Meet LA-Based Photographer-and-Muse Couple, Danny and Clare
WORDS: NOAH PHAM | PHOTOS: ANTWAN VU
Photographer Danny Lane and model Clare Gillies are the modern love story of when an artist finds his perfect muse. They first met in New York, where a scruff-faced Danny went to shoot with the enigmatic model in her Chinatown apartment. One thing led to another and the next thing they knew, they had packed up all of their belongings and driven across America to the sunny side of Los Angeles to pursue their individual dreams.
Raised in New York, Danny’s an analog photographer who captures the warmth and serene moments of the everyday individual for publications such as i-D, Purple and Brooklyn Magazine. A small-town East Coast girl, Clare has a charming and quirky voice that bellows through her infectious smile. In addition to modeling, she’s also passionate about chasing a career as a voice-over actor for your favorite cartoon character.
We had a chance to enjoy some hospitality and a conversation with the two in their cozy Silver Lake home.
Tell us about yourselves.
Danny: We met shooting. I’m a photographer and Clare’s a model. We initially met through Instagram, shot, became friends for a while — hung out for a while — and started dating. Moved in together pretty fast and moved across the country from NY to LA.
Tell me about the first shoot you two had together.
C: Danny was living in Staten Island and I was in Chinatown. He came to my apartment for the shoot. It’s what he’s most comfortable with. It’s funny to have pictures of the first day we met, but not with him haha.
D: We took some pictures there and then soon after moved into her apartment!
How did you two end up on the West Coast? Was it a plan to come together or just to come down at one point in your life?
Clare: I think we both separately, before we met each other, wanted to come and live in LA at some point. After living together for about a year we both sort of agreed to do it together. It’s always nice to move somewhere with a partner. So here we are!
Let’s hear about how you both got into the fields you are in now.
D: I’m an actor first; I’ve always been an actor. Eight-to-10 years ago or so, I played a photographer in a movie, and wanted to know what I was talking about for the role. So I studied photography and fell in love with it. The director encouraged me by telling me that my work wasn’t too bad, so that was cool. I just became obsessed and stopped acting for a while. I shoot like crazy, all the time. But now I’m also acting again since we’re in LA.
C: I’m a full-time model. After college I moved to New York doing retail for a year or so. I quit to pursue being a voice-over actress. I kind of fell into modeling from social media. I just started booking jobs, freelancing, then moved here. It’s been about five years of just shooting for fun, creating.
How has it been as a couple with someone who is behind the camera and someone in front? Is there a dynamic that you two bounce ideas off one another?
D: Totally. We were just talking about this actually. I’m currently redesigning my website and we were just laughing. It looks like for 80% of the work I do, Clare is the model. When we have clients it’s pretty much like a package deal. C: Yeah when he gets a new camera he can test it out on me or when we get bored we can do something fun on the spot.
Danny, why did you start acting?
D: My parents put me into acting to be social and meet people. I could also sing so I did musical theater. As one of the stronger singers in my schools, I started getting leads in the plays. This was at like 8 years old. But yeah I did it to meet people but then really liked it a lot so kept doing it.
And you’re acting now?
D: I’m back baby. I’m taking classes.
What was the movie you played the photographer?
D: It was called “Secret Everything.” It was a small indie film. I don’t think it could be viewed online. I was hired by a good friend to do this role.
How did you get your own personal business going?
D: There’s no clever answer really. I’d hit up people on Tumblr, hit up my friends to shoot. I just tested all the time and was sending my stuff to magazines and online magazines. Then I started to shoot for modeling agencies and clients. It just kind of snowballed and it’s just such a hustle. Constantly emailing people, hitting people up on Instagram, asking “Hey can I shoot for you?” I feel that hustle will never stop.
What do you look for in models and photographers for collaborations and projects?
C: I look for someone who obviously has a good eye, good colors. Someone who can play is important. And if they can do something interesting, which is sort of hard to find in LA.
D: I just look for someone who seems cool and we can be friends or something, someone who seems approachable.
C: I think Danny likes to find people who aren’t exactly models, people who are pretty low-key — 200 followers or so but look interesting. I think those are his favorite models.
D: Yeah I think I’ve weirded some people out where I’d suggest shooting the client instead of the model haha.
What were your first tools for shooting?
D: I shoot only on film. When I first started I had a Sony camera. I found a film camera in my parent’s attic and I shot a few photos on that. My first proper camera was this underwater Canon. Film photos just had more of a personality and it was in touch with art. My dad then gave me a Canon AV-1. Now I have a Canon AE-1 and now I use an F1. I have a lot of Miranda cameras — my closet is full of cameras. But if I get hired for something I’ll always have the F1 on me. I also shoot on my medium-format camera, which makes incredible pieces.
You have a bunch of music equipment in your room, do you produce music?
D: It was definitely something I wanted to do. Through music, acting and photography, I’ve never had more heartbreak than in music. Or frustration. The industry kind of stinks. You get taken advantage of a lot. When you get in the room, there’s always someone telling you to do something different.
So you’re producing everything by yourself?
D: Yeah I produced a song for Clare, a couple of friends and other people.
Do you find yourself doing both photo and music equally — time-wise?
D: Music is just more of a hobby for me right now so I keep that in my back pocket. Photo is my job, so I mainly focus on that. I do want to direct too. I do it kind of messing around, making a short film or a music video that would suck, but I have to get into a more serious place with it. So when I’m shooting a video I’m doing everything: directing, doing lights, craft services. But if I were hired to do a video, I’m all for it.
What are your favorite movies?
C: “Amelie!” “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain.”
D: Man that’s tough. I think my favorite might be “Manhattan” by Woody Allen. I really love “Stardust Memories.” I love Woody Allen’s movies — Ingmar Burgman and John Cassavetes.
Are you two enjoying LA?
D: It’s okay. I just love New York! Whole heartedly. I feel at home, comfortable when I’m in New York. My family’s there. I don’t feel super inspired in LA. New Yorkers make me laugh and they have just so much personality. The guy at the deli, the lady at the bank, the performer at the subway station.
Do you think you’d stay out here referencing what you like in LA compared to NY?
D: I hope to go back whenever Clare wants to haha.
C: I want to be a voice-over actress. That’s what I’m trying to do for animation and LA is where it happens.
Let’s say it pops off, would you be able to do that in NY also?
C: Of course! I’d love to be bi-coastal. But this isn’t happening like, next week.
What inspires your work?
D: I’m always inspired by a good movie. That fuels my fire. Like seeing something amazing on the screen makes me want to get up and do something. Good art is the most inspiring thing. Like a good photo book, and seeing how amazing it is pushes me to step my shit up. When you see people doing good stuff, it makes you want to do likewise.