Top of Aspen Mountain.

Top of Aspen Mountain.

Few of us have the opportunity to get an extended, windowless aerial perspective on the world, to hover above its cacophony and bustle and, released from that ceaseless din, perceive the patterns and beauty the singular perspective of being aloft can offer. Los Angeles photographer Gray Malin, however, succeeds in both perceiving and capturing these uncommon, charming, and colorful perspectives on park loungers, beach lovers, ski disciples, city dwellers, and single swimmers. He does all this from the cockpit of a roving helicopter, no less. (sidenote: there are loads and loads of fun shots of his feet dangling from the door of a moving helicopter.)

Gray's high-contrast, vibrant photographs reflecting the unique beauty of New York, Australia, Bolivia, Italy, Greece, Namibia, Cape Town, Antarctica and then some, adorn the walls of countless designers and photography bon vivants (and his best-selling images are emblazoned on beach towels and umbrellas, bikinis, aprons, and Iphone cases, lest you prefer Gray Malin photos-to-go). 

We first stumbled upon his photography several months ago while attending an animal rescue gala here in Los Angeles, where one of Gray's photos was up for auction. We quickly joined his awe-inspiring Instagram following of 149,000 fans and are beyond thrilled he was willing to be featured in our Lily Spindle SHAPERS series!

xx - Rebecca + Deb

Your photography vibrates with color, joy, and life, whether it’s capturing the populous of Aspen mountain skiers or the understated humor in a pair of llamas adorned with balloons. Is your attitude relatively joyful when you’re capturing these images? And when you look at them later, framed and hung in new and different environs, what emotions do they conjure for you?

I definitely aspire to create artwork that evokes joy, so it’s accurate to say that my attitude while shooting is positive. I love seeing the work in it’s intended home, the walls of one’s home, so it’s always a happy moment to see it truly come to life in client’s homes.

Gray Malin + Stella, his beloved rescue dog.

Gray Malin + Stella, his beloved rescue dog.

You and your husband have a dog (of course). Can you tell us a bit about how she came to you - how old, name, et cetera? Is she a fabulous model for your photos?

We adopted Stella about 5 years ago, and she has been brought nothing but happiness to our home. And, yes! She’s a great little model. We’ve worked together a few times..haha!

Central Park Lawn. 

Central Park Lawn. 

Maroubra Bay Swimmers.

Maroubra Bay Swimmers.

Who are your three favorite photographers and could you describe each of their bodies of work using two adjectives for each?

1) Slim Aarons - Classic & Luxury

2) Cristo and Jeanne-Claude - Forward thinking and structural

3) David LaChapelle - Editorial Fine Art

If you could have breakfast with one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? And what would you order?

I’d love to meet Martha Stewart.  We’d share something delicious inspired by one of her recipes, perhaps a quiche and talk decor and entrepreneurship.

Carry-on Cocktail Sprinkle Kit? Get one  here .

Carry-on Cocktail Sprinkle Kit? Get one here.

Velvet or Mohair? Stripes or Polka Dots?
Velvet. Stripes.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Is there such a thing as a late morning person? I’d have to say I’m a bit more of a morning person, as I love to get in exercise before hitting the ground running for the work day.

What's currently on your bedside table?

A yummy smelling candle I got from Collette in Paris, while I was there for an event last spring.

What would we be surprised to know about your design proclivities?

Not sure if it’s much of a surprise, but I love fresh flowers. Whenever possible, I like to incorporate into decorating as they just add that extra pop of color and softness to a room.

Hamptons Lone Swimmer.

Hamptons Lone Swimmer.

La Dolce Vita; Positano.

La Dolce Vita; Positano.

Lily Spindle’s SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series. Enjoy!

SHAPERS /// Todd Squires

Take one glance at Todd Squires' Instagram account (along with the considerable 46.5k followers already enchanted by him) and you're immediately a smitten kitten, enraptured by his urban architectural shots from any and all parts of Southern California, his irreverent and charmingly deprecatory selfies, his ingenious portraits of the beautiful humans he intimately knows or has just moments ago met for the very first time, and the magical captures of his constant and steady companion - Sonny the handsome Labrador mutt mix. He owns an independent framing shop here in Los Angeles, Fourth Corner Conservation Framing, and, as a photographer and the son of a lithographer, totally gets the artistry of framing and his now ten-year-old shop is a go-to for the heavy hitters of the art world like, ahem, Ed Ruscha. Todd also happens to be a lovely person, in addition to wildly talented, and we're honored to feature him as the first profile of many in our SHAPERS* series.

Ghost Bike, Todd Squires

Could you tell us a little bit about your framing company, Fourth Corner Conservation? How long you've been in business, who some of your favorite clients are, your most fun project you've worked on?

I’ve had my business Fourth Corner Conservation Framing, Inc. since 2003.  The idea behind starting it is to provide a nice experience for people who want to feel safe about the way have their artwork framed.  My approach is rather minimal and simple, and I make sure that the artwork will be protected from the outside elements that can cause future deterioration by using only archival materials.  A lot of people are afraid of going to the framers because they think they’ll be taken advantage of, or make the wrong decision with some sort of pretentious framing  designer.  I try to make it as easy and friendly as possible, using only the simplest explanations and making sure everyone understands the whole picture (no pun intended). I also enjoy woodworking with my hands and making a lot of the frames myself.  We hand join most of the frames, sand them down and finish them ourselves. I suppose there’s a certain pride to that.

You're pretty much an Instagram superstar and have IG meet-ups with fellow Instagrammers throughout California, yes? What makes Instagram so special in its outreach and sense of community, support, and creative energy?

I love Instagram because it has helped me rediscover my love of photography and has brought so much positivity to my life.  It started out as fun little picture sharing app, and soon turned into a creative obsession.  It has made me open my eyes to the world and see things a little clearer.  I also notice and appreciate so many more things. Soon after I started using Instagram, I noticed there were these things called instameets, where a bunch of like-minded lovers of photography (and the app in general) would get together and meet each other and explore the city together.  The fact that a social app can actually get people outside to be more creative, socialize, exercise and see more, I think is a true testament to the developers of the app.  I also love to use Instagram as a curator for my work when I have actual exhibitions.  I naturally only post photos I truly love and that resonate well with me.  Instagram helps tell me which ones resonate well with others, thereby allowing me to create a great comprehensive show.

How long have you had Sonny and has he always been such an outstanding model? Describe Sonny's personality and what makes him such an amazing companion.

From the moment I laid my eyes on my dog Sonny and stuck my hand through the bars at the Pasadena Humane Society, I knew he was the dog for us.  That was about 14 years ago when he was only 1 year old.  He is now 15 and still just as cute.  He of course has majorly slowed down over the past year, but he still maintains this playful spirit and nature that keeps me feeling alive too.  


When he was a lot more flexible, could hear, and was more athletic, it was easy to get him to run or sit or pose in all the ways I needed him to so I could take pictures of him.  He was always happy to do it too because of the attention it brought him.  There were also a lot of treats nearby too.  He has always been such a good listener and loved having the camera on him.  He especially loved it when I would set the camera up so I could be in the shot with him doing whatever silly or serious thing we needed to do to make a great shot.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I’m both a morning person and a night owl.  It all depends on when my creative juices are flowing.  I’ve been known to stay up late continuously working on my own personal writing, editing photographs, or editing my video art that I used to do. Mornings are when my mind and body are freshest, so I like to use that time to run or hike or exercise.  I’d try to trick my body before it totally woke up into doing active things, and it’s been pretty successful so far.

Name your top three favorite contemporary photographers and describe their work using one word.

Nan Goldin  — intimate
Catherine Opie — epic
Todd Hido — mysterious


What are some of the things that influence you/your work and your aesthetic?

My influences change and stretch all over the place.  I am generally influenced by great philosophers who encourage people to think for themselves. Creatively, I can’t deny that Ed Ruscha has had a profound effect on my work.  His style, with light or object invading entire spaces from a corner, or his effective angles in his photographic documentations of his time in our city of angels. I think I’ve been influenced a lot by Rothko and his blends of color, and the way he might change perceptions of solid blocks of those colors by simply having them intrude into each other.  There are a myriad of filmmakers (Kurosawa, Kubrick, Wes Anderson, Orson Welles, the list goes on and on) and their cinematographer counterparts who have all shaped my vision of the world and the different ways you can present it through a lens.

What is your favorite room in the house and what surprises would we find there?

My favorite room in the house is the living room because it’s the place where all our friends mostly sit and talk and have a good time.  I also love the little office that is my mancave. It’s where all my technical creativity comes through.  The only surprise about the office is that it looks extremely cluttered regardless of the fact my mind is very structured.

If you could have lunch with one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? And where would you dine?

I’d love to have lunch with Paul Rudd or Louis CK. If Hal’s were still around, I’d love to have lunch with them there.  One factor of my personality is deeply rooted in humor.  I think it’s actually one of my driving characteristics.  Both of these actor/comedians have brought so much joy to my life with their dry wit and hilarity.  I always wonder what it’d be like to just sit down with either one of them and see where our conversations would take us.

*Lily Spindle's SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.