Behind The Lens: Gray Malin shares the secrets behind some of his most memorable shots

Fine art photographer Gray Malin shares the secrets behind some of his most memorable shots from his travels throughout the U.S. 

Dallas-raised photographer Gray Malin caught the art world’s attention with his now iconic Prada Marfa series. He’s since gone on to shoot around the globe, from the slopes of St. Moritz to the deserts of Namibia. Despite his globetrotting, he still finds plenty to capture his imagination right at home. Here, he shares with All Roads North some of his favorite images from his travels throughout the U.S.

Central Park, New York City

Central_Park__New_York_City (Gray Malin)

Like with all of my aerial shots, I flew high above the city in a doorless helicopter to capture Manhattan from above. Central Park is exquisite on foot but being in a helicopter and getting the full scope of how much land it spans and how much greenery is in the middle of one of the most bustling cities in the world is unforgettable.  

Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, Santa Barbara

The Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club is such a glamorous, exclusive place tucked away within the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara. It has such a rich history and upon visiting it for the first time, I was immediately transported to a different time, convinced I needed to create a series that both paid tribute to a vintage and extremely luxurious period of the club’s history as well as put a modern spin on the project. For this image,  I used vintage costumes, evoking a feeling of the “Golden Age,” and played with elements like the umbrellas, stripes and colors to create an effortlessly relaxed yet aesthetically structured image. 

East Hampton, NY

Shooting every location is thrilling, but from the beginning I’ve been drawn to shooting beach aerials. The vantage point is unlike any other. I love seeing the patterns and colors below, how the coastal terrain looks up against the water and the shapes that umbrellas and structures become while looking at them from above. This image perfectly sums up the Hamptons: laid back yet chic. 

Hole 10, Pebble Beach

The success of my aerial images from my Pebble Beach and Big Sur series was such a great surprise.  I wanted to shoot these images for a while, but logistics were very hard to work out. Finally, last year, my team and I coordinated this shoot and I could not be more pleased with the results. I think this image, especially, captures the entire feel and incredible scenery of Pebble Beach, with the greenery of famous golf courses right up against the beautiful cliffs and rocky shores in this area. These images are perfect and nostalgic for any golf lover who has visited or hopes to visit this part of the California coast. 

Poolside at La Follia, Palm Beach

I shot this image at a private residence in Palm Beach that is an unbelievable property unlike any I have ever experienced before.  For this image, I wanted to celebrate the glamour of the property as well as create a vintage moment that makes the viewer feel like they are experiencing this day at this pool as well. This image, in many ways, was an homage to the famous Slim Aarons photo “Poolside Glamour ” which depicts two women in glorious 1960’s attire enjoying their cocktails by the pool. 

Rainbow Cowboy Hats, Marfa

Marfa is a very unique place. It’s located in the middle of nowhere Texas, and the Prada installation by Elmgreen and Dragset creates a very whimsical feel, especially with the background of this empty desert. Growing up in Dallas, I knew about the installation and about the tiny but prosperous art community in Marfa. The first time I visited this installation I was immediately inspired and I knew I needed to create something just as whimsical to pay tribute to it. The series was based off of the idea of the Prada installation being an actual functioning Prada store. I imagined who would shop at this store. Would their selection of merchandise be more geared to cowboys? 

Two Cowboys, Marfa

This shot was actually not planned. It was one of those in-the-moment images that ended up being a favorite of mine. We were setting up for a day of shooting and two local cowboys came to bring a mule for the project. It was sunrise and I noticed how incredible these two individuals in traditional Western garb looked against the layered sky and Prada building in the background. I said, “don’t move,” and got a few shots with this composition. I think so many people resonate with this image as it is a juxtaposition of high fashion with a desert environment and unexpected subjects, allowing the image to feel whimsical and evoke humor.  

Beverly Hills Hotel, CA

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over ten years, yet I am still so giddy every time I visit The Beverly Hills Hotel. The property’s history and legendary guests really made my project at this property extremely special. The red-carpet entry represents all things that the Beverly Hills Hotel is associated with —celebrities and high-profile guests that have steadily visited since the hotel’s opening, high-end amenities and service, and an experience unlike any other. This series was focused on reimagining the hotel in a vintage framework, and this image evokes the feeling of when you’ve just arrived at an incredible destination, knowing you are about to spend your day relaxing by the pool.

You’re Always Welcome at The Parker, Palm Springs

Many of the images from this series, Gray Malin at the Parker, are actually in my children’s book Be Our Guest! My entire vision for this series was creating a world where the exotic animals were guests and employees of The Parker hotel, giving the images a fun and playful vibe which lend themselves to imagining a whole story surrounding them. This shot is at the entrance of the hotel and is a perfect combination of colorful props, beautiful design and, of course, the marvelous elephant. We worked with experienced animal trainers for this shoot, so this took some of the pressure off of working with the animals, however it was still challenging and took a lot of patience to get this shot.

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