Much to the chagrin of many higher-ups in the fashion industry, UK-based Jay McLaughlin uses an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and PEN E-P5. Favoring portability over sheer power, McLaughlin found that he could produce beautiful work in the Micro Four Thirds medium. We spoke to Jay recently about his work in the fashion industry, his move to the Micro Four Thirds world, and more.
Phoblographer: When did you decide to make the transition to a smaller sensor camera?
Jay: A few years ago, I was looking for a small camera to carry around with me. DSLRs are needlessly big in my opinion, and my Hasselblad isn’t really the kind of camera you can whip out quickly. At the time, Olympus had just re-introduced the PEN range, so I got myself an E-PL1 manly because I loved the retro styling on it.
I was asked to do a feature in Olympus User magazine, and at the time I’d only used the PEN for random snap shots and black & white street stuff, but they wanted something in colour for the cover of the magazine, so I grabbed some models and did a photoshoot. I hadn’t really considered it as a viable ‘work camera’ before that point, but I was amazed at the results.
After that, I found myself using the PEN for more work, but it was still the Hasselblad that I used to most of my serious jobs. Then the OM-D was released and it all changed.
Phoblographer: When did you first fall in love with photography?
Jay: I’ve been in love with photography since as long as I can remember. I can still recollect pestering my dad to take photos on his camera whilst on family holidays as a child.
Phoblographer: We know that it’s all about vision first and gear later, but as we know in the fashion world there are plenty of editors and agencies that want you to use Canon and Nikon gear. How have you gotten around that?
Jay: If I’m booked for a job based on the work in my portfolio, it’s logical for me to use the same gear I used for those images. I have had some amusing comments. One celebrity PR asked if shooting on film slows me down at all! Haha.
Phoblographer: Tell us about specifically what’s in your gear bag right now.
Jay: I don’t really have a gear bag as such. I generally use normal rucksacks or shoulder bags. I hate the idea of looking like ‘a photographer’. So I pretty much take whatever I think I’ll use on that particular occasion. I usually have the OM-D with 17mm f/1.8 and the 45mm f/1.8. I don’t really use zooms. For general everyday personal stuff, I love the new PEN E-P5. It’s an amazing camera. I have a PEN Mini for going to gigs and concerts, and if I’m out partying and drinking, the Tough is awesome!
Phoblographer: Where do you find your inspiration?
Jay: Most of the photographers that inspire me are either dead, or close to it. I have so many photography books now that I need to build more shelves! I’m often inspired by whatever it is that I’m shooting. I try to only photograph the things I’m passionate about or interested in, so it’s easy to find inspiration in them.
Phoblographer: You just came back from shooting a fashion editorial in Budapest; where are some of your most favorite places to shoot in the world?
Jay: There’s so much world out there that I’m yet to explore that I couldn’t possibly have a favourite yet! Having said that, I’d love to go back to Rio and shoot some work there. It’s an amazing place with so much character!
Phoblographer: Tell us about the lights that you use.
Jay: I tend to only use lights in the studio, and even then, it’s rarely more than 1 light. I hate overcomplicating things and spending too much time thinking about equipment. I have a little FL-14 Olympus flash which I take with me sometimes, but whenever possible, I shoot without lighting if I’m on location.
Phoblographer: On average, how much of your shoots involve your own vision vs. working with a creative director?
Jay: It’s always a collaborative process, between everyone involved.
Phoblographer: If you could assist any photographer in the world, who would it be and why? If it could be anyone living or dead.
Jay: I realised A few years ago that I’m not cut out to assist. I did my time, and now I’m happy doing my own thing. Having said that, there are some guys out there that I’d love to spend an hour with chatting about the finer points of photographic philosophies. Richard Avedon would be number 1, but Bailey, Donovan, and Vivian Maier would also be amazing to chat to.
Thanks Jay for taking the time for this interview!
Be sure to check out Jay’s website for more of his work.
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