Erica Shires is a New York-based filmmaker and photographer. She graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn with a degree in media arts and art history. Shires was named one of PDN’s 30 in 2006 and has had work exhibited in New York, London and Brussels, as well as in many festivals worldwide. Commercially, she has photographed for major advertising agencies and clients such as Ad Council, Kodak, Nike and New York magazine and has filmed motion content for fashion designers, modeling agencies and musicians.
Stillness and Motion
How did you get started in photography? Photography was always around me. My father was an illustrator and he used polaroids in his work. All the images of me growing up are black-and-white polaroids of me modeling for the children’s books he illustrated.
What is the weirdest thing that happened on a shoot, and how did you handle it? In this business, weird is just normal. I once went on an eight-day road trip with an author to shoot her book trailer. It was just the two of us, and I had only met her the week before. It wasn’t until the end of the trip that we realized how badly it could have gone, but she ended up being an incredible traveling companion.
Aside from your camera and lighting, what item could you not work without? My H4n zoom [portable digital audio recorder] and Wacom tablet. It’s exciting to be able to create such a high level of visual quality with my own equipment.
What do you think of the photography industry at the moment and where do you see it headed? With all the motion content needed in order to stay relevant and to do work for the web, photographers will need to know how to work fluidly and intelligently in both still and motion formats. Motion has been inspiring me lately. Everything I have been working on has a video component.
What is your biggest challenge as a photographer? Being able to make a consistent living.
How do you stay inspired? Shooting video, editing and experimenting. And spending time upstate, in a house that was built in 1850 and is right on the Hudson River. I inherited a huge organic garden when we bought the place. Dirt is calming after the beautiful chaos of New York City. I love kale!
Which photographer/s do you admire and why? I love Roger Ballen’s work, both stills and motion. He has a sophisticated point of view and takes great care in the making of his imagery, working somewhat like a painter. Also, the video work of Reynold Reynolds, especially his Secrets Trilogy, and Jem Cohen’s immersive film projections, which are shown on multiple screens accompanied by live music. He creates an atmosphere of place and time that’s transportive.
What’s your favorite quote? I saw this the other day: “If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” —Anaïs Nin
What's one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? That it was okay to graduate without a commercial portfolio. I went to an art school and the focus was on producing work for exhibition. It was frustrating at first; I didn’t feel prepared. Now I realize that it was a magical time that taught me the importance of making the work that I care about and want to see.