George Byrne: The LA Photographer Who Sees What You Can’t
Us mortals use social media to construct our personal headlines. Our Instagram feeds serve as a self-aware glimpse into our personal lives, but this glossy front is often a far cry from the behind-the-scenes reality.
George Byrne is a special case. The photographer’s interpretation of LA is raw and honest. His shots are a collection of refined moments—a gorgeously summarized cultural snapshot. He doesn’t focus on the bustling streets, crowded restaurants, the bars, concerts, clubs, and festivals. Instead, Byrne zeros in on the quiet moments that make up the majority of our real lives.
There is an exquisite, eerily familiar sense of quiet and solitude in his photos of LA—two adjectives that usually aren’t in the forefront when describing the city. But this Australian-born artist uses Instagram (@george_byrne) to depict the beauty in the small details, the wonder in the everyday that would otherwise be overlooked. Shadows, lights, tones, textures—there is a stillness that somehow rings deeply in each snapshot.
Where/when were you born, and how did you first discover photography? Was it love at first shot, or a budding romance?
I was born in Sydney in 1976 and was first introduced to photography around the age of 15 by my older sister who used to leave her camera lying around. I was immediately pretty enthralled by the whole thing, but it took a few years before I started to take it seriously.
What’s your favorite camera/lens to you shoot with?
My Pentax 6/7 medium-format film camera with 80mm lens.
Nice. How would you describe your relationship with Los Angeles, and how does photography come into play?
I have a deep affection for LA. It’s definitely become my home, but it’s a complex relationship. It’s such a huge city, so many things all at once; it’s almost overwhelming, I really couldn’t think of a more dynamic place to live.
Having said that, it’s not an easy place at all. There is great wealth here but there is also a huge chunk of the city that’s quite burned out and desperate— almost post-apocalyptic. It was this side of the city that struck me first. Vacant, sun burned streets. Empty boulevards with ghost like figures floating through— I found the whole scene fascinating. I was keen to try and capture the strange, dream like aura of the street life. In doing that I also found there’s a lot of beauty to be found in the simplest things.
We couldn’t agree more. Can you use three words to depict how you want people to feel when viewing your photographs?
Moved to tears (too much!?).
Not at all. How has your work evolved since you first started shooting?
I think there are many things that stay with me—but what I find interesting has evolved drastically; it’s really an ever-changing thing.
What is the most interesting or memorable experience you’ve had while working on a project?
I saw a mountain lion in Griffith Park; I doubt I’ll top that.
Yikes! What’s the biggest challenge you run into as an artist, either in regards to your creativity or in the industry?
For me, it’s managing time and being a businessperson. I’m working on it!
Same! What artistic direction do you hope to explore next with your work?
I’m really keen to get into large-format film photography—that’s my 2016.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions/ shows that we can attend?
Yes! I have a show in LA at midcenturyLA that runs through January and an exhibition in Sydney opening Saturday February 12th at Olsen Irwin Gallery.
Visit georgebyrne.com or on Instagram @george_byrne to view more shots and purchase prints.