What first drew you to photography?
When I was a child, at school I loved to draw. In fact I wasn’t bad at all and was offered a place at ‘Art Camp’ each summer to develop my ability. Sadly I was from a very low income family and my Mother couldn’t afford to let me go as there were expenses and my artistic development stopped with that missed opportunity. It of course stayed within me, the desire to compose an Image. Years later I discovered photography, in film of course, and I was awful. So again I set it to one side until about seven years ago when I bought my first DSLR. Times were different so I invested in education, first a diploma and then I started a BA in Photography and threw myself into it proper. Education is everything.
What is your favorite photographic memory, and why?
It will no doubt be one of several occasions where I spent time with any of a few photographers who inspire me. In 2012 I spent a week in the Lake District photographing and learning from Charlie Waite and Damien Demolder (then editor of Amateur Photographer) Those times and others like them did more for me and my craft than any fancy camera, kit or software will. Those were incredibly nutritious times for learning and improving. For a week we ate, drank, talked, walked and slept photography. We discussed the greats, we examined work, we critiqued and got critiqued. It was an incredibly intense week and my learning curve shot through the roof. I came home a better Photographer for sure.
Who is your favourite photographer, and why?
Oh I have many, not one favorite because so many inspire me in different ways. It may be Bresson or Koudelka for there brilliance with story or vivid descriptions of people in place. Or McCullins desperate war images which cut into my bones. I turn to Helmut Newton for shock or Brandt and Blakemore for form and structure. So many to mention and even amateurs inspire me, often the simplest of iPhone images can take me aback if its got content that speaks.
What would be your ideal camera, and where would you take it?
I’m not a kit boff, I used to be. Like so many I went through that kit hoarding phase then realised it was all about me and my craft and these days I just use a simple Fujifilm digital rangefinder for most things. I’ve had the high res full frames etc, but they ended up just being weight to carry. I have improved through going back to basics and concentrating on one lens and moving my feet, exploring all dimensions of my subject, getting intimate with it. I would like a day with a large format film camera however, and I would take it to Namibia.
Tell us what you enjoy most about your own work, and what has inspired you recently?
Humble bloke alert! I am never satisfied with my work, tomorrows image I may be pleased with, next week I will see its flaws. But that is good because that pushes me. I like that I don’t pressure myself by getting into commercial photography, or family stuff like Weddings etc. I have done all that but it doesn’t inspire me like capturing things on the fly does. That work served a purpose but these days I would rather create something that a stranger might want on their wall. That way I have communicated with them in the way I wanted to, they have a view through my eyes I have showed them things how I see them rather than something I churned out from a list of to do’s.
Do you have bursts of creativity – and when/where are you most creative?
No, I seldom go looking for an image. I just put myself in places and let the images find me, they always do. If commissioned I of course have to push myself into the creative phase, I pre-visualise like everyone else. I have to but I am instinctive and always leave a good chunk of time to ‘go with the flow’ and I often find my best work comes that way.
What are the most important elements of a successful photo?
A successful photograph is what it was meant to be. Meaning it achieves its purpose. Ok, that’s a bit woolly I know but you asked me about a ‘successful’ Photo so if it did what it was meant to do, it was a success, right? Now on the other hand if we ask what elements of a Photograph will capture my attention, please me, inspire me. Well that’s all about its emotional power. That could be the strength of its ability to move me, perhaps a powerful or controversial subject. Or it could be good capture of great beauty. So, its about my favourite word, content. However even the photograph of anything captivating wont work unless it is made in such a way that it works with that subject matter. So its about good craft and I appreciate images of things that are done differently, unconventional, quirky even.
Tell us about your favourite photograph.
Like favorite photographers there is no single ‘one’. I did a similar Interview for Amateur Photographer Magazine last year. You can read it here and I refer to one of my favorites there.
How do you spend a creative day?
I will walk, wonder, follow my eye, listen to my gut and really think hard about my composition, structure form and content. Best of all I do this in good company and try to learn from and teach others. I find mentoring students particularly rewarding and its great for driving home good craft into your own head simply by showing others. It gets you really thinking as you have to pass it on in an inspirational way. When one has to explain or justify ones approach and/or craft it drives it deeper into yourself, you actually grow too.