Hi Jamie, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me. We should probably start at the beginning, when and how did you come about getting into the world of photography?
'Blah, blah, blah, dusty attic, blah, blah, grandpa’s box brownie etc - To be honest I can’t actually remember my first camera or when I started taking pictures. I don’t have any recollection of being particularly prolific photo-wise when I was at school but when I did my Duke of Edinburgh’s Silver Award, I undertook photography as my skill. Armed with my point and shoot compact, the instructor tried his hardest to teach me about f stops and exposure but it largely fell on deaf ears. I have always had a camera but I never seemed to take many pictures apart from on holiday and special occasions - I was too frustrated with the wait to get them back from Boots (as well as the cost).
So I meandered along the periphery of photography until the advent of digital - I first came across it in Michael Connelly’s novel The Poet and I thought it was next-level stuff of science fiction but soon after I got my first digital compact and started taking pictures again in earnest. My compacts served their purpose perfectly I was using it for general snapshots and for pictures whilst out mountain biking and to this day, l carry a compact with me all the time. The turning points along my path came when I was invited to submit a cocktail recipe for a book which was being compiled by a big spirit brand - the result, which was a beautiful work was a disappointment to me because the person who made the drink for the photograph didn’t capture the drink as I had envisaged it and realised how words on paper could be misinterpreted so when I created drinks for clients I should be able to present them with an image of how it should look. This was when I realised I was hampered by compacts by not being able to control the depth of field so I looked on Gumtree and ended up buying my first digital SLR. My photography skills improved and I actually managed to properly learn about f-stops and exposure and I took to photographing anything that didn’t talk.'
Photography, especially online, tends to fall into specific genres and/or gets described as being a specific style. The trouble with this is it's quite subjective, the style someone views an image to be can often differ to the style the person creating it views it as. How would you describe the work you are putting out there?
'I think the only thing that’s fair to say is “in focus” and probably too much so! I’d like it if someone told me I had a certain style and in some cases I think I miss out on shoots because I don’t have one. I’m quite experimental and keen to try different techniques.'
|Model - Robynne Vanessa|
|Model - Lilly Von Pink|
|Model - Arabella|
|Models - Sarah Holland & Jamie AKA Imaginary Revolutionary|
Photography can have it's share of problems. I personally have a particular problem with self confidence. This confidence issue can and has caused me issues with my photography. Do you find any aspects of photography particularly challenging?
'I am plagued with insecurities - I decided to try to get into people photography to overcome shyness. As a bartender, I can talk to anyone from behind the bar - I am confident, almost to the point of arrogance, I can hold court and present to a room full of people - I get flown around the world to conduct seminars on cocktails and spirits and yet when away from the bar, I’m actually socially awkward - I much prefer to sit and watch people rather than engage in conversation - especially women seeing as the last 20 years of my life has pretty much seen me bear witness to a barrage of unwanted attention from guys who think they have a right to intrude in a person’s pleasant evening because they happen to have a pair of tits. I still couldn’t do street photography though, that for me is a step too far ‘cos I guess people think I look as dodgy as fuck anyway so if I’m carrying a camera I’m automatically avoided as a pervert or something.
Right now I’m comfortable and confident in my ability and aware of my limitations and constantly striving to improve. I would try to do more with my career but at the end of the day I’m just another guy with a camera who likes taking nice pictures and I’m fine with that! I’m still reticent to lay myself bare to critique though - I equally love and hate every picture I take but so long as the client loves them then I’m happy.'
In my series 'Foto Inspiration Friday' I share the people, images, places etc that I find give me inspiration. Who, or what, or where do you draw inspiration from?
'I’m not entirely sure - I have an appreciation for beauty and I like to see it everywhere and in everything; decay, dereliction, the mundane I obviously like the works of a lot of photographers and maybe there is a touch of influence creeping in from the sides but largely I am inspired by my surroundings.'
Sometimes images hold a special significance to us. It can be the first image we ever made, it can be an image drawing attention to a cause close to our hearts, it can simply be an image of someone we love. Do you have an image or images that hold a special significance to you?
'There are two for me which stand out in my portfolio and they are the ones which make me the most proud when I look at them. They are by no means my best pieces but that doesn’t take anything away from them in my eyes.
"Mesie" is the result of my first ever photo ‘mission’ - I’d seen this piece of graffiti as I’d been driving on the motorway during the day and from that viewpoint I envisaged a nighttime shot of the bridge spanning the motorway with light trails passing through the shot with the graffiti light-painted to make it stand out. I looked up on google maps how to get to the bridge, got all the kit together and set out to get the shot. I did not for one moment think it would be as difficult as it turned out. I had to climb a small fence and scrabble down a steep embankment in the pitch blacktop get my gear in place and get ready for the shot - all the time being aware that what I was doing was unlikely to be legal. I took all precautions to ensure that any motorists were’t distracted by my actions which I figured was the least I could do and after an hour or so I had the shots in the bag. Not long after, the graffiti was gone and has never been replaced!
"Splash" is a picture of my first-born and as such, all pictures of your kid hold a special place in your heart - this was his first day wearing wellies and we stepped out of the door and he saw this puddle and his eyes lit up. He spent the next 10 minutes running back and forth through the puddle with his face a picture of pure delight - as soon as he had done it once I sprinted back into the house to get my camera as I knew I had to try and capture some of the emotion he was experiencing. A couple of shots later, he tripped and fell face-first into the puddle which halted the proceedings (caught it on camera too and feel extremely guilty because I find it hilarious every time I look at it - bad daddy!!) but again I caught a one-off moment which can’t be replicated.'
Photoshoots can sometimes leave you open to scary or funny situations. What's the scariest or funniest situation you've found yourself in because of photography?
'I’m a big scary-looking guy so I don’t tend to get into scary situations, I’m also not daft and will perform constant risk assessments to make sure I’m within my limits. I am strong and agile so I will put myself into some ridiculous and precarious positions to ‘get the shot’ but never at any risk to myself or my subjects. I remember when the riots in Salford were brewing (a few days after they kicked off in Tottenham) there was a temptation to go and get my camera to capture how things unfolded but I decided against it and read how a few guys had been beaten up and had their cameras nicked during the melée - being able to look after yourself becomes nigh on impossible when you’re in that kind of crowd. I can’t think of any hilarious situations I’ve found myself in either - I’m professional but I don’t take myself too seriously so I’d like to think my shoots are fun and relaxed but I haven't really had a situation where we’ve ended up rolling on the floor laughing!'
We've talked about your start in photography, we talked about your current work, let's quickly chat about the future. What have you got coming up this year, more of the same? Any special projects? Plus in regards to a more long term plan, where are you hoping your creative journey will take you in the years to come?
'I’m probably going to try and get into a long-term project but I need to have a strong subject. I’ve done a couple of successful yearly photo-a-day challenges but failed many more. I’ve recently realised that I’ve missed the challenge of doing a picture a day but it’s really hard (for me) to keep the momentum going, some have petered out after days, some I’ve done for months and months before falling out of creativity so I’m on the hunt for a new challenge. Otherwise I’m going to keep honing my skills and exploring as many genres as I can.'
We can't really talk photography without discussing gear, so...what is your 'go to' equipment that you find yourself gravitating towards the most on shoots?
'Strobes - I will take them with me on every shoot, either my Jinbei traveller which is 1200w/s of ‘bugger me that hurts my eyes’ or a case full of Yongnuo 580’s. I like to have control over the light as best I can, even if I just use them to boost the ambient and not make it look ‘flashy’ I don’t stray into the land of high iso so will augment the light whenever possible. I also use my tripod pretty much throughout the whole shoot too - indoors or out!'
Now for the shameless self promotion part of the interview...where can people find more of you and your work?
'Usually you’ll find me behind my bar at an amazing wedding venue in North Wales (http://www.iscoydpark.com seeing as it’s the shameless bit) or out and about talking about Gin (The King of Soho now that you ask) but I do have a website which is largely portfolio hosting rather than a business-generating tool which is http://www.jamiestephenson.photography and my Facebook page http://facebook.com/jamiestephensonphotography. I will post most things, good or bad, to my Flickr account though http://www.flickr.com/photos/alternateperspective/albums
There’s also some of my favourite drinks photography on my (sadly neglected) blog http://www.thecocktail.guru'
I'd like to thank Jamie again for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. Be sure to check out the links for more of his work, and the links attached to the images for the other creatives involved.