Photographer Spotlight: Drew Gurian

Posted by: on Jul 5, 2011 | 4 Comments
Drew Gurian (self portrait)

Drew Gurian is a New York City-based freelance music and editorial photographer, and Joe McNally’s assistant. Drew got his first Pentax Spotmatic when he was 15 and started taking what he calls “horrible photos for bands that were kind enough to give me passes to their shows.” In school, he interned for two major NYC photographers – Joe McNally being one of them – which led to his current fulltime job. He won Billboard’s 2009 “Photo of the Year Contest” and was published in both Billboard and PDN magazines. More recently, Drew received a photo credit in the July 2010 issue of National Geographic.

I got started in the world of photography…
Simply by being in love with live music and being a musician myself. In high school I found out that I had a family friend in a band called Guster, which I was just getting into at the time.  After seeing them, I asked if I could take some photos at a show. Over the next few years, I really got into those guys, and that one show somehow turned into 40.  I had no clue what I was doing but was certain that I loved capturing their stage energy.  As time went on, I took some photo classes, went to college to pursue photography and graphic design, and somehow ended up doing what I do now.

My first paying gig was…
A wedding I shot my freshman year of college.  A school alum hung up a flyer requesting a second photographer for their wedding, and I jumped at the opportunity.

My first big paying photo job…
Well, big is a relative term. It was shooting promo photos for musicians and labels. The majority of these jobs have come directly from relationships I’ve had with bands, managers and publicists I’ve known for years, and who have put a lot of faith in my work.  It’s incredibly rewarding when you’ve known someone for quite awhile and they are willing to work with you.

Photo by: Drew Gurian

I would describe my style/shooting philosophy as…
To be honest, I’m 28 years old and think I have a long way to go before I can truly define “who I am” as a photographer but generally I am hired by clients to produce work that is candid and raw. There’s also a bit more of a production, sometimes involving semi-complex lighting setups.  Generally, I like to shoot more of a documentarian/fly-on-the-wall style. When a job permits, I also like to set something up that captures a subject in a more produced manner, which can stage the band at a different level in the public eye. But again, it’s entirely dependent on the job.

My influences photographically are…
All over the board and range anywhere from documentary-style to large production shooters.  A few favorites are: Joe McNally (no, I’m not trying to kiss ass), Danny Clinch, Eugene Richards, David LaChapelle, Dan Winters, and Nick Onken.  I like each for different reasons.

I knew there was no turning back when…
After working in the corporate world for about a year, I was offered an unpaid gig to shoot a music video for a band and live on their tour bus for a week. So, I took it. Smart, huh? I knew it was an escape route to do exactly what I wanted so I took off.

Photo by: Drew Gurian

If I could choose one blowout dream gig before I retired on top, it would be…
I have tons of dreams and aspirations for my career, but I suppose the ultimate would be to go on tour with an amazing A-list band I truly love as their tour shooter, and shoot an album cover/documentary of them.

Before I got started in the industry, I wish somebody had told me…
About the business end of it all.  We’re artists, and for the most part, are downright awful at dealing with anything business-related. I’m constantly looking to learn more about this side of things. If photography required a certification or at least some sort of formal business education, I’m certain that the industry as a whole would be in a MUCH better place.

Photo by: Drew Gurian

One thing NO ONE could have ever prepared me for is…
How hard it is to do this. We do it because we love it SO much that there’s simply nothing else in the world we could ever see ourselves doing.  To constantly seek inspiration, to keep producing new work, to stand by your work and demand what’s right…none of it is easy! But we do it because we NEED to.  I know this is my calling and I’ll succeed because this is what I’m meant to do, but it’s most certainly not for everyone.

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4 thoughts on “Photographer Spotlight: Drew Gurian”

  1. I stumbled on this article by accident, and am glad I did. I think you pinpointed the feeling of those of us who love to shoot live music. It may not be what I’m best at shooting but it’s what I love to do the most.
    I’ve been shooting friends’ bands for years and the bands they play with. How do I move forward, take a step up a level in a professional sense? Just looking for some tips if you’ve got any. I’m in SF Bay Area, so there is no lack of music in the least.
    Thanks for any info and to the author/interviewer- great article!

  2. Hey Manda!

    So sorry for the slow response..kinda lost the thread on this, but thanks for the question, and happy to help however I can.

    It’s not an easy question to answer, but I suppose all I can say is that your best bet is to keep doing what you’re doing…continue to network with bands and their managers/publicists. This can open new doors to other bands, and potentially larger bands- who play in larger venues, have better lighting, etc…

    Once you start shooting larger acts, your portfolio will inevitably change for the better– after all you can only do so much when shooting in a club that has three red flood lights, right?

    Don’t know if this helps at all, but please feel free to drop me a line if you should have any other questions, or want some further insight…


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