Interview with Greg McQueen – The Lead Photographer of TEDxAarhus 2016

Greg McQueen is the lead photographer of TEDxAarhus 2016. He moved to Aarhus in 2000 from England, following his wife, who is a Dane, after few years of being in a long distance relationship. Greg works at Business Academy Aarhus and IT Forum as an in-house photographer. Besides that, he is also self-employed as a freelance event, portrait, and wedding photographer. What he is passionate about in general, is capturing people’s spirit in a frame. In one sunny afternoon, Ethenia Windaningrum (Nia) from TEDxAarhus had a chance to interview him about his passion, career, how he moved to Denmark, his involvement with TEDx, and what are his wishes for the upcoming TEDxAarhus.

Nia: Could you please tell me the story of how and when you became a photographer?

Greg: I actually learned photography when I was in the film school; it was quite some years ago. I am in my 40s now, and that was when I was in my 20s, and back then we didn’t really have digital play. Everything was analog, and everything was in film. So if you want to learn film, you actually have to learn photography. You have to learn lightning, technical details, etc. When I left the film school, I worked for film and television for a while. I worked behind the camera for news stations and for TV stations, and I went very much behind the camera and writing. I was writing for children’s TV in 2000. After that, I decided to move to Denmark after I met my future wife, at that time. So I moved to Denmark in 2000, and carried on; I did some film and TV works here, until eventually I got into having my own company, producing corporate videos. Through that, more and more people asked me to make photos as well, and people started hiring me more for taking photos than videos. So now I got hired pretty much most of the time for doing photography works, which is event photography in the corporate events, and also portraits, especially business portraits. And now I am also starting get into wedding photography, because wedding is also event. I turned to being a professional photographer in Denmark 3 years ago, covering over 100 events. So now I am an event photographer, portrait photographer, and wedding photographer.

Nia: So which one do you enjoy the most, being a videographer or a photographer?

Greg: I think right now I really love doing photography. Over a period of time, it is a bit about meeting people and storytelling. When I did video works, there were times when I was not completely happy of being efficient in telling somebody’s stories. So now I’ve gotten into photography’s side a lot more because I like the efficiency part of it. In storytelling, the example could be by putting one or two frames alongside with an article or some texts to convey the story.

Nia: Could you say that you started liking photography before you moved to Denmark or after you moved to Denmark?

Greg: I have always been around cameras, even before I was in the film school. My father worked in the film -and TV industry in the UK. He was a very successful writer. He wrote the scripts for the TV programs, although he is not there anymore. So actually I have been around cameras since very early age. So when there was a production shooting, my father invited me to come to the film set, because he could see that I was really interested in that field. When I was there I was not just sitting and watching, but also helping the crews on the set, for example moving the cameras or holding the cables. Although it was basic stuff, for me the important thing was being a part of the set. So I could say that this experience was an informal education for me. From that experience, I learned the process of telling stories and using cameras.

Nia: Do you have any favorite objects in photography?

Greg: I like photographing people a lot, that’s why I really concentrate on being an event photographer. Events will exist if there are people. I really like people’s enthusiasm. For instance, a couple years ago when I covered an event called The Danish Macro Algae conference as a photographer, and also took videos a bit. This is like a very niche event, but the people at these kinds of events are very passionate about what they do. They are either scientists or PR people. This event also introduced me to their world, and I won’t be able to meet these people and to learn about this area if I don’t attend this conference. So for me, it really is about the people, not just about the personality, but what they do as well.

Nia: Do you have any other hobbies outside of photography?

Greg: Not really. I spend a lot of time with my family outside of work. Well, I am self-employed, I do photography most of the time, which is my passion, and I don’t really have hobbies outside of that. Well, I read a lot too. There might be a time when I might need to do my actual hobby outside of photography, but for now photography is my passion, so I am quite happy to spend as much time as possible doing that.

Nia: What do you like about Aarhus?

Greg: When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time in Cambridge. It is the nearest big city of the city where I lived at that time in England. Well, it is a big city, but relatively small. And Aarhus in some way reminds me of Cambridge, because it is a city, but a small city. I like the laid-back vibe that Aarhus has. If I go to Copenhagen or London, I get very stressed out. Aarhus is a big city, but everyone takes it very easy and it has a coast that is very pretty. It is a big city with many events happening and many things to do, but it is small enough for you to be able to get to know a lot of people as well. There were moments where I bumped into a lot of people at different events. From a networking point of view, it is quite easy to meet people here.

Nia: Have you traveled around Denmark and captured some interesting objects?

Greg: I have been starting to do some of portrait stuff around Aarhus actually. I do have my own studio to do portrait works. Just being in Aarhus, wherever I pass by and see a nice little spot that attracts me, that could be an underpass or an alley, these places can be a location for the portrait location outside of my studio, and I think this is interesting. In general I am trying to find a nice locations to do portrait works in Aarhus because this city is nice.

Nia: How did you hear about TEDx and TEDxAarhus?

Greg: When we did the first TEDx in Aarhus last year, I already knew Andrea. She was one of the lead organizers from the Toastmaster event in Aarhus, so we got to know each other. At one point, we were briefly discussing me being one of the speakers at TEDx, because she knew that I had a background of doing some charity projects and social media. However, later on we figured out that I did not really fit into the theme that was “Time and Timing,” but then we thought “what about I came on board being the event photographer for TEDx?” So that was the story of how I became a part of the organizers last year. Last year I had a great experience, and then I was asked to be an event photographer for this year. I think that I have to be involved again. I really like to be part of it.

Nia: What is your motivation for joining TEDxAarhus?

Greg: In general, I like the philosophy of TED and TEDx, the philosophy of spreading great ideas from people that makes a difference in a simple concept. So the idea of putting together that kind of event here in Aarhus is really amazing. Whenever people talk about TEDx, or I mention about my involvement in TEDx, I can see the peoples’ faces lights up, which means everybody knows that there’s something special about TEDx. So I want to contribute to that: “Why not to be a part of the greatest events in Aarhus this year?”

Nia: Do you have any certain ideas or wishes for TEDxAarhus this year, from your personal point of view?

Greg: I think I would like to see more people there, compared to last year. It was sold out for 100 attendees. There will be provided more seats this year, hopefully. And I would like to see unusual stories. For example, one of the presenters last year was a girl that could not tell the time, numbers, and do calculation at all because of a certain condition, and she explained different strategies to cope with that situation. What I am hoping for this year is to get more stories like that, unique stories about people’s lives that are very inspiring to share, and give you a slightly different perspective on life.

Nia: Why do you think people should attend TEDxAarhus this year?

Greg: There is certain energy in TEDx and in coming to TEDxAarhus. There are lots of events around Aarhus, but TEDx is definitely something different, and I think people should come and experience this. I hope that people who attend TEDxAarhus will carry this kind of energy and come away with some useful key takeaways from this experience that will inspire their lives later.