Shawn Pyfrom : Know How To Seize Opportunities.
If he started his career at a very young age, Shawn Pyfrom became most famous for playing the role of Andrew Van de Kamp in the TV series Desperate Housewives. But the actor is also a multi-disciplinary artist. Alternately filmmaker, producer, photographer, fashion designer or painter, he gives free rein to his inspiration and his desires. Thus, in 2017, he decided to fly to France which he particularly likes and moved to Paris for a year. Passionate about fashion, he planned at the time to create his own clothing brand, but also fascinated by art, he did the rounds of galleries and exhibitions, got lost in the streets to better tame the soul of this city that fascinates him and fed on the encounters he made there, the unique atmosphere of the city of light, and above all he jumped the gun and decided to start photography in a serious way not canceling his career as an actor: “When the right projects come along, I’ll be all ears! In the meantime, I want to pursue my path and my passions,” he confided.
Today, photography is an important part of his life. His images are full of tenderness and empathy, his view on the world is without any language and his self-portraits often let us glimpse the dark and tortured part of the artist.
To be continued…
Instagram : shawn_pyfrom
Your first photographic click ?
Shawn Pyfrom : The first photo I ever took, when I was trying to be a photographer; is a portrait of an older gentleman I noticed while walking the streets of Paris. I don’t think we even exchanged words. I leapt out in front of him and gestured to my camera. He stopped and nodded in agreement. I remember my hands were trembling as I lifted the camera to my eye. He just stood there, patiently, holding an unwavering glance and a gentle posture. He stared so deeply into my lens, that I felt confident only shooting one image. He connected with an expression that was stoic, and at the same time… vulnerable. Exposing just enough of himself to my lens. His eyes were full of history. And in that moment, it felt like he was sharing his experience with me. I don’t think I will ever forget that photo. I was very unexperienced at the time, obviously. If the camera wasn’t so intuitive; the photo might have turned out looking terrible. But I give less credit to the camera… I feel like he took that photo for me.
The person whose images inspire you?
Shawn Pyfrom : Annie Leibovitz and Martin Schoeller. And my ex-girlfriend – Andi Elloway. I learned a lot about photography, just by watching her. She’s incredibly talented.
The image you would have liked to make?
Shawn Pyfrom : This image of Marlon Brando…
The one that moved you the most?
Shawn Pyfrom : The Burning Monk by Malcolm Browne.
And the one that made you angry?
Shawn Pyfrom : I don’t really get angry. When I’m confronted by something that doesn’t agree with me; I tend to feel a mix of sadness and curiosity. I wan’t to understand why people do what they do. And if something offends me, I try to make sense of it. I’m not always successful at that. But if I had to choose a photo that elicits those feelings in me; it’d be the same photo I chose before – The Burning Monk by Malcolm Browne.
A key image in your personal pantheon?
Shawn Pyfrom : The Marlon Brando photo. I don’t even know how many times I’ve looked at it. Or how many times I’ve posted it on social media. He’s my inspiration. But if we’re talking about a photo that I’ve shot…? I think it’d be this self-portrait that I took during the Comme des Garçons show, while attending Paris Fashion Week. I don’t know why I like this photo so much. I just think it’s badass. Haha.
The quality needed to be a good photographer?
Shawn Pyfrom : Attention to detail. Patience. Imagination. And the courage to throw yourself into uncomfortable situations. You have to be fearless. You can’t hesitate. If something captures your attention, and you pause; you’ll only end up with a missed opportunity. I know that contradicts what I said about “patience”. But there’s a dichotomy you must possess when you’re approaching art. You must have the patience for inspiration to find you. But you can’t skip a beat once it does. Sometimes, you only have a moment to capture “the perfect image” (which
I’m going to address in the next question). But you must be willing to throw yourself in front of anything – as soon as that moment comes. And you can’t concern yourself with the opinion of others. Your vision for photography can only develop by trusting your intuition. You can be inspired by others, of course. But your vision will only come as a result of your own understanding. Photography allows for people to experience a new vantage point. You’re providing the opportunity to gain a new perspective. So you must have the courage to confront your vulnerabilities – sometimes by putting them on display. Sharing your work can be a bit scary. But art can only take shape when freedom takes power over fear.
The secret of the perfect image, if it exists?
Shawn Pyfrom : The short answer…? There is no “perfect image.” And at the same time; there is…
The idea of “perfect,” is completely subjective and, frankly, unimaginative. It’s just a prosaic word that people use when they’re confronted by the; “Je ne sais pas,” aspect of art. There’s no such thing as; “perfect”. That notion is completely unachievable, and it’s an impediment to anything we aspire to. Perfect is boring. It’s the imperfections that should motivate anyone willing to create. We’re more conditioned to find what isn’t perfect about ourselves and our surroundings. We obsess over it. And we’re only hindered by the concept of perfection. So, in order to create a; “perfect image”, I think you have to focus on what you find inadequate. You have to surrender yourself to the belief that you will never achieve the concept of perfection. You must acknowledge what your obstacles are; in life and through the process of creation. And use that as motivation to constantly improve. You must be fearless. Forget about “perfect” and aim to locate your fallibilities. Inspire yourself to capture every flaw you can, and polish it through your lens. Confront your audience with something that affects them. Something they can relate to. Or something that makes them feel something they’ve never felt before. Take that and do everything you can to make it unique. Show them your perspective. That’s how you get people to stop thinking and start feeling. When you alchemize the unappealing – you can arrest someone’s attention. That is what most people call “perfect”. It’s when they’re left with no other word. It’s what leaves them speechless.
The person you would dream of photographing?
Shawn Pyfrom : Marlon Brando. Haha. Or Kanye.
An essential photo book?
Shawn Pyfrom : Martin Schoeller’s “Close Up”
The camera of your beginnings?
Shawn Pyfrom : The Hasselblad – “Stellar”. Which they discontinued a year or two later. I loved that camera. It broke it shortly after I moved to Paris and started shooting photography. And because it was discontinued; they didn’t have the parts to fix it. I was definitely bummed when I lost that one.
The one you use actually?
Shawn Pyfrom : Leica – Model X and Leica – Qii
Your favorite drug?
Shawn Pyfrom : Running.
The best way to disconnect for you?
Shawn Pyfrom : Running. And meditation.
Your greatest quality?
Shawn Pyfrom : My empathy. And my love. I never stop loving. If I’ve shared those words with someone… I mean it. For life. Even if they leave me in heartbreak. My love is permanent. It never goes away.
An image to illustrate a new banknote?
Shawn Pyfrom : Just a handwritten letter that says; “I Owe You.” Or maybe Marlon Brando. Haha
The job you would not have liked to do?
Shawn Pyfrom : McDonald’s. Or any fast food restaurant, really. I worked at McDonald’s when I was a teenager. I hated it. No issue with anyone who works there. It just wasn’t for me… Been there, done that.
Your greatest extravagance as a photographer?
Shawn Pyfrom : My cameras. And some of the trips I’ve taken to shoot photos.
The values you wish to share through your images?
Shawn Pyfrom : I like taking the most unappealing thing I can find, and then I try to make it beautiful in some way. I like a challenge. And I suppose it’s also because I’ve felt that way before – ugly and unappealing. I’m not trying to start a pity party for myself. I’m a grown man that isn’t afraid to share his vulnerabilities. I know I’m not the only one who’s felt that way before. So I try to share that in my work – paintings, photography, and every other medium I use to express myself. Those feelings can be lonely. So I want to share that. I wan’t people to know that they aren’t alone. I like creating fun stuff as well! But if I were to pinpoint my main motivation; I’d say it’s that. I want to create a sense of community for people who feel marginalized.
The city, country or culture you dream of discovering?
Shawn Pyfrom : Paris. I’ve been there so many times. But I feel like I discover something new, within myself and my surroundings, every time I visit. Paris lives deep inside of me. It’s my home.
The place you never get tired of?
Shawn Pyfrom : Haha… Paris.
Your biggest regret?
Shawn Pyfrom : Breaking someone’s heart. It was unintentional. But I regret not having the courage to take care of myself at the time. I wish I knew what I know now.
Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok or snapchat, what about social media ?
Shawn Pyfrom : Twitter… Sometimes. I used to be much more engaged with my Instagram account. But I stopped using it about three to four years ago. I loved posting images that I took, or images that my friends would take. But it [Instagram] started to feel like a weapon, after an ex-girlfriend and I had broken up. It was hurtful and unnecessary. I get anxious even thinking about it. I didn’t like the way it made me feel anymore. So I decided it was no longer worth it. Unfortunately, social media can be used to in a way that is very unhealthy. Maybe I’ll come back to it at some point. But not until it feels right. It was too much of an impediment to my mental wellbeing.
Color or B&W?
Shawn Pyfrom : Both. It honestly depends on the subject. I shoot in color most of the time. But I love a good B&W as well.
Daylight or artificial light?
Shawn Pyfrom : Again… it really depends on the subject. But just about anything looks good at “magic hour” – when the sun is about to set.
The most photogenic city according to you ?
Shawn Pyfrom : Uhhh…. Paris. Haha. And Iceland. It’s impossible for me to feel anything but inspired when I’m there.
If God existed would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?
Shawn Pyfrom : I do believe in God. Which definitely has an influence over my answer… I would ask God to pose for me. But if God is inspiration; then I would already have the photo, before I took it. Right? Haha. I guess I’m being a bit facetious.
The image that represents for you the current state of the world?
Shawn Pyfrom : Tank Man – by Jeff Widener
If I could organize a special dinner for you, who would you like to be around the table ?
Shawn Pyfrom : Marlon Brando. Kanye West. Daniel Day-Lewis. Andy Warhol. Jean-Michel Basquiat. Meryl Streep. Marion Cotillard. And of course all of my friends and (some) family.
What is missing in today’s world?
Shawn Pyfrom : Logic. And respect for people with opposing views and different beliefs. I feel like “cancel culture” is starting to become a way to silence people, that the louder majority doesn’t want to hear from. When you “cancel” reasonable discourse, then the world becomes an echo chamber. When people stop listening to one another, they miss out on the opportunity to understand the world around them. You don’t have to agree with everyone. And I acknowledge the fact that certain words and opinions can be dangerous. There is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. But taking away a person’s right to express themselves, just because you don’t agree with what they say, is almost the complete antithesis of what “cancel culture” was initially seeded from. You can’t make an informed decision, without opposing views. You’re only muting the chance to learn more about yourself, when you silence the world around you.
And if everything was to be remade?
Shawn Pyfrom : I’m not sure if I would change a thing. Perhaps I would choose to take better care of myself. And try not worry so much. But my shortcomings have also taught me how to become a better person. I don’t know who I’d be otherwise. And I like who I am now.