PHOTOGRAPH a quarterly online magazine for creative professionals featured some of my work in their recent issue 4. You can download it here and I’ve included the interview below. Massive props to the mighty David DuChemin for creating PHOTOGRAPH.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST PICK UP A CAMERA? WHAT IS IT ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY THAT DRAWS YOU THE WAY IT DOES?
I started taking an interest in photography in 2004. I wanted to take cool pictures of my friends and our adventures and so I bought myself a Canon AE-1 to use casually. There are two things about photography that I find immensely compelling: first, the places and situations where I end up when creating photographs, because having a camera in your hands is a powerful medium for curiosity and a wonderful excuse to do some crazy things; and second, the satisfaction that comes from creating a new and amazing photograph is simply sublime. Fortunately, the feeling is fleeting and it isn’t long before I’m itching to create a new and better photograph. The cycle of creativity is never ending and utterly exciting to me.
YOUR PORTFOLIO IN THIS ISSUE IS DRAWN FROM YOUR COMMERCIAL WORK, BUT DO YOU SEE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN COMMERCIAL WORK AND CREATIVE WORK?
I think there is a distinction between commercial versus personal/creative work, but I think the distinction lies in the process rather than the final imagery. Commercial work often involves working with other creatives, from the art directors to the clients themselves. The process is collaborative, harnessing the talents of the team and navigating multiple visions for the project. Stylistically, I like to think that my personal and commercial work have much in common. Fortunately, I get hired for my style, so I get to create work that I love.
HOW DO THE CREATIVE NEEDS AND PROCESSES OF A COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHER DIFFER FROM THOSE OF A PHOTOGRAPHER LESS CONCERNED ABOUT CLIENT INTERESTS?
I think we hear this all the time, but it is so true and so important: commercial success comes from creating work that you love. If you try to create work specifically for what you think clients might want or need, then you are cheating yourself of success. That said, one’s work has to be relevant to your target markets.
I think the key difference between the process of a commercial photographer versus a non-commercial photographer is the need to balance the client’s vision with your own vision for the project. Clients have a vision for their project and that vision needs to be followed. Equally, I think clients who really get the process of working with an artist also expect the photographer to come to the table with fresh ideas and creativity. That’s the exciting part, when your collaborative input elevates the project to the next level.
YOU’RE CREATING WORK THAT MUST TAKE MORE THAN JUST SHOWING UP ON LOCATION WITH A CAMERA; GIVE ME A SENSE OF HOW MANY PEOPLE IT TAKES TO PULL OFF SOME OF THESE PROJECTS.
As you can imagine, the level of production varies depending on the project. For example, we created the kayaking photographs with a crew of six people, including my production manager and assistants. There is also the client team, which can vary widely. I just wrapped a shoot in Borneo for a client and we had a crew of 12. On other projects, like the pot of gold project, it was just the talent, my assistant and me.
WHAT KIND OF GEAR ARE YOU BRINGING TO THESE LOCATION SHOOTS?
Gear will vary depending on the shoot. If I am photographing skies and landscape plates for composite images, I may only use a simple DSLR camera package, such as a Nikon D4/D800 and a 24-70mm f/2.8, plus tripod. On the flip side, for a recent shoot we did in Patagonia, we had six cases of gear, grip and lighting. I like to transport gear in—and work out of—Pelican Cases. You can throw them in the back of pick-up trucks, they can bump around or get wet, and you know everything inside is safe, so long as it is properly packed and padded.
YOU SEEM TO HAVE AN AFFINITY FOR WATER AND, MORE SPECIFICALLY, THE OCEAN; IT PLAYS STRONGLY IN YOUR COMMERCIAL WORK. DOES IT FEATURE AS STRONGLY IN YOUR PERSONAL WORK?
Water is something that keeps turning up in my work and my ideas for personal work. It isn’t intentional. It just so happens that a lot of work I have done has had a strong connection to the ocean. I am a big lover of skies and being on or near the ocean is always a great place to capture epic skies and atmospherics. That said, I am actually working on several new personal projects that are deliberately dry.
WHAT LIGHTS YOUR FIRE CREATIVELY? WHERE DO YOU FIND YOURSELF DRAWING FRESH INSPIRATION?
Here is a quick list:
I am a massive fan the Hudson River School of American painters like Albert Bierstadt, et al. I also spend a lot of time looking at the great European landscape painters like Turner.
Music is one of my biggest sources of inspirationand really important to my personal creative process. I get most of my personal project ideas by listening to music on airplanes. Intelligent drum and bass is big for me, like LTJ Bukem and Hospital Records.
Recently I have gotten a lot of inspiration from children’s storybooks. I read to my children every night and some of the books out there are just so richly imaginative and stunningly illustrated it’s hard not to be inspired. In fact, as I type this, I am heading to Cornwall in England to shoot the landscapes for a series that draws its inspiration from a classic children’s book, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.”
THE PATH TO DOING WHAT YOU DO FULL-TIME IS A DAUNTING BUT ATTRACTIVE ONE. WHAT KIND OF WISDOM DO YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER PHOTOG- RAPHERS WANTING TO MAKE THE MOVE FROM HOBBYIST TO WORKING—OR SO-CALLED PRO—PHOTOGRAPHER? WHAT DID THAT PATH LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? ANY PITFALLS YOU RECOMMEND AVOIDING?
I recently wrote a blog post that touched on this topic. Here are a few things that I think are critical:
Be willing to take risks and always try to move past your comfort zone.
Remain open to new ways of seeing and doing.
Stay true to your passions. The primal drivers that make you want to create are the foundation of your creativity and your success.
Know when to pivot. Knowing when to stop and change direction is as important as persevering and being determined.
Vision! Find out who you are as an artist and then cultivate your style.