that song is about something else. My own interpretation had tied it to me. I think you’re trying to look for the ambiguity in that. It’s probably not what I’m consciously doing but I don’t want to steer you in to definite choice. I think things organically push to be a little bit more filmic, and that’s a lighting thing as well. I think that not using flash and shooting only on film adds to all them sort of things I like, a bit grubby and dirty so it has a texture to it. 

Do you have a specific process or method when shooting and how does this differ between photography and video?

I find it really hard to do both in the same day. When someone goes, “Oh, can you just take some pictures as well?” I really struggle with that. I think there are definitely different mind-sets. I feel like when I’m shooting a video I know I have a lot to fucking do, all day long. When I’m shooting photography I’m probably too relaxed, I probably need to try a lot harder at the moment because I’m out of practice. I sort of broke through recently and got something I really liked that was purposeful, and I had the time and space to get what I wanted. When I say time and space, I mean probably 35 minutes before the sun goes down, but on a roll of film that’s all you really need. It looked nice and it felt right. I don’t really have a process.

I get inspired by bits of light. I think that’s all I’m looking for, I’ll literally go past fucking everything and not see it until there’s a bit of light on it. Then, there’s a bit of light on it and I’m like, “wow, I’ve never seen this location before!” It’s just about the time of day. That light was on the other side of the street when I got here. It can be things like that and things become really interesting. I’m interested in shapes and that sort of thing. You’ve got architecture and things going on, shadows and all that. Anything that sort of adds an atmosphere and dynamics. Something that is there that is fleeting as well, not everyone can get that moment. It’s like: “Where did you shoot that?” Well, here but it’s not gonna help you. “How did you do all that?” Well it was pissing it down with rain, literally as rainy as it can get, and it was hot. All of those things happen by chance. 95% of my pictures are a chance. I can’t tell if I’ve got it until I’ve had it developed. These are definitely not the things that, in my mind, I was going to shoot. These are things around the thing and how I explored it. Something took me there, but that wasn’t the thing that I used. 

How has your work / style developed over time and where do you hope to take it in the future? Do you have anything exciting planned?

I don’t think it’s overly developed. I’m less centred, everything seems to have the power of putting someone in the middle of the frame. I think that comes a little bit from music videos and that sort of thing. I go out and I don’t explore more sort of shape and light and that. Probably more as I start looking at photography as a whole, or moving away from fashion photography – which probably was something I was drawn to. Things like Helmut Newton would have been something that I was massively influenced by, and still am. He’s one of my favourite photographers because he’s so purposeful. He knows exactly what he’s gonna shoot, he’s not chancing something. That outfit, that girl, the elements of where he is. What he was doing was incredible. Coming out of that, there were other photographers who were capturing more and more haphazard things and moments. Stuff with a bit more movement in it, so I was really interested in that. And then I’d probably just drift back in to film and want everything to sort of be moving. I think going forward, it’s trying to make more movement and action. I want it to be like a snap in a scene more than a still photo that’s borderline portrait. I think that’s what I sort of like. I think that’s probably the same progression from the centre of the frame to the side of the frame, to being moving. I think it’s a long process. It’s like the Pretty Youth project, I felt like that became too still again. I wanted it to really feel more in the moment – like I’d really stolen the photos. There’s an idea of a correct photo and I think that Pretty Youth led to that. The lighting and crafting and all this. Trying to have some gestural things in there. I suppose I like to capture more of a moment. It’s like when I had to shoot photos for a 24 karat gold rizla. I was sort of trying with her in focus, all of it in focus, or just the cigarette in focus and drawing the focus to there. It was really hard to read because it was a small rizla, so it wasn’t that big of a feature. In the end, knocking the whole thing out of focus brought it together because it created an atmosphere, rather than pointing it at something and that’s all we’re using the focus for.

I felt like I had a lot of freedom after that, for one because that was a choice. And then, the happy accident sort of opens it’s-self up after that – when you’re not judging things on a technical level. Sometimes you’re shooting people and you want to give them something for their time, and I’m sure a blurry shot of them might make them feel good – but I don’t know. And I also don’t really know if I give a fuck. A lot of the time, the model might not post the pictures I’ve taken – but they’ll say that they’re happy with them. I remember thinking about it at first, and not really caring because I was happy with them. Then, like 2 years on, the model would post them in a really positive way. And I think a lot of it goes back to that cinematic film thing where it’s like – they didn’t see themselves like that at that point. It wasn’t at their most flattering but it was more situational.

Sometimes these are some of my most successful pictures, and the models have never posted them. It’s because they aren’t posing to the camera, they haven’t got control of that thing. I’ve taken that away from them. I’m not selling that model, that model just happens to be in my photo – not to be rude. Everyone’s wanting to look good, and as a photographer you feel that’s your duty. This is something I’m fighting – where’s the importance in this? That’s all I’m trying to do, find somewhere in between where that can all sort of work. I think I need to give less of a fuck about the subject. You will have other pictures of you, this isn’t the most important one. This is something that I’m doing. And I suppose that’s what art is, it’s a selfish fucking bitch. Advertising is the opposite. That’s why you can have a blurry picture on film, because it was made within art. I think those are the developments. I think it’s about letting go of the concept of perfection and trying to capture emotion.

Any creative medium can be used as a tool for storytelling – what are some stories which you have tried to tell through your work?

I had a place in my head from a music video, but I didn’t know that a pilgrimage took place there. That came in to play and I thought – ok, let’s have a look at that. I decided to go back and experience it over the period of the pilgrimage, but this time shooting on a medium format camera – a Mamiya rz-67. I went for the biggest thing, the heaviest thing that I could find to traipse around Spain with. Obviously, if you thought it through, you’d go: “Nah, I’m not doing that.” But I didn’t, as usual. So I end up here and it’s all sand. There’s a town in Spain with no tarmac roads – just sand. People go on these old horse and carts across Spain, all to this one town to do this ceremony. It sort of becomes mad. I’ve now got to walk this with an rz, carrying it like a fucking rifle. But I thought, “Nobody’s here taking pictures – this is amazing!” Unfortunately, nobody does it because it shreds the camera. There’s just dust in the air from all this sand, and all these horses. I got home that night and tipped my camera upside down, and all this sand just poured out of it. Oh fuck, I’m committed now. Don’t even know if I’ve got anything, might just be all close-ups of sand! I went for 3 days, and had to walk 25km a day hunting for shots.  It’s so beautiful, and so authentic. They’ve got old wagons being pulled by oxen. It’s just this amazing religious, sort of Pentecost thing that everyone’s travelling to. It’s everything I wanted it to be, and it was really hard work. It was a nice progression from what Benidorm was, with equal pay off – just in very different ways. It was good, and I felt engaged going in to a different culture. I enjoyed exploring it in that way, as a proper outsider. Not knowing anything.

Finally, what is one piece of advice that you would give somebody who is hoping to pursue a similar career path to you? Is there anything you wish you were told before starting out?

Work out why you’re doing it. If you wanna be something from it, just go and do something else. I think the advice I can give for this is – it’s not a fucking race. There isn’t something to be gained from any of it. The only thing to do is build a body of work. If it’s an artistic pursuit, or a fashion photographer, or a product photographer. It’s all very different. Decide what fucking camp you’re in. Yeah, you can be a commercial photographer and do a little bit on the side, but being an artistic photographer and trying to earn a living out of it isn’t a thing. You might think you’re gonna be the first to do it, it just isn’t a thing. Unless your family is really well off. It just doesn’t fucking translate at all, and rightfully so. It shouldn’t. You should just get on with your shit and show it where you can. You should never be influenced.

I did an interview and I was asked: “How much has your photography changed by your interactions on Instagram?” Apparently most people had gone with their biggest hitters and then shot more of that. What the fuck is that? That’s the death of art. You’re responding to people that literally just like clicking buttons. That’s the skill level they have – who gives a shit? The further you go, and the more honest that you are with the thing that interests you, you’ll create a body of work that makes sense. As I’ve explained through a majority of what we’ve talked about, I’m still in that same spot you’re at. Someone way beyond me is like, “How do I make this more interesting for me? How do I make myself relevant? How do I continue the journey?” Film photography is an art form. It’s a fucking expensive, laborious, restrictive one. It’s about how you wanna engage in that. I think you can be anything you fucking wanna be but like, it’s probably not gonna be the thing that pays for your living. But that’s not a bad thing whatsoever. I make music videos for money. Now and then, I get to shoot photos for people – I just lend my talent to that. It’s a test, constantly. How you get good is by not giving up. The whole system is there to make you give up. It’s not about the amount of images you take or anything. It’s like a muscle that you have to exercise. It’s tricky but it’s a worthwhile thing. Take pictures and print them, and see what they’re worth. That’s it.

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