S’well’s latest artist collaboration takes you on the trip of a lifetime. Photographer Gray Malin’s limited-edition bottles are a work of art in themselves, epitomizing the desire to make every day a getaway, each image is a visual celebration of the sights of summer. Malin looks at life from a bird’s-eye view: he’s known for going to extreme lengths to capture the serene beach scenes we’ve come to know and love. We got a chance to pick Malin’s brain and talk about everything from humble beginnings to getting the perfect shot, to being an artist in the digital age.
Photos courtesy of Gray Malin
How did you get started in photography? I started taking pictures when I was a teenager and I never really thought of it as a viable career but in college, I pursued it as a second major and never gave up on ‘the dream’. After graduating from college, I moved to LA for a job and thought it was a great opportunity, after one year I left because I knew I had to give photography a chance (my parents thought I was insane). I decided to take out a booth at a Sunday swap-meet in West Hollywood. Though it was a humbling experience, I met so many incredible people in the community and was able to display my work effectively, eventually making a name for myself.
Where do you get your inspiration? I am inspired by so many things, whether it be a trip to the beach, an iconic destination or something as simple as a balloon. Typically, an idea pops into my mind and then I just keep thinking about it until it evolves into reality.
What’s your favorite beach you ever photographed? That is an IMPOSSIBLE question to answer but a few of my favorites are the beaches along Sydney, Australia’s coast (3 of which are featured on our S’well bottles!), Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema and Cape Town’s Camp’s Bay.
What made you decide to take such an adventurous approach to your photography? From above, the people with their umbrellas and towels create patterns that are eye-catching and unique. It began with the beaches above Miami during Art Basel one year, then I quickly followed up with trips to Australia, Rio, Dubai and Europe. I was hooked!
Aerial views seem to be your niche photography style; was there a time before when you experimented with other genres of shooting? Yes, I have a large collection of conceptual work, which I’ve been building in unison with my aerial photography. For aerial series such as A La Plage & A La Montagne it’s more about capturing the joyfulness of being at the beach for a day of sun or hitting the slopes during your winter holiday. There is no instruction ahead of time, I’m simply flying above these moments and capturing the ones that catch my attention. Whereas, for a series such as Gray Malin at the Parker, I certainly had very specific shots in mind. I pretty much created an entire storyline ahead of time.
Who are some of you favorite photographers/artists? I am a huge admirer of Gaston Ugalde who mentored me during my shoot in Bolivia for my series, Far Far Away. I just adore his whole demeanor and his vision. He’s a true artist. Then, of course, I love Slim Aarons for his timeless and luxurious photographs, Christo and Jeanne-Claude for their forward thinking and structural work, and David LaChapelle for his artistic editorial vision.
So how do you know when you have the shot? What I love about photography is composition. The first thing I do is find the balance and then the rest unfolds itself as I shoot.
When you go out shooting, what are some essentials you always have on-hand? Other than my camera, of course, I always have hand & feet warmers with me when shooting in a cold climate and then lots of sunscreen regardless of the temperature.
In a world where everything is shared and published digitally, how do you maintain authenticity to your brand and aesthetic? Once upon a time, the photographer was behind the camera, rarely seen. Nowadays, with social media, people want to relate to you on a more personal level so I find the camera turning on me a bit more which is interesting. Overall, I find social media very helpful because I can interact with the online community in a very positive way. It is a benefit to a brand as long as you remain authentic to your audience.
What’s the next travel destination on your bucket list? As far as bucket list goes, I would love to explore parts of Asia more as well as the Nordic countries.