Q&A

-When did you first become interested in photography?

I studied art to become a painter but aged 18 I picked up a book of photographs in my local library called 'The Destruction Business' by Don McCullin. At that moment I recognised the power and impact of the still image in the right hands and gave up my art studies more or less at that moment to basically dedicate my life to the art of photography and I have done so ever since.


-What is your typical camera setup on a shoot?

Commercial productions - Phase 180 backs and Hassleblads and sometimes 4x5 plate camera.


-How did you go about developing a style of photography and how long did it take you to master your technique?

I think my sense of 'directness' and favouring wides to involve the viewer as much as possible comes from my early exposure to and influence by the photojournalist greats like W.Eugene Smith, Don McCullin, Larry Burrows etc. It seems I subconsciously applied this, added large format camera techniques and a certain quality of beauty that was held over from my art training background.


I never feel I have mastered my technique, it feels ever evolving and reactionary.


-What brought you to work with the Fair Trade Charity Organization?

It was the London advertising agency WCRS art director Robin Smith who volunteered his talent and time to help the then start up companies of 'Cafe-Direct' and 'Tea Direct'. We had recently worked together on commercial projects and he asked me if I would be interested in lending my time and what ever talent to the cause. I of course leapt at the chance. Within a year or so the brands were established and vying for position among the most popular non fair trade brands on major supermarket shelves.


The main difference of course was with ours the money actually went back into the pockets of the people who risked their lives growing the stuff for our Western consumption. It makes me very happy to see ten years later those brands and now others similar are such an established choice for many households.


-What is your post-production workflow like?

My personal work is mainly just colour grading on photo-shop and workflow for my fine art prints. I don't believe in trying to impress with over doing post-production techniques or CGI that create a 'look' and a 'stamp' that typically says a lot about the photographer but not the subjects. With commercial productions I tend to bring in my friends and experts such as 'The Operators',  'Saddington & Baynes' and ' Taylor James' for CGI and multiple comps ' and I'll go in and direct until I have what the brief dictated and make sure it ends up looking like one of my images!


-What is your dream project?

 For a personal project, well hopefully I have just begun it and hopefully I can continue it. It's called 'There America' and is my homage to American realist artists of the early 20th century such as Norman Rockwell and Edward Hopper.


I am not copying their style but rather it is a kind of snap shot of today’s America and Americans and the everyday, the simple and workaday subjects that are in every way as important to the modern fabric as the subjects in the work of the those painters back when things appeared-to-at-least operate in a more innocent and values based way. The hope is to get sponsorship to continue the series and eventually publish a book of the work and a touring exhibition.


-How does having a background in painting inform your photography work?

 Probably mostly in having, or seemingly having, a natural talent for composition and colour and how they interact.


-What inspires you to create new work?

 Photography is not a job for me. It is, as the old cliche goes, very much a way of life and I am very passionate and driven by it. Being an only child and slightly dyslexic it has always been my way of speaking about what I feel or what effects me so creating new work is something I simply have to do and constantly want to do, thankfully!


-Is there one photograph that you are most proud of?

 Yes, I have always loved the picture of the three kids standing on top of those stones overlooking the burning savannah in Western Tanzania. It came at the end of a exhausting day being driven off road around various villages since early morning, meeting and going through the usual customary greetings with various elders and representatives of the coffee co-operatives in each one.


Heading back to base as the light was fading it was suggested by our host that we pay one last visit to one last village, frankly I had had enough but it was rude to say no and we climbed a hill in the half light where the village lay below. When the Land Rover reached the brow this was the scene I came across and yelled out for it to stop. I only got a few frames before the light went but I feel very privileged to have come across a special moment in time and the opportunity to capture it.


-What was the best career advice you were ever given?

 Never compromise your art.