12th December 2019
A question I’m frequently asked by people I meet, clients, and in private messages.
Therefore, I thought I should jot down my history/ journey as a photographer for those who may be interested.
In my younger days I’d always been interested in creative things like art, writing, and music.
Though I’d never been exposed to photography in any way. I never had a camera, never looked at photographs, and didn’t even think about it being a medium to be creative with.
After trying a few subjects, and having no clue what I was doing with myself I went back to college to study Film, Photography, and English.
At this time, digital photography was only just being introduced, and as such our college didn’t really have much digital equipment to work with, so I focused on shooting portraits and the outdoors with black and white film on 35mm cameras.
I immediately fell in love with photography, and the process of developing what you had shot in the darkroom. The beauty and surprise of what had been captured within the constraints of 24 frames (which wasn’t a bad thing at all).
I had an amazing tutor who was always supportive and gave me the freedom to do what I liked even though I wasn’t that great a student.
After doing the course I took a year working in an office, while still taking my camera everywhere, I soon realised that I just had no motivation or the mentality to sit in an office.
Sadly, for me, I found it uncomfortable, anxious, and claustrophobic.
I decided to go to university to study BA Photography & Digital Imaging.
At the time I was going through a lot in my personal life, and even though I completed the course, my head really wasn’t in it.
The first year was mainly spent working with 35mm and medium format cameras, but soon progressed to predominantly working with digital SLR’s.
While doing the course I worked in a pub, did the odd bit of unpaid assisting work with fashion photographers, and I started doing test shoots with local models.
In 2008, I graduated and was thrown out in to the world with no clue of how to approach working in the industry.
I was not specialising, I had zero money, no contacts, and no actual useful industry experience.
Still with the same mind set I had years before I told myself I will continue to persevere with photography. I was not deluded, I knew this industry would be difficult, and I knew that a large number of photographers are on low to average incomes. It wasn’t and isn’t about money for me, but about enjoyment of work, something I’ll be stuck doing for the rest of my days.
I did bits of office work to pay bills, and used credit cards to purchase bits of equipment I needed to get things moving.
I set up a website to showcase work, and started working in many different genres to get a feel for what interested me. I also said yes to anyone who wanted to work with me.
I started doing test shoots again with models, I was part of running a music website and attending festivals photographing artists and punters, did unpaid assisting work, business portraits for a magazine (by chance due to a lovely acquaintance recommendation), shooting food for an American website and doing the odd bit of stills for various independent online companies.
Now a couple of years in to finishing my course and I was seriously struggling. I still had no idea what I was doing. I decided I needed more experience and an income as I had next to nothing.
I started applying for makeover studios in London in order to get some solid part time wages, and I gave more thought about the areas I’ve experienced and enjoyed most.
These at the time were fashion and food.
I landed some work with a few makeover studios which was amazing as it got me out the house and in to the deep end of constant shooting.
While it wasn’t well paid, was a lot of work in any one day, and pretty crap, it was also perfect. I’ll explain…
As an example in one day you would have on average around 5-8 45-minute shoot slots within a large studio space that had approximately 8 different ‘settings’.
Within this 45 minutes you would have to shoot one individual in 3 different outfits, at 3 different settings. Do 5 full length, 5 mid length, and 5 portraits for each outfit. Totalling 45 final shots.
Sounds awful, and it wasn’t that great, but looking back it was perfect and exactly what I needed.
I enjoyed meeting people, and I enjoyed posing people. It gave me immeasurable experience at a time when I needed it by teaching me lots of lighting techniques, and simple poses for all types of people.
I worked alongside many other photographers in different situations and from different backgrounds, and we’d occasionally have training slots where we would shoot and pose each other both for fun and work.
At the same time as this, I had done extensive research on photographers whose work I liked within the fashion and food industries to see if anyone might be looking for an assistant.
This was the only way I could see myself gaining some real industry experience.
I attended numerous meets, and was repeatedly given the same two responses that I either didn’t have enough experience or whether I’d work for free or expenses only.
The amount of opportunities I lost due to the number of industry jobs who offer unpaid, expenses, or low paid work is unbelievable. I feel for anyone else who knows how horrible going through this is.
I finally had a couple of paid responses, and I replied to the person offering slightly more. A glamour photographer whose lingerie images I thought were amazing.
He offered me pretty much the same day rate that the main studio I worked in paid, as long as I could drive and would be willing to pick the team up and travel to various locations. Fine by me!
We ended up working together part time for almost 2 years.
Again, the knowledge and experience I gained was amazing. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I was given.
This all happened by chance as it could have easily have been a fashion photographer, a food photographer, or no-one that responded to my enquiries, and my present might be completely different.
I enjoyed the work, it wasn’t too dissimilar to fashion in some ways, and I was building a good understanding of lighting, posing, and directing etc.
From having next to no income, I was then on a basic wage for a couple of years.
Minimum and basic, yes, but it was more than I’d ever made in photography, and I was gaining experience.
They say things happen for a reason…
After almost 2 years of working in studios and assisting, within the same couple of weeks I was told I’d have no more work.
There was one studio I did 1-3 days a week at, and I did roughly 2 days a week assisting.
The studio had gone bankrupt, and we were told we’ve lost our jobs and they can’t pay us for the previous 6 weeks!
I was also told by the photographer I assisted that he was leaving the country the following week.
Almost overnight I’d gone back to zero income. Though this time I had a lot more knowledge and experience behind me.
I decided to start specialising in only glamour and lingerie photography, and focusing my efforts in this area as it was where I was most knowledgeable and experienced.
Logically, for me, it made sense to stick to one area that I’m most familiar with.
I stopped showcasing other work or past work in order to specialise, and potentially improve my brand and make clear what it is I do.
Going completely solo at the end of 2011, early 2012, I started working with modelling agencies in order to build a portfolio. This then slow progressed to image sales, publications, private bookings and so on.
I lived on the breadline again for at least a couple of years before my business started to develop an income, and while I’m still nowhere near where I wish to be, with each year that passes things slowly improve…
…And that is the story of how I became a photographer within this field.
AT Glamour x