Artist Interview: Paul Clark

Artist Interview: Paul Clark

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco Trolley Street Car California Street Sunset Sunrise Golden Hour

Get to Know Artist Paul Clark

Paul Clark (@PaulClark) is a San Francisco based photographer. He has dedicated his time to shooting unique views found around the Bay Area by focusing on urban infrastructure, and landscapes both near and far. Along with following him on his instagram, check out his work at

Tell us a little bit about how you got into photography. How long have you been shooting?

There were a few things I can think back to that sparked my interest to pursue photography. I bought my first camera (Sony a6000) in 2015 because I wanted to have a decent camera to take with me on occasion. Turns out, I used that camera maybe 5 times up until 2017. Because I had a decent camera, I got involved with helping put on an event with the company that I worked for in March 2017 and they needed some camera/video work so I volunteered to fill those shoes and it felt awesome being thrust into that position and having to figure it out on the fly. From there, I created my photography page @PaulClark in May 2017 because I really didn’t have much else to do outside of work, and normal daily activties so I started walking around San Jose and learning how to use my camera. Over the course of the last year and a half, I have come to realize that creating that dedicated photography page was the best idea I have had because it essentially forced me to stop talking about becoming a photographer (because I felt intimidated because my skills were not great) and it made me commit myself to learning the craft.

What inspires an image for you?

To give some context, before photography I was never really into adventuring or exploring or traveling because my main focus was athletics (I played football at Utah State University). So, I draw a lot of inspiration from other photographers around the world because I am able to see a lot of the incredibly beautiful locations that I have been missing out on, especially Southern Utah (I grew up in Salt Lake City, UT and never went down to explore the national parks). When I visit these locations that I am inspired to visit, my goal is not to take the exact same photo that I had seen previously. My goal is to see the location with my own eyes, and I want to add my own unique twist on the photo to make it mine.

Who inspires you to create; where do you draw your inspiration from?

 The list of photographers that inspire me is far to long to write out, because I am drawing inspiration from many, many people on a daily basis. However, a few of the creators that inspired me early on in my journey and made me really stop and admire their work were @andrewoptics, @mmeyers76, @831gaberodriguez, and @mindz.eye.

Has everything gone according to plan while pursuing photography?

The only plan that I had with photography was to: 1) challenge myself to try and learn something that I really did not have much experience with before, 2) find something fun to do in my free time, 3) make friends.

I think it is really easy to get caught up in the numbers game on social media platforms, and it’s especially easy to feel down about my own work when I compare to others. However, I try to remind myself constantly why I started with photography in the first place and it helps me out a lot.

National Park Arches Canyon Utah Arizona Red Rocks Hiking

Are you self-taught or classically trained, or a little bit of both?

I am self-taught, via youtube, paid tutorials from other photographers, and just brainstorming with other photographers. I do believe in the value of schooling, but I also think that a person who is deeply and passionately committed to learning a craft is capable of accomplishing anything that they set their mind to.

What motivates you to continue taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually, emotionally, or artistically?

As mentioned above, my motivation to continue shooting is challenging myself, having fun, and making friends. I find that when all three of those things are aligned, I am creating my best work. Additionally, I hope to inspire others with my story to realize that you don’t need formal education/training/specific skills to become decent at something. In my opinion, you just need to deeply commit yourself to mastering whatever it is that you want to and have a work ethic that makes others think you are crazy at times. 

How do you intentionally create photos that stand out from the crowd?

My intention when shooting is to take the best photo that I possibly can for myself, not to stand out from the crowd. At the end of the day, I am capturing/creating photos that are mine and I want to be able to look at these 20-30 years down the road and be proud to have it hanging up in my home.

When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?

I don’t do a lot of “planned” shots, and often times you can’t really plan for a lot of the conditions that occur when shooting. I can get a decent idea of what the clouds/weather may look like beforehand, but it is up to myself and my insticts to capture something special when I shoot.

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada Hiking Road Cars

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I don’t have an idea of where I will be in 5 years, but I trust that I will make the right decisions to be doing something that I am enjoying doing with the people that I love.

Ignoring gear, how would you suggest becoming a photographer?

My biggest advice, and this is what I hope to inspire others to do, is to stop pondering and thinking about how to do something and just go do it. You don’t need fancy gear, many of us already have a camera on us 24/7 (phones). Just take your phone/camera out, and start looking at things different and see the beauty in the details or areas that you are in.

What does photography mean to you? Has it helped you overcome hardship?

Photography does mean a lot to me, it has given me new eyes and a new perspective on life. I have seen my values change rapidly over the course of the past year and a half and I am thankful for that. Photography has also given me such incredible experiences, like waking up at 2 AM to drive in the middle of the night to meet 4 photographers (@andrewoptics, @collincreates, @codymayer22, @iwozzy) in Big Sur to shoot a waterfall for sunrise, and it has surrounded me with an incredibly inspiring and creative community with @bay.shooters and @artofvisuals

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California Sunset Sunrise Golden Hour Blue Hour Beach Barbed Wire Fence

Do you take any lighting or extra equipment with you on when going on a shoot?

I generally will carry a headlamp and a flashlight so I can see when I am hiking in the night, but not really for photography purposes. I have gotten my hands on some Lume Cubes and I will be carrying those with me, particularly for drone light painting. Should be fun!

Focal Collective: Artist Interview Series

Focal Collective would like to thank our contributing artists! This recurring propensity to create and growing community continues to inspire us. Are you interested in sharing your story? Feel free to apply to our Artist Interview Series with your portfolio, IG, and a brief introduction via our contact page. We'll look out for your message!

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