Art has always been a fixture in travel photographer Cassandra Gray’s life.
From a young age, she was known to use her parent’s flip phones as cameras, or use the simple “point and click” cameras throughout her middle school and high school years.
During her time at the University of Denver, Gray said a friend saw something special in her and gifted her an old DSLR camera.
Like many photographers, she learned through trial and error.
“I first had to work with angles and poses,” Gray said, explaining that with only her “point and shoot camera,” she couldn’t learn settings early on in the learning process.
In college, Gray took a lot of walks for inspiration as she learned new settings.
“I took a photography class in college. That professor taught us that every kind of photography was art,” Gray said.
“You don’t have to have a nice camera to do photography. It’s more about how it’s expressed to the audience and how it’s interpreted than the equipment used.”
Gray grew up in Montrose, but has lived in many different places and cultures.
A travel enthusiast, Gray spent her study abroad year in the Netherlands, where her love and skill in photography blossomed.
Gray visited 13 different countries during her time in the Netherlands, finding inspiration for some of her favorite pieces.
“I loved diving into the local cultures,” Gray said. “Being allowed to photograph them throughout their daily lives was an amazing experience for me.”
One of Gray’s favorite photos was taken in Bruges, Belgium.
From the horse-drawn carriages, swans and ponds, the country looked like a fairy tale.
The photo featured a local standing near a city square in front of a pizza restaurant, looking out into the night.
Another photo was taken in Peru, where Gray was able to capture a moment of a local sitting on a side street with her alpaca.
Gray’s favorite moment yet was captured in Barcelona, Spain.
“When I was in Europe, there were so many churches. I love churches, but after a while, they begin looking the same,” Gray said.
“I had a big debate on whether I’d see the La Sagrada Familia. I decided to go and I walked inside and was just blown away. It was so peaceful, and I felt the closest to God than I had in a long time. It was breathtaking.”
The church has stained glass windows that stretch across the whole building.
“Every piece of the building is a piece of art. I thought I’d be there 30 minutes and found myself there four hours later. I wanted to capture the beauty and peace I felt there. It was hard to do because it looked nice but it was hard to translate the emotion I felt,” Gray said.
It took her a while, but Gray was able to capture her emotions inside the image.
For Gray, photography may be about capturing a moment in a single image, but it’s also an art that looks different for everyone.
“Art is just a form of expression of your personality and there are so many different types of art,” Gray said.
Art is “whatever you do with that creative side of your brain,” Gray said.
When she’s not doing photography, Gray enjoys exercising her creativity doing floral arrangements, oil paintings, crafts, and pottery.
For Gray, art is a product of taking something and making it your own.
“Photography is how you see the image,” Gray said.
“Someone else might see the subject differently or even from a different angle.”
Gray prefers a more “realistic touch” on her photos, preferring to keep any editing to a minimum.
Instead, she focuses on making the most use of her camera settings to best capture a moment.
Having just finished her masters degree, Gray plans on making the most of her time by exercising her creativity, starting with “daily shots.”
“Sometimes I get in the habit of thinking my only worthy photos are the ones taken on international trips, but the small moments are just as important.”
Gray tries to go on one international trip per year, but COVID restrictions have brought her plans to a halt.
Capturing the moments of daily life is her next venture in photography.
“They’re a part of you,” Gray said.