Gary Vincent, 29, is a York street photographer who tells stories through pictures. Here he shares his passion and some of his arresting images
I’ve lived in York all my life. I went to Oaklands School, now known as York High, and although school was never a strong point – I left with few GCSEs – I always excelled at life outside the classroom: jobs, hobbies, family life. I was inspired by those who said I’d achieve little – that gave me the determination to prove them wrong.
One of my biggest passions has always been music. While friends were on the streets I’d be in my bedroom learning all I could about music. After a while people started to notice me to the point I’d be asked to play my music at some of Britain’s biggest nightclubs. Later my music was played on BBC Radio One and Galaxy and I was travelling to Ibiza and out every weekend.
Family life arrived, and with that responsibilities. Having a daughter changed everything and I stopped it all. I was so bored and lost until I got my partner a camera for Christmas – but it was a present that she never really got because I wouldn’t put it down!
I’d take road trips, and pull over to shoot landscapes. I was hooked.
I did this for a while but needed a new challenge and that’s when I started street photography. After a while I found that I could make a difference with my photography and started to blog about it and post on social networking sites and the response was unbelievable so I carried on.
I only have three aims in street photography. To tell a story, help make people aware and change things within my home city.
I never choose photographic subjects. I just wait until I see something that makes me think, or saddens me in some way, then I’ll take the shot to highlight a problem or to document something. I don’t ask permission to take the shot because then I’d lose the moment. But I would talk to the person if I was seen taking the photo – I don’t want to upset or make them feel uncomfortable. Usually, once I’ve explained, they are happy with what I’m doing.
Everyone I shoot is interesting and all have stories to tell. It’s the people I help that matter more to me. I once walked into a shop to ask if I could take a photo of a woman who was sitting in the corner surrounded by wedding dresses. It turned out she was there for her daughter’s wedding dress fitting so I quickly took a few shots and said thank you and left.
I walked away thinking was she really OK with it or did I put her on the spot? I assumed I’d never know, although I did tell her my name. Days passed, I really liked the photo and was hoping she’d somehow get to see it. A week later I get a message on Flickr – it was the lady from the wedding shop. She tracked me down and created an account just to express how happy she was and how I’d made her week.
She went on to say that she’s not very well and this photograph and all the nice comments she’d been reading had really cheered her up – so that was really nice for me.
What next? I’m currently working on some projects to raise awareness within York and in talks with various publications, so who knows? I’d like to get a job as a photojournalist but for now I’ll carry on and hopefully I’ll make people more aware of street life within York.
To finish, here are four photographers who inspire me:
Ben Canales, who takes pictures of beautiful night landscapes and stars
Thomas Leuthard, another street photographer
Eric Kim, a street photographer based in Los Angeles
Marc Adamus, who has a passion for photographing the wilderness landscape.