David Shama trained as a doctor before he was found by photography and, whilst he shoots proper fashion stories for mags like Tank and Jalouse, it's his personal work that gets us the most – it sits in that expanse of space between fashion photography and photojournalism. His enviable method of taking cute girls away on holiday with him and documenting it all exposes something you don't find in normal fashion photography. Eventually he's going to stick all of these shoots in a book, but he let us put this one up in advance of that.
VICE: Hey David, so what's the idea behind the book?
David Shama: The idea is to travel with different girls but really discover a new place together. I don't plan much except the destination, we rent a car and everything from there is unexpected.
I love travel photography—I was always a big fan of photographers like Stephen Shore, William Eggelston, etc—but it's also about discovering the person I am traveling with during the journey. I did two trips and I intend to do at least three-to-four more. I barely knew the girls before asking them to come along.
I am a very big road movie fan and in a way I am trying to put myself in situations where interesting things happen. It's all about the unexpected, what might happen, and what better environment than the road for this. I like to take pictures in the simplest manner, not too much equipment, no crew—it's all about reducing everything to the minimum so that it's the closest possible to life. It's what I love to do, for sure.
How does that work with fashion?
Even in fashion shoots I always try to keep things simple and to start from the narrative. When I shoot a girl on a white wall, my directions won't be about head placement and body posture but more about what character she is and what emotions she feels.
How do you make a decision on the location, model, etc?
The models are just girls I barely know. The first one was a friend of a friend that I shot once before asking her to come along on the trip. I just felt that she would be a cool girl to get to know on a trip. It's all very spontaneous, I don't plan very much ahead.
For the location, I wanted the American countryside. The second girl was a model that became a friend and I decided to go to Florida because I wanted to go to the everglades originally. My camera broke and I ended up shooting one day with disposable cameras. There is no timetable, no absolute plan, and I never know where it's going to lead us. For my next trip I want to do a longer version, maybe cross country USA.
And what is your relationship with the models? It all seems very personal, if you follow.
There has to be some seduction, of course, some tension for a good trip to be successful. No, but seriously, they stayed very good friends.
So would you be able to achieve the same results with a less-attractive girl, do you think?
Ha ha, sure, but they need to have some kind of charisma to captivate me. There is always a story I want to tell.
Who influenced this approach? Like what photographers were you looking to emulate?
I guess what I love must influence me in a way, people like Joel Sternfeld, Robert Frank, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, and Shore and Eggelston, who I mentioned before. In fashion photography I like Alasdair McLellan.
And you mentioned movies before?
Yes, recently I was very inspired by Let The Right One In and the beginning of Hanna—beautiful photography. Bits and pieces of movies inspire me a lot sometimes, just a scene, like the opening credits of The Shining. Oh, and Paris, Texas. I constantly watch movies really and I recently discovered Dario Argento with Suspiria. I want to do a shoot inspired by that.
So you want to further blur the photography into fashion and documentary?
Yes, I want to push it a little further. It's all an exploration. I wrote all my previous trips that I took earlier in my life—I have always been in need of exploration. I am very curious.
Does it feel like work, though? Because, I have to say, there will be loads of guys reading this thinking 'lucky bastard!', ha ha.
Well, I do those trips on my holidays—they are my vacations, the rest of the year I work—but I can't seem to be able to take holidays without making it a photography project. I don't earn money by doing them, not yet, at least, but it's one of the things I prefer doing in my life, so yes, I have a cool job, I guess.