Ty is a commercial still photographer and motion director based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on lifestyle work that has an authentic '"real moments captured" feel.
How/when did the photography bug bite you?
I grew up loving design, even though I didn’t recognize it as such. I never really owned a camera or knew anyone who made a living as a photographer, but I had photography on every surface in my room growing up and so in some regard I know I appreciated it. After finishing a degree in Psychology, I spent most of my 20s rockclimbing, mountaineering and adventuring in general, which turned into a mini-career as an alpine guide for about a decade. I would spend my spring season in the Alaska Range on Denali, my summers in the Sierra Nevada and then winters in Antarctica guiding. Through going to these amazing places, at a certain point I just decided that I needed to learn to use a camera so to be able to document what I was doing to share with my family and friends and so committed to carrying a heavy manual film SLR everywhere with me. I loved the tactile nature of this solid metal camera and that it was a portal for my creativity, wherever I was in the world. In pretty quick order I was licensing images to outdoor industry brands like Patagonia and I realized this was something that I loved - the image making - even more than guiding and it consumed me. I’m not a golfer, but a friend who is really into it once explained it to me in that when you start playing golf the ball never goes where you want it to, but the first time that it does you are hooked. Making the images I had in my mind happen in reality hooked me in this same way and I’ve never looked back.
If you had $10 Million to shoot whatever you'd like, what would you shoot?
That’s a big budget - I like these kinds of projects! I think my work is, at the lowest common denominator, about the emotional component of living life well, connecting with others, and engaging in the beauty and wonder in the world throughout every portion of our life cycle. So, if I had this type of a budget, I would plan a many year project documenting human connections and peak life moments in as many cultures around the world as I could get to, so that in the end the body of work would help to shed light on the fact that, as a species, we really aren’t all that different. I guess it’s really no different from what I am doing, though the $10mil would definitely speed things up a bit.
What is the craziest thing that has happened to you on set?
Perhaps I’ve blocked it because fortunately, I can’t think of anything on one of my own sets that is too crazy. I like to think that we win the "production battles" with really, really good preparation before the shoot so that we don’t have any big crazy stuff going on. That said when I was assisting I did have a 7-day job once where I was asked to wash the lunch dishes in the sink in the men’s restroom of the studio every day for about 30 people. All of the clients were female and I guess the producer was trying to cut some corners. I always tell up-and-coming photographers that assisting is a great way to learn the right ways to do things as well as the wrong ways and it’s safe to say I would never ask anyone to do this, nor would I ever want to eat off of dishes washed in a restroom (I brought my own lunch that week!).
What is the coolest piece of shooting gear you’ve ever used and why?
I’m not really a gear guy. Most of my work is grounded in reality and requires more interpersonal connection with my subjects than it does gear or technology. That said, I have learned to pilot a drone and this is a huge amount of fun for me and a totally new way of seeing the world.
In a film about my life, I’d like to be played by?
I’d like to think that I am as witty as Jeff Goldblum, as charismatic as Christoph Waltz, and as cool as George Clooney, but as long as it’s not Danny Divito I probably wouldn’t be too picky.
A word or phrase I overuse…
Mind you, I have two small children. “If everything gets put in its place, nothing is ever lost."
My dream collaboration would be with?
So many dreams, but if answered in a stream of consciousness, it would be incredibly cool to be a set photographer for a Wes Anderson film. Any, but most specifically The Life Aquatic or Moonrise Kingdom. Wes, if you’re reading, sign me up!
A great piece of advice I received...
I don’t know if it was as much a word as it was a vision. My father and my grandfather were both incredibly hard workers and somehow that was just something that has always made sense to me. No one ever said it verbally, but from each of them I learned to do the best possible job in the shortest period of time and this is verbally (as well as non-verbally) something that I am working to pass along to my own children.
What is something that people would never expect about you?
If they knew me as I am today, with family and kids, loving design and shooting advertising work for a living, they would probably be surprised that I have been to both the North and South Poles.
What 3 items would you take onto a desert island other than food and water?
Wow, that’s hard, but given that there doesn't seem to be any constraints, I’d probably take a catamaran, a book on sailing, and my wife.
Twitter handle: Instagram @ @tymilford