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Man With A Film Camera: Cameron McNee

Flitting between New York and London, Cameron McNee is always found with a camera around his neck. From working with high-end brands for editorial content to his personal community projects, he’s rebellious in his approach to photography and tireless in his ingenuity. 

Over the last fifteen years my photographic style has changed several times. When I was at university, I spent more time in nightclubs than studying, so my style was informed by photographing drag queens and dancers from clubbing in the LGBTQ+ community. This is probably why I first fell in love with photography; I got Distinctions from going clubbing.

After I graduated, I worked as a photography assistant, I worked with big name photographers and started to think that my work should look like theirs so I can be successful. So I copied their style. I learnt a lot from experimenting this way, but I soon realised that these copied styles really weren’t me. 

From there, I began photographing communities that I was interested in, I used available light and focused on capturing the uniqueness of my subject. I’m fascinated by what brings people together. I believe we are our best and most beautiful around those that share our passion. It was my curiosity in this that allowed my individual photographic style to emerge and become something I am now proud of.

I’ve been fortunate enough to get editorial work. This is where I add a fashion eye. I like the images that have a similar theme as my personal work, but with the addition of stylists and glam squad to make the talent polished. There’s less opportunity for innovation in that space, but I’ve found ways to push boundaries anyway. Outside of that though, for my personal projects, it’s still all about people and communities. 

Having a camera around your neck is an all-access pass to the world. It is a great way to meet people and be invited into worlds that are different to your own. When asking people if I can photograph them, I have almost always had good experiences…

I was once chased down the street in Baltimore—I was photographing what ended up being a trap house, where drugs are sold. Four massive guys came out and started screaming for me to give them my camera. 

With my personal work about community, I don’t go with an expectation of what it should look like. I want the people to tell their own story, I let them lead and I follow. Each project begins with just me and my stills camera, I make portraits of people and get to know them. I go back regularly and let the relationship develop, once people trust me, they share their stories and I can build from there, turn it into a short documentary or photo series.

Like my work with Drag Syndrome –  a collective of Drag Kings and Queens with down syndrome. There was so much joy, dancing and drama on set. I loved collaborating with them and I’ve actually recently won an award for the images.

Images are able to quickly evoke emotion, much faster than a book or a film. In an instant an image can make one viewer feel pride and another hate. 

It is rebellious to be Other. It is rebellious to be your true self. If you are in any way different to the status quo: be that queer, trans or non-binary, a person of colour, an immigrant, differently abled or neurodiverse, just marginalised in some way, simply standing proudly as yourself is rebellious. If you take a photograph of this and share it with the world, where people will project their opinion and judgement upon, you are rebellious. 

When I post images of same sex couples kissing there is abuse written, when I photograph a trans person in a park with an amazing outfit on, we hear abuse. It is a risk to be different, it is brave, it is rebellious and we all need to do more of it.

Words / Imagery: Cameron McNee