Can you remember the first time you picked up a camera and the picture you took?
I can’t remember exactly, but I used to wander around my garden when I was a child and take pictures of my cats. Then when I was a teenager I took pictures of the dead mice my cats left around the house. Then I took self portraits for a while as part of the MySpace generation, all on a little digital silver camera.
Has there been any pivotal moments, perhaps early at school, or a family member that made you realise you wanted to pursue it as a long term path?
Well, as a teenager I was miserable, very depressed, having a horrid time at school and generally feeling sorry for myself 99% of the time. But something happened, when I took the first few pictures I was proud of, I found that it cheered me up, I would go and sit in the computer rooms at lunchtime on my own and just teach myself Photoshop by editing my photos. I would really enjoy that, and there was a really nice teacher who was also into photography, and who helped me with some things I was stuck on. The mixture of doing something positive and an adult actually trusting me and egging me on to improve myself and do better acted as a sort of wake-up call, making me realise that in order to get out of my depression I could focus on photography, and it would bring back feelings of pride I hadn’t experienced since I was much younger.
Why fashion? Why not international photojournalism, Music, art portraits etc…?
Actually, I really love photojournalism, music and art portraits, and I think I would personally like to include these in my “fashion” work as much as possible. There’s nothing wrong with conceptual work. As for photojournalism, I tend to photograph my friends and lovers and my general life as and when I feel like it, usually when I have a camera in my bag (which as a photographer you can get a bit paranoid about with an SLR, I need to buy a smaller one). The only reason I don’t shoot internationally is because I haven’t left London or lived anywhere else other than England my whole life. I haven’t travelled. But I want to, desperately.
What sort of equipment do you use? Do you prefer film or digital depending on schedule?
I always shoot digital because I find you can recreate the film effect a lot quicker and it’s kind of better for clients to get contact sheets and editing notes at a more industry-paced amount of time, things are so fast these days, people posting previews of the shoots while they’re still happening, everything has to be done NOW. It’s a bit scary, actually. I just use a Canon 450d and the sun. If I’m in a studio I’ll use studio lights, whichever ones I need. To be honest, I would love to have a 5d or a 7d, but until then I think the equipment isn’t important. I once had a violin teacher who said “if you learn to play on a crap violin, when you pick up a Stradivarius you’ll sound incredible” – which is the same for cameras I reckon. People use expensive equipment as an excuse for not having an imagination these days, it kind of sucks.
Do you have any peer’s work you find interesting?
Paulina Otylie Surys works on print and paints over her work to give it this amazing, beautiful effect of a painting. She really has an amazing vision and I sort of envy her as her images are SO inspiring they make me want to buy prints and stick them up all over my wall.
Grant Thomas has been a really great inspiration to me, he is a dear friend of mine who I met (probably still drunk) after a house party one day. He has a really memorable style and taught me a lot by bringing me on shoots and teaching me a bit of editing. I think watching people shoot is a real eye opener, because people all work so differently.
What do you love about, working, living and studying in London? Is there anywhere else you could see yourself eventually?
I love the tube, like anyone else. I love Fashion Week, it’s like watching a play by Tartuffe, all of the insane characters and the delusion. Everyone wobbling on the cobbles in tranny shoes. Oxford Street is nice, in the evening, with a red cup from Starbucks. And there’s always somewhere to buy fags at 3 in the morning. But I’d really love to go to America, there’s more life there. More optimism. Everytime I go to America I find myself feeling really touched that people can be so upbeat in their day-to-day lives, strangers complement each other, people are always ready to interact and help each other, whereas the moment you touch
down in England again you get greeted by people who seem tired of life. I can’t explain it, but in America I am a completely different person.
Are there any other creative careers you may pursue in the future?
If I had the drive, I would love to get into film. I love horror and making people feel uneasy, it’s great. I’d love to make something really creepy. I’ve been trying to write a book for the past 2 years but keep getting embarrassed and putting it off, I’ve got about 20 drafts of the first chapter, I might just string them all together and make a book of first chapters, that would be quite funny. I suppose Art Direction would be quite cool as well, but then it’s a bit sad that you need an “art director” just to try and make a shoot less crap, because nobody on it understands the concept.
What advice would you give anyone who is about to venture into the industry concerning the sometimes harsh reality but also exciting benefits of fashion photography?
On a photographic level, I would say learn to edit. Less is more. I keep seeing people using Motion Blur and Invert and all sorts of cheap tricks to try and make their photos look more interesting, but it’s naff. Nobody uses it in the industry and we all know what you’re trying to hide underneath it, a bad picture. Focus on the light, Photographer = Light Painter, notice how much of a difference it makes photographing someone from a different angle. Experiment, buy a new lens, Google people, I used to sit in Borders going through endless magazines and jotting down the names of photographers who had shot editorials in them, when I got home and Googled them I found a whole new level of work I was inspired by, and it raised my game because nobody else ever bothers researching that much anymore, they all just look at Tim Walker and Mario Testino, it’s boring. Look for something different.
On a personal level, with fashion, know your industry. It’s hard, people are bitchy, and that won’t change. But you slowly realize it’s the bitchy people that aren’t actually getting anywhere in the industry, they’re all bitter wannabes. Work hard, don’t spend endless hours scrolling through Facebook and getting upset because everyone says they’re doing well, they’re usually lying. I found I went through a really bad period last year when I kept reading twitter feeds like “such a good shoot today” “shooting such-and-such famous model tomorrow!” and getting so depressed because I kept asking “why them? Why not me?” Well, thinking like that will really get you nowhere. Everyone’s in such a rush to get somewhere in the industry these days, Eleanor Hardwick rose to fame at 14 through Flickr, Damon Baker is 20 years old and has shot Agyness Deyn, Lily Cole etc. It’s really annoying having this generation of young people doing really well, and feeling old at the age of 21 (like myself). But you have to remember, the really REALLY good photographers, they’re all at their peak around 40-50. They’ve spent years perfecting their art and working bloody hard to get to that level, and it’s not going to come overnight. So keep working, contact model agencies, contact make-up artists, make friends, be nice, treat your models well, buy them lunch and talk to them as a person. They are people. Just keep your mind set on yourself and what YOU think, and you’ll find yourself getting better and better at photographing, editing, liaising with people, forming relationships, your confidence will grow and before you know it you’ll get great opportunities landed right in your lap. Take them.
“Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.” – Basil King.