University of Oklahoma football players in dramatic motion, glamorous models posing in haute couture and a handsome ballet dancer defying gravity above a London cityscape. Those are among the exciting variety of photographic images in Cody Giles’ inaugural exhibition at Studio Ink, 220 E. Main St. The show is up now through the end of the month.
Giles is a photojournalist for The Norman Transcript and Norman Magazine, where he’s also art director. Additionally, he’s a freelancer who works weddings, makes portraits and does fashion-related shoots. Giles loves what he does and takes pictures just for fun. He has a passion for it and the subjects before his lens.
Giles is relatively new to Norman and Oklahoma, but in his few years here, he has made many friends and developed meaningful community relationships. That personal success is probably based in part on an ebullient personality and also attractive devotion to his art, which becomes readily apparent when working with him.
“I like being able to take a moment and capture it, but also tell a story with it creatively,” Giles said. “I want the viewer to be able to create a narrative with my photos. You can story-tell with settings and lighting to make people look even more beautiful in a vintage atmosphere, creating a fantasy out of reality. Or in news photography, you tell the story with the photo.
"Getting behind the scene for a unique view is what I look for. If I’m in a crowd, I may shoot from behind some people’s heads, so it puts the viewer there. That gives them the perspective of actually being present for the event. It’s kind of like hunting. How can I get that shot that no one else will? And finding my personal white whale at every shoot.”
Giles began fishing for his photo equivalents of Moby Dick in his native Lone Star State. He’s a Texas A&M University-Commerce alum. Not surprisingly, Giles’ account of learning photography and being encouraged to excel in it involves friends.
“I met one of my best friends, Sean Berry, at college,” he said.
“He’s a photographer, and I thought he was just the coolest guy in the world. I hung around him on shoots and he convinced me to buy my own camera, a Nikon D40 with a kit lenses. I started shooting. Sean’s advice was just to keep shooting, which I did.”
Berry is now team photographer for the National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars.
“Sean also shoots for Topgolf and Fox Sports Southwest,” Giles said. “Everything I know about starting out in photography came from him, along with a desire to keep going.”
Giles went on to teach art at a small private school in Greenville, Texas. He came to Norman for an opportunity that evolved into his current job. Giles described an artistic awakening on arrival.
“I felt a creative flourish happen when I got here,” he said. “I could do what I wanted, shooting different things in Norman.”
Giles particular interests include taking pictures of live music performance and fashion. He’s been a workhorse the last few years at Norman Music Festival, Jazz in June and basically any dive bar or grand university concert hall where music is being made.
“Norman is fantastic,” Giles said. “I met a guy at my first big, live music event, which was Jazz in June. He was another photographer; we were talking and I told him I had just moved here. He said, ‘If you’re bored in Norman, it’s your fault.’ I lived here and started doing things and found there’s always something going on. That guy’s name was Doug Hill. It’s true and has been a motto for me. There’s always something going on in Norman.”
Giles considers fashion photography a high art form.
“But you can shoot it on a low budget,” he said. “I did a recent shoot with a model in Goodwill for $15.”
Giles is a world traveler, and some photos in his 45 piece show are from recent visits to Europe. Many, however, were taken in Norman, the city he has adopted that has embraced him, as well.