Emily Shur was born in New York City. She discovered photography at age 14 and has been taking pictures ever since. Emily attended the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University with a major in Photography. She graduated in 1998 with academic honors along with the Artist Award for Creative Excellence. Emily’s editorial clientele includes The New York Times Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, Interview, Wired, and Elle Magazine to name a few. Her advertising work includes campaigns for America Online, Yahoo!, MTV Networks, Gary Fisher Bicycles, and 24 Hour Fitness. Emily has lectured about her work several times at New York University, School of Visual Arts in New York City, The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and Loyola Marymount University. In 2005, she was selected as a winner in The Art Director’s Club Young Guns global competition. She currently has an image in the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Money aside, what do you find is the main difference between shooting for editorial as opposed to advertising clients?
‘Editorial allows for more spontaneity and creativity, while advertising is more structured and planned out. Advertising shoots are larger productions, so you really have to get into the shoot and work on it for a while before any pictures are even taken. Also, there is more at stake, so there is more attention paid to every last detail. Editorial allows for more experimentation, but you can’t really make mistakes on any job – advertising or editorial’.
The photos of Jeremy Piven make me laugh. Was the direction a collaboration or strictly your idea?
‘The Jeremy Piven shoot was a collaboration between Jeremy, myself, and the magazine I shot him for (British Esquire). The magazine suggested photographing him with some models and wanted the whole thing to be very debonair. I decided on the location and the different set ups, and then within those set ups, Jeremy and I collaborated on how he should “be”. His ability to project emotion through extremely subtle facial expressions really elevated the shoot to a higher level. He’s a great actor, and I had so much fun that day’.
Where and when do you find you are most creative?
‘In terms of my portrait work, I am most creative when working with someone inspiring. As I mentioned above regarding Jeremy Piven, I find shoots of that nature – where the subject really wants to do something interesting and different – to be the most creative. It’s hard to make something amazing when you feel as if you are pulling teeth to get your subject excited about being photographed. In terms of my personal work, I am most inspired by location. I associate a lot of emotion with different places I have been and usually return to the places where I felt most inspired. I feel most creative exploring a place with my camera. Sometimes the pictures come easily and sometimes they do not. Either way, that is definitely when I feel most free, photographically speaking’.
Your photos have that bright and radiant Los Angeles feel to them. How much are you influenced/inspired by your environment and if you lived in Detroit, let’s say, do you think your style would change?
‘I started my career in New York, and I lived there for almost 12 years. I worked there for 8 years before I moved to Los Angeles a little over 3 years ago. I think environment and location plays a huge part in the look and feel of a picture, and I do think that Los Angeles photos have a certain feel to them, just like New York pictures have their own feeling. I have definitely been inspired by all that Los Angeles has to offer, location-wise. The light is beautiful here, and the wealth of location options are so vast. I also think that over time, one’s style just evolves no matter where they live. I used to heavily light everything. Now, if I am on location, I see what the natural light is doing and I use it to the best of my ability’.
What is your strongest motivation?
‘My strongest motivation is to make work that I am proud of. The motivating and frightening part of shooting editorial is that my name is next every photograph I take, so I try my best to take pictures that I am excited to be associated with. It’s not always possible to do so. It doesn’t always work out, but that is the ultimate goal’.