Not so long ago Pharrell Williams described being happy as feeling like a room without a roof. Personally, I relate happiness more to feeling like a room filled with Gray Malin’s art. The West Hollywood based Texan packs his images with such punch and pizzazz, with vibrant sunshine colors that just pop and fizz, they insist you come on in and join the fun.
Gray Malin describes himself as a fine-art photographer with a special knack for design and interiors. He has hung out of helicopters to capture beaches and ski slopes from high up above; the genius of his efforts is in revealing the almost geometric patterns in the way sunbathers arrange themselves on crowded beaches and skiers align on the piste. With sand and snow providing neutral backgrounds to tiny but vivid splashes of colorful beach towels and parasols, ski jackets and winter hats, the whole effect is mesmerizing and the repetition he finds lends itself perfectly to design. Gray Malin is no mere photographer; Gray Malin is a brand, with his eye-popping patterns appearing on everything from iPhone covers to deck shoes, wallpaper to fabrics, surfboards to swim shorts.
For his art he has travelled the world, snapping llamas dressed in huge black and white balloons on the Bolivian salt flats, multicolored vegetable dyed sheep in Australia and pastel colored beach balls adrift in Antarctica. It is the latter of which he is most proud, calling it the most challenging body of work he has captured to date. “The beauty of the continent is phenomenal,” he says, “but with unforeseeable winds and shifting ice, it certainly is not the most cooperative place to shoot, but it is one of the places that will change your entire perspective about our world.”
Gray started taking pictures when he was a teenager, inspired by the sun-kissed poolside glamour of Slim Aarons photography and the creative, distortive brilliance of André Kertész, both of whom still hold a notable influence over his work today. However, the young Gray never really thought of photography as a viable career, more a hugely enjoyable hobby, but in college he chose to pursue it as a second major. Eventually moving to LA for an internship at Paramount, he landed a plum job working for the President of the studio only to walk away and leave it all behind after just one year. His parents thought him insane but Gray had an itch deep within his soul that he just had to scratch; he had to give photography a chance. He began to take classes and intern for big name photographers like David LaChapelle, and as soon as he felt ready he took out a booth at a Sunday swap-meet in West Hollywood, at Melrose and Fairfax. There he began making something of a name for himself.
His early work, particularly Prada Marfa, where we see the backs of two cowboys looking with some bewilderment at a Prada store all alone and interior lit against a desert sunset, have become icons; but it is the sheer joy of swimming pools packed tight with orange and white inflatable rings, giraffes beside a white-walled doorway revealing dozens of brightly colored balloons and hot pink zebras stretched out across parched grasslands, that bring true distinction to Gray Malin’s work. If he ever achieves his ambition it will be fascinating to see how he imposes his unique style when shooting from outer space! But you wouldn’t bet against him.
Gray’s maxim is to simply stay true to who you are – your morals, your ethics, your compassion, your spirit and, he says, success will follow. Be courageous, be true and most importantly just be you. And if you’re thinking that sounds like all the necessary ingredients for happiness, well, perhaps that is why such delight and jubilance radiates from Gray Malin’s pictures – the creator can’t help himself and the viewer cannot help but smile in return.
To learn more about Gray Malin and to view his work, visit graymalin.com.