How does being a director influence your photographic work?
I started out as a Graphic Designer and then following that; a motion designer. Photography has always been a big part of my work and so when I evolved into full live action directing I found that I had already discovered my visual voice through the medium. I think that initially my photographic work inspired my directing. I would try and recreate images and scenarios based around photographs I had taken. These days my directing definitely influences my photographic work more and more in that I am always trying to tell a story with a single cinematic image. I want to evoke a feeling or emotion in the viewer with every picture I take. I think that each medium (directing and photographing) influences the other in one way or another. I don’t really see them as separate entities, they both feed off of each other. With my earlier work I used to shoot everything myself which I guess is why I think so visually.
Tell me about “All That You Leave Behind”. It’s one of my favourite series. How did it come about?
This series came about while trying to categorise my photographs to put onto my website. Names such as “landscapes” and “people” didn’t really do it for me. I needed a name that really encapsulated all the titles and atmospheres I was trying to capture on my flickr stream. The title “All that you leave behind” came about after looking at them all together and thinking that these places, these landscapes that we see briefly, or visit once never to return are here forever, even when we are long gone. I wanted something poetic and meaningful that reflected the way I felt about the shots when I took them. Emptiness, Loneliness, Isolation and Regret are big themes that run through a lot of my work. I think this set sums that up. When I look at it as a series of pictures I can hear music, imagine a powerful poem being spoken and see it all as a loose storyboard for a short film or visual poem.
What about “We Are All Strangers To Each Other”? Have you ever been somewhere where you felt like a stranger?
The title for this set came about in pretty much the same way. A lot of the people I photograph are strangers I meet on a street somewhere. We say hi, we smile, I take their photo and then they are gone. Most of them will never see the photograph I took of them. It’s a really strange thing when you think about it. I feel like a stranger myself a lot of the time. especially when travelling around the world working. I can turn up in a city and know no one, spend far too long in generic hotel rooms alone, walking empty streets in strange cities at night because of jet lag, you get fleeting glimpses into others lives while you are kind of drifting around in a state of unsleep… all inspiration for both my photographic and moving image work. This set is also a companion piece in many ways thematically to “All That You Leave Behind”.
What about portraits? What is important to you when you shoot a stranger’s portrait?
To be honest when I shoot the kind of portraits I’ve shot in the past it’s so spontaneous and quick that I have no time to even think about what is important or what isn’t. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. I’ll see something or someone that catches my eye, it might be the light, it might be what they are doing or it might just be their look. I’ll grab my camera and shoot it trying not to worry too much. I also tend to take a lot of portraits while I am shooting a film or commercial, usually in a totally unrelated way to how we are shooting the film and often of extras or people that are just around the set. Again I try to keep this pretty spontaneous using available light.
Do you remember how you first got interested in photography and film making?
I first got interested in photography while working in graphic design. I had a huge problem with working with found images and laying type over them or altering them in some way. It made more sense to me as a creative to take my own shots and then mess about with them in Photoshop. I basically am a control freak and needed to own the entire image. I guess this is how my love for photography grew. I have always been interested in film making since I was a young boy. I used to write stories, poems and songs as a kid. I would often buy A4 books and fill them with a single story often writing an ending on the final pages before even filling in the middle! My actual film making career began after becoming really frustrated with graphic design and corporate clients. I just wanted to tell stories which is what I was originally trying to do with my graphic design work. I evolved my design into animation through motion graphics in the early 2000’s when the big motion design boom happened. I then evolved naturally from there into a purer sense of story telling without the need for animation. At first my work was a hybrid of motion design and live action but eventually the need for graphics fell away leaving just the photographic film making I use now to tell stories. I think you still can see a design sensibility in all of my work. Simple things such as the way things are framed or look, the colours etc.
What about your narratives? How do you get the stories you wanna narrate?
Sometimes my narratives can come from a single picture that I’ve seen. Sometimes it can inspire me so much that I hear music, see movement or want to tell the story of how that photograph happened. Other times it can be from listening to music. In fact I would say that music is probably my biggest inspiration. I often see images and think of stories while listening to music. The work of Greg Haines is massively influential in my thought processes recently. I love his work. And then again a lot of my work, the themes I mentioned earlier, they all come from experiences I have had. There is always a lot of “me” in my personal work. Thats something I think will always be there.
Interview by Amanda M. Jansson