Andrew Murphy Interview

by Matthew J

andrew murphy photography window black and white

I feel you can introduce yourself to the readers far better than I ever could, so I’m going step back and let you handle the introduction here. Who is Andrew Murphy? What does he do? And what exactly is the Monochrome God?

I’m a photographer (now, I don’t mean that I make a living as a photographer, don’t be silly!). But outside my critical roles as husband, father, and friend, nothing is more important to my psychological well-being than shooting. Well, really good beer is awfully important, too.

My work is almost exclusively shots of people, in non-studio environments; always with available light. I shoot nearly everything with 35 and 50 mm lenses (nothing longer than 85 mm), because being intimately involved with a subject is usually critical to getting a good shot.

When I get the chance, I like to do work that has a social-justice component: I like to help a good cause (and if that means sticking it to The Man, then all-the-better).

andrew murphy photographer

Monochromegod (get the name right, man) is me. Last summer a friend said he’d been making a lot of fun and interesting connections on twitter. I couldn’t figure out what the attraction of a 140-character format was, but I decided to give it a go, and monochromegod was the handle I chose. I think it sums me up well: I’m an outrageously talented black-and-white shooter, and I lack humility. (I used to be humble, but it didn’t do anything for my career, so I’m trying flat-out white-hot arrogance. I’m not sure it’s going to change things, but it’s more fun.) As for twitter, yeah, I’ve met a few people I consider friends that way. (We didn’t become friends until we started drinking together, but twitter started it.

andrew murphy photography

How did you get your initial start in photography and what inspired you to choose that particular form of art?

Photography chose me. Years ago, I was watching a TV show that referred to the “art of photography”. I (possibly in an altered state: who can remember these things?) laughed and said that it was no art, that anybody can press a button. I was challenged by a friend to prove it, and I did, obviously. Either I’m a natural or there’s nothing to it at all.
I didn’t really become convinced that I was going to stick to photography until I started doing portraits. Most of my subjects are people who interest me, and the interaction is fun. I get a charge out of making an exposure that sums up (to me, anyway, and that’s all that counts) a subject.

andrew murphy woman photography

For the people who have not yet checked out your blog, what sort of things can they expect to see from MonochromeGod[one-word]?

Pictures of people who matter: either to me, or to a cause. And sometimes just because I like what I see; almost always in black-and-white. And complaints, too: there’s a lot of stuff in the world to get pissed off about. Or, depending on the time or mood, I just might not like the way shit is going in my little world (but when that happens I really need to shake myself just short of brain-bruising-hard: my life is pretty fucking sweet compared to most.)

andrew murphy photograph black and white

Speaking of having a sweet life compared to most. I want to take a few seconds to get your view on the OCCUPY MOVEMENT taking place across the world, but more specifically here in Nova Scotia. Do you feel it’s affective?

I think the Occupy movement is a great concept. Who can’t get behind the idea that a tiny fraction of the world’s population shouldn’t be allowed to control the vast majority of its wealth?

Unfortunately, in Nova Scotia at least, the majority of protesters seem to be hippies. I don’t fucking like hippies. And the hippies protesting here are unfocused, and waving signs about everything that pisses them off. They’re not keeping people’s minds on the point of the movement.

{Note from Matthew J: Personally, I can only speak on what I have witnessed in Halifax. Although I too applaud the concept behind the “protests”, I do not/cannot endorse what went down in this city. Protest is a verb and change is an action; the people here had the right idea, but didn’t capitalize (no pun) on the opportunity with a solid game plan. There is a lot more to protesting than sitting in tents and lounging around. No clear agenda, no platform, and no real leadership all added up to a waste of opportunity}.

andrew murphy sad photograph

Back to the blog: It stands out not only because of your photography, but also for the no nonsense “commentaries” you share regarding day-to-day life in Halifax. With the majority of the people going the ultra-friendly routine online, why do you choose to go the other way? Is it more about style or is it your actual personality?

I told a guy at a party that I had to un-follow a woman on twitter because she was taking up too much of my time with her mindless yapping; he responded that “that’s just the way she is online”. I told him that I am exactly the same online as I am in person. I’m a nice guy (really, I’m not kidding: I can get references for you) but I’ll be damned if I’m going to act sweet, tolerant, friendly, and happy when I’m not. Bullshit has no value: it gives the wrong impression and leads to misunderstanding and disappointment.

andrew murphy

Along with the commentaries and photographs, I salute you for showing transparency and opening up about the struggles within your family (i.e.: your Father getting older and your Mother dealing with Alzheimer’s). In my experiences, it’s taboo for people — especially a man– to talk about things of such a personal nature. Why share those situations with the public? Why the transparency? I ask because your commentaries pull no punches and yet you place personal life next to [your] opinions; that’s rare and something to be applauded. A lot of people deal with similar situations, but won’t speak about it. Few of us like dwelling on the fact that my parents are getting older.

I’m not sure I agree with your taboo assertion: I think times have (or are, at least) changing. I know a lot of people who are willing to discuss emotional issues, and I think that’s a very good thing (unless, of course, they become whiny bitches or won’t shut up when there’s something more interesting to talk about; or distract me from getting the bartender’s attention). I’ve had some emotional trauma in my life, and it helped me to talk about it: I think that should be encouraged.

More specifically: I had pictures to show, and without commentary I think they’re less effective. So what was said had to be said.

andrew murphy photograph of a man

Halifax, Nova Scotia! In many ways, I sense you and I share a similar view on the city and its art scene. I find this city to be very conservative in its dealings with social matters as well as the arts – and artists whom it supports. We’re nearing the end of 2011 and for the most part this city continues to promote itself as a land stuck in 17th Century. From your standpoint as photographer, do you feel this city is embracing your work as much as it could? What are your thoughts on the city’s dealing with artists?

Halifax is a tough town. Rather than embracing me, it gets all stiff and bony and pushes me away; a knee in the nuts isn’t uncommon. I can’t give myself away here: my attitude (and often my imagery, I think) is too hard-edged for Halifax. I don’t kiss ass to ad agencies for work, and I demand start-to-finish control of my shots. Clients and agencies here are accustomed to photogs who will accept micro-management and tolerate any intrusion into their work to get a cheque, and I won’t: I’m an artist whose work sometimes has commercial applications, not a commercial shooter who can produce art.

If I lived in a big city, I expect things would be different. But they might not be. But for sure there’d be more good Chinese food. The Korean food scene here is great right now, though.

andrew murphy woman smiling photography

andrew murphy sunglasses photograph

What sort of projects do you have in the works, right now?

I’m shooting a book for Amnesty International, based on the upcoming International Women’s Day show at the Mount. All the women who are speaking or performing at the show will sit and chat with me about their work or art, and I’ll shoot. Naturally, I won’t get paid anything, but it’s for a good cause.

I might be doing a large project on integrating the mentally and physically disabled into the workforce. I think it might end up producing a lot of really good portraiture.

andrew murphy woman and baby photography

Another project you have been involved with is helping raise awareness for STEPPING STONE, a not for group who offers outreach and support programs for sex workers in Halifax. I’ve been in this city for about ten years but didn’t know it existed until reading about it on your site. What can you tell me about the support group and how did you end up getting involved in fundraising?

Stepping Stone provides street-level support for sex-workers: they help sex-workers get access to medical and psychological care, and legal services; and give them a safe place to hang out when they might not have anyplace else. They also advocate for changes to the law to make sex-work legal (like it should be).

I’ve never understood why so many people are down on sex-work. Just about everybody likes to fuck, right? And some people (for whatever reason) can’t get what they want (or get anything) without paying. Why should the rest of us give a shit? Everybody seems to know the George Carlin line (but here it is for those who don’t): “Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn’t selling fucking legal?”

andrew murphy photography

I met Stepping Stone’s executive director on twitter. I offered my services should she ever need them, and we’ve become friends. When an auction was discussed, it seemed natural that I’d find something to shoot for them. Doing urban landscapes was obviously a departure for me, but I remember when that area was a hub of paid-sex activity, so it was really like I was doing portraits of people who aren’t there anymore.

For more information, check out:

What advice would you give a person who may be thinking about a career in photography?

Find a slightly different path to follow: being unrecognized and unrewarded isn’t so good. Maybe go into movies.

andrew murphy black and white photography

Movies!? Why do you think that would be a better path?

It would be better because movies require a lot of support and infrastructure: there’s money in that and the gov’t gets behind it.

We’ll wrap this up with one last question. Why aren’t you famous??

I’m not famous because I live in a little town, and I have no agent to promote me elsewhere. I don’t think there can be any other explanation. There are a lot of rich, famous shooters who aren’t as good as me. Fuck, look at that nightmare Annie Leibovitz! She’s about thirty years past her best-before date: all she’s good for now is a reality show; but they keep paying her. So somebody step up, make some money off me and get my work out there.

Twitter: @monochromegod


  • Matthew J November 16, 2011, 11:11 am

    I just want to take this opportunity to THANK Andrew Murphy (@monochromegod) for his contributions to the interview; your answers were on-point. You helped the article flow properly and I appreciate that. We’ll have to do another one.
    Your photography is amazing, too … keep up the great work.

    Secondly, I want to thank Ryan @ SensesLost for helping piece together the end result. You have an eye for design and it shows — *salute*
    We did it again. Let’s keep building momentum.

  • rizz November 16, 2011, 8:56 pm

    thats so nice!

  • Cardboard Jones November 24, 2011, 2:35 pm

    Great interview

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