Geneva-based photographer, Greg Pepper is not just any artist, he has captured incredible moments in history just like his Grandfather – David Paynter. He has agreed to let us dive into his world of photography by answering a few questions.
- A lot of your pieces were shot in China, is there a reason behind that?
It was not necessarily intended that many of the photos I have been exhibiting are from China. It just so happens that I spent about 9 months in total in China over the last 4 years as part of a master’s degree I was doing between London, Beijing, and Singapore. I spent 4 months at Tsinghua University in Beijing in their academy of art and design. That same summer, I visited many provinces of China for 2 months and then ended up working in Shenzhen (down south-east across from Hong Kong). I was also in a relationship with a wonderful Chinese woman, so I ended up spending time there with her and her family.
- What is the process behind the ‘’perfect’’ shot for you? You have a vision and make it come to life? Inspired by what you see and go with the flow of things?
It’s a bit of a two-way process in the sense that there are two or three big influences I’ve had as for what a good photo is.
Firstly, my grandfather, award-winning photographer: David Paynter. He won the world press photographer in 1968 for a photograph he took of a long-distance runner in the Olympics in Zimbabwe. It is a beautiful photo of this man running by a steam train which is, I think, outstanding. I grew up close to my grandfather, so constantly hearing the stories he lived and showing me the photographs he took. He took a lot of timeless photos capturing moments in history – he was present in a lot of African countries in the ’60-the the ’70s when they were becoming independent. Lots of inspiration there.
I went to college Calvin – I studied the history of photography and contemporary art. So I grew up with Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and Andreas Gursky… Robert Frank has also inspired me a lot.
Good photography in terms of composition, layout, story, and feelings is a two-way process. Yes, I have it in my mind but I also sense it, I know when something is exactly how I want it to be but at the same time I might have an idea of location, references for portrait or architecture and it is a bit of trial and error.
- What inspired you for this specific piece, was it more trial and error, how did you go about this photograph? (Church in the wild)
All were taken in the ‘’blue’’ hour – after the sun sets before the sun rises- where you have all these different shades of blue. During that hour in the evening, we had gone with my former partner to this specific church in the northeast, we had gone to see it specifically. The process was just observing what looked and felt interesting, the person in the photo is my former partner. It was a lot of getting her to walk back and forth and capturing many of these moments to find the perfect unique shots afterward.
- Which one is your favorite piece and why?
Of that series, it is one called ‘’SELF CARE’’, the reason is that it brings me calm and serenity. I also have an attraction for visual simplicity, less noise, and on the minimal side. What I mean by noise is lots of things going on, not actual audio noise. The colors are very soothing, that’s why I have this piece in huge here in my living room.
Another one of my favorites is one I took where you see this father and daughter whizzing by on an electric scooter. Just find the idea of cruising around with a daughter around a city one day, in quite a blissful way, resonates with me a lot. Both of them seem happy and at ease, it’s more of an emotional response to the photograph.
The third one would be back in 2016 I worked around 15 countries around Africa so every 2 weeks I was traveling to a capital city on the African continent. I had done a project called 101 African captions, honestly speaking I don’t think I ever got to 101 – maybe 60/80. I didn’t feel like I had enough quality shots to bring it to 101. One of the photos is of a kid running in the streets in the capital of Rwanda, I appreciate the photo because in itself it’s quite simple but it was taken on a special day for Rwanda. They have what is called Umuganda day which is essentially a tradition they installed post-genocide as a way of getting everyone to come together, support, and help each other. The streets are empty because everyone is essentially helping each other at home, church, cleaning the streets, etc…
- Did you always know you wanted to become a photography artist?
All your questions truly made me think. I can’t recall the moment where I was like ‘’oh I want to be a photographer’’ but I recall saying that I wanted to be an inventor when I was 9 years old. I had made quite a mediocre sketch of how I would invent a skateboard with an engine. My brother even made fun of me because I had a list of materials that just mentioned: Skateboard, wheels, and engine. I was going to make a skateboard with those 3 things. So the inventor concept appeared quite young, then in 2010, before I took this class in high school, I bought a camera – Canon 600D or D600. For some time, I had my camera in my bag every single day, everywhere I went. I was just playing around with it, filming, etc… I was shooting a mix of things, a lot of geometric urban shots and I guess that’s where it began.