How did you get into photography/what is your background?
My mother is a very good photographer and I remember being surrounded by lovely old Pentax camera gear from a very young age. One of my strongest childhood memories is sitting in a dark room watching Kodachrome 64 slides projected onto a screen, seeing the dust suspended in the beam of light, and hearing the ‘clunk-click’ as the next picture advanced.
I went to college to study graphic design, but somehow ended up taking photography as it looked more fun and easier! I was too stupid to go to uni so started working at a Birmingham design company, then after 5 years I started my own business, initially just doing graphics work. Eventually, with a lot of support from my friend and fellow local photographer Ian Winstanley, the design work disappeared and I’ve worked exclusively as a photographer for about the last 4 years, which isn’t that long in this industry, but feels it some days!
How would you describe your style of photography?
It takes a long time to become self aware of your photography and consider what style binds your work together. I’m only just getting a handle on it! I’m starting to see technically what I like, shallow depth of field, strong use of colour, people shot on location. The obvious commercial application of that style is lifestyle photography. This style suits my personality too, I much prefer flirting chatting with models in the sunshine instead to sitting in a dark studio lighting a dull inanimate object!!! Its very important all photographers shoot personal work for their books to develop a style, as your not going to find one while working for clients, as you objective is meeting their needs. 99% of the work on my site, I’ve shot for myself.
From a business & marketing perspective, Its important for commercial photographers to have a strong style and specialism, as we’re so close in the midlands to one of the best and largest photography markets in the world, London. The capital is full of photographers who excel in certain niche styles of photography. When big money is on the line, any client with a brain is going to want to hire the person who is an expert in the exact style of photography they want, not a jack of all trades who can do lots of styles of work to an OK standard. For example I was taken to Paris this spring to shoot an ad job for a french mobile phone company, just because the client felt my style was perfect for that specific project, which shows the effort some agencies put into sourcing the right photographer. Like all photographers, thats not to say I can’t point a camera at other types of work, I’ve done projects as diverse as shooting stop motion TV ads through to studio product shots of £100,000 diamond and gold stilettos in the last year. But I am happiest and market myself, as a lifestyle photographer.
What equipment do you use?
I’ve got Canon DSLRs for snappy stuff and a medium format Contax 645 with a Phaseone back for more considered work (which means I never use it!), plus lots of lighting, grip, video, computer gear. I try very hard not to get seduced into buying equipment, you know you have problems when you get excited by C-Stands! Nearly all my work is handheld, unlit and shot on just two lenses, 35mm & 85mm. For my style of photography, the more complex the gear needed to make a photo, the less I like it. A simple approach is best when shooting with people.
Who/What influences your work?
Initially from a professional viewpoint my mate Ian held a large influence. I didn’t spend much time assisting other photographers, probably as I was so rubbish at it! So having someone to give you an idea of how to deal with clients, cost jobs and develop your own style work is priceless. I certainly wouldn’t be working as a photographer without his help! Checkout his work at www.ianwinstanley.net
I do spend time looking at other photographers work, which some people don’t, as it gives me an idea of the standard I need to reach to get work. I’ve got folders full of bookmarked websites. For lifestyle photography the guys I admire are: Chris Sisarich, Pete Beavis, Gary Burchell, Nick Onken. Plus what photographer doesn’t want to shoot portraits like Nadav Kander?!
Do you have any ideas on how photography in Birmingham can be developed or ideas for events/projects?
Just getting local photographers together is a great thing. We exist in our own bubbles, many working from home. So to see each other would be cool!
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