Melissa Breyer | Brooklyn N.Y.

Tell us, when did you first become interested in photography?
I’ve loved it ever since I was a kid with a kid’s camera, but wasn’t obsessive about it until later. I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember and I started my professional life as a painter after college. But at some point I gave up painting to become a writer. After that I got my first serious camera as an alternative way to keep making pictures and I’ve become increasingly wild about it ever since.

Are you a full-time photographer or would you describe yourself as a serious enthusiast?
I write to make a living; I live to make photographs. They are both wonderful ways to have a life. I really love writing, but I take photos or think about taking photos or dream about taking photos all day and night.

How would you describe your photography?
Primarily urban and candid. Somewhere on the edges of street photography but generally not as literal. I look for what the eyes see but that the brain doesn’t always register, so my photos can tend towards a little weird. 

Is there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
I didn’t start looking at other photographers until I was well into having my own style, but a love of literature and a background in painting allowed writers and painters to assume the role of muse. I’ve noted before that I can’t escape the wistfulness of Edith Wharton’s New York or Cormac McCarthy’s tension between beauty and bleakness; the urban voice of Junot Diaz, the lyrical sensuality of Pablo Neruda … they all play a role, along with so many others. Visually, I am drawn to the strange beauty and social quips of Hannah Höch’s collages, the light of Baroque masters, the graphic architecture of De Chirico, and although I know it’s cliché, the solitude of Edward Hopper’s subjects, to name a few.

When you are out shooting, how much is instinctual versus planned?
Almost 100 percent instinctual. I may have a mood that I’m in and want to seek out scenes to indulge it, but shooting in public is all about spontaneity for me; it’s hard to plan around that.

How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I don’t really think about it. I just frame a scene so that it feels right to my sense of balance and movement. Some of my photos may look wonky since I never think about rules of composition, but I’m a little wonky so I’m ok with that.

What do you prefer b&W or color? And why?
Black and white is my default; I see compositions in tonal values and so black and white generally best conveys the initial perspective. But sometimes color clammors to play along too and when it does I may argue with it a bit, but I generally give in.

Do you think gear really matters?
A lot of photographers love to say that gear doesn’t matter, I don’t think it’s that black and white. An interesting photographer can make a beautiful photo with whatever he or she has on hand, but they can have much more flexibility with more sophisticated gear. That said, good gear isn’t going to make a bad photographer take good photos. I think the most important part is just having a camera that you know well and love a lot.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our readers?
I am working on a series called The Watchwomen, but since I rely on random spontaneity it is coming along, um, very slowly. I plan on exploring a few exhibition possibilities in 2016 and there may be a book in the works, but nothing is for certain yet.

Do you have a favorite image of yours? And would you like to share the story behind it?
To be honest, they are all entwined with memory and picking a favorite would be impossible! They were all too much fun to make.