Why and how did you end up doing what you’re doing?
I was always interested in both art and the more technical/practical subjects at school. My mother is a florist and my father an engineer, and subconsciously or genetically I’ve ended up with sensibilities that fall somewhere between the two. I was unsure which way to go after school, and it was on an art foundation course that I discovered that photography satisfied me more completely than any of the other subjects.
Where did you attend college, what did you study there, and why?
I did a Higher National Diploma in photography at the Kent Institute of Art and Design. I got a place through the clearing system because neither course I’d applied to had accepted me. With hindsight I think it was because my portfolio just wasn’t up to the level of the other applicants, largely because the art foundation course I’d completed didn’t have a photography tutor (you weren’t supposed to major in photography, but three of us were persistent so they let us hang around the darkrooms under the eye of the technician). I’m very glad to have done an HND, its remit was vocational and it taught us just enough to get an assistant’s position, which was exactly what I needed.
Which of your commercial projects has been particularly challenging and why?
I’ve recently completed a job that involved photographing crops and the elements of nature that can cause stress to them. It was an unexpected challenge to make photographs of plants that could pass the eye of a Malaysian rice farmer as being the pinnacle of a healthy plant. I learnt not to make assumptions about someone else’s business...
What is something you consider essential to your work?
Well I know it sounds obvious, but that would be a camera. What I mean is that it’s very easy these days to make pictures that don’t adhere to the visual rules of photography. I happen to like working within these aesthetics though and so even if I’m working on a job that requires some kind of comping or multiple-image work I always try to give the final image a genuine photographic sensibility. I don’t mean putting a fake lens flare on a shot or comping a film border on a picture. I mean that as a photographer I appreciate the subtleties of the language of photography.
Who or what has had a lasting influence on your creative start and development as a photographer?
The most influential person on my creative beginnings was David Stewart (www.davidstewwwart.com). I was his assistant for two and a half years and I learnt a huge amount from him both personally and professionally. And as for development... if I had to choose I’d say Eadweard Muybridge. I discovered his work at just about the right time.
Has any one job significantly shaped your direction, and if so how and why?
Yes. I did a shoot for the first issue of 125 Magazine in collaboration with a stylist called Amber Gordon. It was the first kinetic photography I’d done and I really enjoyed both the process and the results. I can trace what I do now back to that shoot.
You work on a range of projects, both commercial and personal; do the two inform each other at all?
For me it’s most often the case that a commercial job informs my personal work. I like the random influence that a job often brings about. It helps me to go off on tangents.
What’s your favorite body of work, and why?
The portfolio of the Hubble telescope. It’s both real and abstract, and also breathtakingly beautiful.
The emergence of digital photography has seen a huge boom in the number of people taking photographs and the number of photographs available to creative businesses, is this a good thing – for them, for you, and for the future of photography?
To me, photography is good. I like it. The vast majority of photography happening today is digital, so therefore digital photography is also good. There is undoubtedly a lot more photography for creatives to choose from these days, and I suppose that if I were a protectionist I would be against flooding the world with pictures. But I think that competition is healthy, and if my work doesn’t stand up to comparison then I don’t deserve to be busy, which thankfully I am, so at this moment I’m happy with the world as it is.
As more creative businesses opt to use photography from online sources like Flickr rather than ‘mediated’ or ‘edited’ work that comes via agencies, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages for photography?
I can only speak for myself of course, but I have somehow got myself into a little corner of the photography world that enough people with interesting jobs can find me when they need to; and that’s enough to keep me busy. As a photographer you can only work on a relatively small amount of projects a year. It’s finite. It’s not actually possible to expand, only to continue. I don’t really mind if my clients find me through Flickr, or through a conversation with another creative down the pub. Or through previous work that’s in an award book, or from an old mate in an advertising agency, the result is the same. In photography it’s pretty much only results that matter; and that’s as it should be.