Design Assembly recently got the opportunity to chat with photographer Shane Davies to learn more about his life behind the lens, how visual impairment informs his creative practice, accessibility in digital design, and tips for aspiring photographers.
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How did you get started with photography?
It all started with a birthday present, a fairly simple point and shoot 35mm camera when I was in my early teens. An unusual gift for a visually impaired kid but it set me on a path that’s exposed me to all sorts of experiences, people and places.
How would you describe your work?
I enjoy structure, I lean towards landscape, architectural and macro photography. While I do shoot people in both portrait and candid style, I much prefer buildings, skylines and the outdoors.
How has your lived experience of disability strengthened or enhanced your practice?
My visual disability makes me even more heavily reliant on light and colour than most. I do have to use auto focus as manual focus can be a bit of a lottery. Taking portrait shots of people can be challenging as I can’t see facial expressions so well. The one thing I can see well is colour, especially in low light.
What project, personal or professional, are you most proud of and why?
A recent local body election campaign was a highlight for me. Covering Hamilton City Councillor Angela O’Leary on her Mayoral Campaign trail was great for me as I learned new skills when photographing people in different situations on the fly, both indoors and outside. Sitting through endless speeches gave me a new appreciation of local body politics!
It was a conversation that I started with the Blutui team during the Mayoral campaign. We discussed the challenges that low vision users have in navigating websites on a daily basis, we blu-skied ways in which they could make websites an even playing field. By implementing tools for visually impaired users to have the same experience and outcomes as regular users.
How do you see the impact of bad design on people’s ability to participate in society?
Bad design and poorly considered user experience have the effect of marginalising visually impaired people. Unfortunately, it’s yet another example of why people with access challenges like mine can miss out on a lot of opportunities. Talent comes in so many forms and unfortunately so many employment, social, community and business opportunities are lost for the many talented people with accessibility issues.
What is your favourite subject to photograph?
Buildings and architectural structures like bridges and when I am lucky enough to head overseas I take my more compact Sony RX100M5, it’s so much more travel-friendly that the Canon 70D. I’ve recently invested in a Garmin VIRB for 360 degree work.
Do you have any insider tips for budding photographers out there?
Take the time to learn the fundamentals of photography. Light, shadow and focal points sound obvious but it’s the basics that you build on that make it more enjoyable as you go through your career. Practice with all manual settings. That’s the only way you’ll learn. Remember photography is a forever learning game there is no end to the growth process. That in itself makes it an exciting career. I have to make sure what focal points I’m using. In some situations using Auto settings is a must as you don’t have time on your side. I use a smaller professional point and shoot for this.
How can people stay in touch and follow your work?