Every year, comes September, I am flooded with many daily emails from Juniors in Advanced Photo Class, A Level photography students and others who are using my London urban photography and street photography work as a basis for their dissertation and end of year exams.
One of my core beliefs is if you want to be an accomplished photographer you need at some point to help others.
Giving back is important.
Actually, it’s rather a general belief for me that to be a decent human being as a whole, you have to help people and care about people.
Karma and all that!
Sadly (or rather fortunately for me) client commissions comes first and I have to say I’m not always able to help each individual requests since I have to prioritise work.
Often I'll direct inquiries to my dedicated “Features” section which lists all interviews I’ve taken part in in recent years, many of which actually contain all the answers one could be looking for.
That's if they can of course be bothered searching! I can’t blame them, I wasn’t particularly academic myself.
So in an attempt to help I’ve put together the most asked questions I get from students, hopefully by answering them it’ll help a great deal more of them.
1) What kind of equipment do you use?
I use a combination of various cameras. My preference is firmly aimed towards Mirrorless cameras which enable me to carry less bulk and less weight on long shooting days. I also use a variety of lenses, although I work best using a 35mm or 50mm lens as well as a 24-80mm zoom lens when I need a bit more flexibility, often on jobs.
2) How do you interact with the subjects of your photos?
I avoid interaction as much as possible as I prefer to capture people unaware, to capture the “real”them. However having said that, should someone see me take their photo, I will smile and be ready to explain who I am, what I do and why I do it. No reason to hide or be weird about it.
3) What is the biggest challenge for you when taking street photos?
Taking a great shot as opposed to an OK shot. Too many people are satisfied with OK, I always look that little further and aim for great. So be ultra selective when choosing what makes the cut, only you can set your standards so set them higher than the rest.
4) When and where were you born?
I was born in the UK, raised in France til the age of 21, from an English mother and French father.
The year I was born, Punk and Disco were at their peak. Ask your parents when that was!
5) Did you study photography?
No I didn’t. I left my parent’s house at 14 to study to be a chef in a French cookery school until I turned 19. I then worked in luxury hotels for nearly 20 years.
I got into photography in 2008 and haven’t stopped ever since. It's my true love, after my wife of course.
It's easy to find answers to photography questions online and more importantly out there in the streets. Practice is the best way to learn the camera, it’s not that difficult really.
6) Where do you get your inspiration from and who inspires you to do the photography you do today?
I’m not the kind of photographer who'll name old masters of photography as their inspiration. I wanted to be a photographer to become a better, happier “me”, not a poor copy of some old masters which I respect but who are past and not in charge of my life. It may sound ungrateful but Henri Cartier-Bresson or Vivian Meyer have no responsibility in where I am today, my work is.
7) Also I'm curious on how you edit your shots with what system and techniques you use?
I’m a Photoshop guy, that is if I need to post-process photos. In the past (you’ll find examples on my website) I used to go way over the top post-processing, mostly on my urban landscapes. I still like those photos, they are a reminder of how far I have gone.
However I have also learnt since then to do a lot less. Less is more! It’s possible to take great photos without being too much of a Photoshop artist. It also a good habit to get it as right as possible in the camera (even more on client jobs) to save you time later in front on the Mac.
8) What makes you lean towards London for your photography? Do you photograph anywhere else?
I shoot London because it’s my favourite and the best city in the World. My circumstances got me living in London so I shoot London. If I lived elsewhere I guess my life would be very different and what I shoot as well.
9) What other tips do you have for me?
Use people’s name when you write an email to be more personable.
Don’t be lazy, work harder than the rest, be passionate, be kind to people, network.
Be out shooting more and more and more.
Making mistakes is good. Make mistakes, learn from them.
Understand the power of social media.
Offer help before asking for help.
Don’t expect people to come knocking at your door, you will have to work very hard to get there.
But as with anything we love, it doesn’t need to feel like work.
I hope this will help the many of you who email me asking for information! Good luck in the future.