A Conversation with Photographer Cam Hay
Cam Hay in his element.
Have you always had a camera in your hand or did it become an extension of your arm later in life?
I'm just sitting here thinking of when photography came into my life. Earliest I can remember is running around school camps with a disposable camera maybe when I was about 10. I grew up on a farm in Ashburton and spent a lot of time by myself making my own fun. Time on the farm consisted of a lot of time photographing many of my pet calves I had growing up, which I still have to this day in old photo albums.
I had a go-pro and took many videos of me doing bombs into the pool, which I would then take the stills from, and look at my face at the moment it got submerged underwater. I found it pretty fascinating; looking at a moment that you’ve never seen before. Back then, it was rare for cameras to pair well with water. After that I started tying a go-pro to a kite and flying it above the farm and taking what you could now call ‘drone pictures’, the go-pro would seriously impair the flying of the kite so it would only have about a 15 second flight time.
I was fascinated by trying to see something I hadn’t seen before; it was a daily part of my life. It was curiosity and lots of alone time that led me to find a camera but I think it wasn’t till university that it became a big part of my life. I started making my clothes in my first year at uni and brought a Canon 1200d to take photos of them. I think that's the first photo I have on my iPhone. The rest is history.
You do a lot of gig photography, how did you stumble into that realm? Or was it always something you wanted to do?
Yup, lots of gig photography. I'll give you a number because it's exciting haha. Since 11/3/17 I've photographed 125 gigs at 84 different venues over 14 countries of 77 different musicians. So I did stumble into it hard.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it, but now I can’t remember going to a gig and not wanting to do it, which feels weird. Something I can't explain. I was at the start of being a prolific surf photographer as Dunedin had so many beaches and heaps of my mates were surfers, so I would tag along and sit on the beaches taking photos.
I was probably spending about 20 hours a week between 2015-2017 doing surf photography completely because I loved it.
Then one of my most influential friends came into my life Mr Sam Ezra, who was running a promotion company called Melocasa Promotions with his twin Zac.
Sam pressed me into photographing a backyard gig in Dunedin of what is now known as the band Marlins Dreaming. I took average photos and I wanted to do it again to fix my mistakes, and i also could get paid for it too. Now here I am still with the excitement and drive to improve my work, 1497 days after that first gig.
You've dabbled in the world of publication and zine-making quite a bit over the years – what is it about print that gets you going?
The smell and feel get me. Also, I love the saying "immortalised in paper and ink".
But yeah, I have helped publish 4 Issues of my magazine, Hello Zukeen and made two of my own books with another handful waiting to be printed.
I just feel like printing your photos completes the process, it also feels that extra bit more special than posting online. Another thing is that books are relatable, engaging and accessible. I could hand them to my grandparents and family and they would be able to understand my work, then pick it up and share with their friends all about my complicated life haha.
I would love to be old and accomplished sitting in a big personal library full of my books and photos from a 60-year career. Then being able to walk over, pick out a random book that contains my photos and provokes memories and further share it with anyone who comes to visit - how cool would that be.
I’ll be saying things like “Ok, before you, check out my book “My move to Hollywood and the journey to be one of the worlds greatest photographers” haha. Manifest your own reality kids, speak it into existence.
Are there any exciting print publications in the pipeline that you can talk about?
Hmm, I've been a bit quiet on the bookmaking front. I have a few ready to be printed, but I'm just saving money at the moment. I've got lots of ideas though, I started making a book of my first 100 gigs! It's a lot of work though, I've slowed down with making books as I was spending a lot of my time living in the past. So I just decided to focus on the now and make books when I slow down. Or some great-grandchild of mine might think I'm cool and find all my hard drives.
If you could only photograph one object for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I'd photograph mirrors. An object with a loophole so I can document myself changing through life. Or trees… trees are beautiful.
Looking forward, where do you want to take your photography in the future? World domination or more of a work-life balance type of situation?
World domination, I'm delusional with confidence and I'm extremely ambitious. I set a goal after I photographed my first 3 gigs that I wanted to tour the world as a photographer. I got there in 2 years. So I have big goals and I'm manifesting it. But hey, I want to have a good healthy life, be able to raise a family, inspire others and be able to live on a farm with preferably avocados. I want to also prove everyone wrong and live a unique life.