The man behind the lens: a career in the works

By TAYLOR CUNNINGHAM

Clay Enos. Photo by Taylor Cunningham.
Clay Enos. Photo by Taylor Cunningham.

There is much more to Clay Enos, still photographer who has worked on the set of several movies, than just the images associated with his name.

Jessica Chidester, who first met Enos at a “Watchmen” promotional event in New York, said Enos is one of the most genuine, kind, heartwarming people she had ever met, and jokingly referred to him as being almost disgustingly nice.

“He’s somebody who would definitely take time out of his day to help you with something even though he might barely even know you,” Chidester said.

After meeting, Chidester kept in touch with Enos and over time they became friends. She described Enos as being someone she could trust and talk to.

“Any time that I’ve had problems, I know that he’s somebody that I know I’d be comfortable to go to for either support, a kind word, or motivation,” Chidester said. “He’s incredibly encouraging.”

The beginnings of a passion

Enos studied and majored in photography while attending Ithaca College, but said his interest in photography really all began when he was a child at his grandparents’ house. His grandfather was a filmmaker of old industrial films and “March of Time” newsreels.

“As a result there were always movie cameras in the house, so home movies were made and I think it instilled this little notion that image making is not the domain of others, it’s something that you can do yourself,” Enos said.

However, Enos was not drawn to the motion pictures. He felt there was more allure and simplicity to the still image.

“I wasn’t really interested in the large production aspects of movie making, I preferred the individual, kind of auteur, artistic possibilities of the still image,” Enos said. “Ironically though, here I am working on movie sets where I’m just a little cog in the machine.”

Movie roles

Most of the movies that Enos has been a part of were films by director and producer Zack Snyder. The movies that Enos has taken photography for include “Watchmen,” “Sucker Punch,” “Man of Steel,” “300: Rise of an Empire,” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” currently in production and scheduled for release on March 25, 2016.

“The set of ‘Watchmen’ was certainly exciting because it was my first movie, and the faces and characters of that movie were so rich with texture and time, because the movie takes place over five decades,” Enos said. “That was the first time I had taken my strict studio approach and stuff of New York and put it in the context of the fictionalized world of ‘Watchmen’ to great effect because a nice book came out of it.”

Enos’ pictures are used for press release articles on movies, promotional advertising with various products and ads, and forming making-of books, though a lot of the images used for advertising are photo shopped by other people.

“It’s so neat to see how they’re taking the pictures and taking it to different places and using different effects,” Enos said. “Movie making is a collective endeavor, advertising and marketing around a movie is so outside of what my responsibilities are, I’m glad to have played a part.”

Enos will also be working on the set of upcoming movie “Suicide Squad,” which is scheduled to begin filming in Toronto this coming April. Part of the new DC Comics shared film universe, it will be released by Warner Brothers Pictures on Aug. 5, 2016, and will star Will Smith, Tom Hardy, and Jared Leto.

Getting to know people in high places

Enos first began to photograph music celebrities through a job at AOL Music. He photographed artists from many genres, including Robert Plant, 50 Cent, and Kenney Chesney.

“That gave me legitimacy in the eyes of a bunch of other people,” Enos said.

These photo shoots and knowing the right people are ultimately how he ended up on the set of “Watchmen,” which is how he began to start shooting famous actors.

Even though he gets to meet and photograph all these big names, Enos said his favorite thing is to photograph regular people found along the way. He launched a photography project in 2000 called Streetstudio, which features portraits of random people in cities around the world.

Photography: impact and expression

Aside from working on movie sets, Enos recently traveled to Rwanda to do some work for Bloomberg Philanthropies, and one of his images was used for the cover of theBloomberg Philanthropies Annual Report.

“In general, I love to have photographs matter,” Enos said. “So they’re something I know that made a difference, that had an aesthetic impact on those folks and the projects that they’re doing, and that’s really rewarding as well.”

According to Enos photography is more than science, and once you get all the technical components such as shutter speed and exposure figured out, it’s about capturing what is seen.

“It’s really about putting together your heart and your mind and sharing your view of the world,” Enos said.

The phone as a medium and wise words

Enos takes more than just photographs with a professional camera; he also likes to snap images with his phone while he travels.

“It’s a way of nurturing the muses constantly,” Enos said. “This device is sitting in your pocket that allows you to express yourself through photography at any time. So you sort of stay vigilant and you stay in tune with a creative piece of yourself no matter where you are, and I love that.”

Enos also emphasized that anyone can be a photographer, and that legitimacy is not defined by what tool is used or what tricks are implemented.

“In third grade we all finger paint and we’re all artists, and we all engage in something artistic and we pride ourselves on it and we bring our stuff home to our parents, and for whatever reason we grow up and the arts fall away from our daily lives,” Enos said. “But the phone and photography is this way to reengage that third grade finger paint brain and go be an artist again.”

Enos gave some advice not only for those looking to go into the photography career, but other fields as well.

“Love what you do,” Enos said. “Understand that any given industry is work, so you really do have to love what you’re doing and make that your paramount, guiding force. Balance somewhere between passion, patience, and perseverance and you should be all right.”

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