What led you to photography?
I covered a political march when I was at school – it was then I realized how much I enjoyed working with a camera and was struck by the power that images can carry. I turned my bedroom into a darkroom and began to take photos of friends, family and the world around me – whatever fired my imagination. After finishing school, I left Glasgow to study at Blackpool College of Photography where I was given the means and encouragement to really explore my ideas and begin to evolve my style.
What is your greatest professional achievement?
Having your work recognized in photography awards is always a wonderful professional achievement. I have been awarded the prestigious Gold at the Association of photographers Awards twice, and three Silver Lions at Cannes, as well as being named Photographer of the Year at the IPA/ Lucie Awards in New York, Winner of The PDN Photo Award and named one of Campaign Magazine’s Top Ten Photographers. All of this is fantastic as it really helps to get your work out there in front of people. I’m also absolutely thrilled that my book ‘Translocation’ – 5 years in the making – is still selling with profits such that The Born Free Foundation were able to fund a rescue centre in Ethiopia, the opening of which I was fortunate enough to attend in 2015.
If life were “as good as it gets” – what’s there? If your career were “as good as it gets” – what’s there?
I feel incredibly fortunate that the diversity of my work has led to many unique and wonderful experiences, from chasing Tornados in Oklahoma, rescuing lions in Ethiopia, documenting the indigenous Himba tribe in Namibia through to shooting beer commercials on the beaches of Mexico. If I had to pick though I’d say life (and indeed my career) feels “as good as it gets” when I am in Africa working with The Born Free Foundation. I’ve always been fascinated by Africa and passionate about wildlife so when the two worlds collide and my work takes me there, I feel very privileged. We’ve recently had two great projects where I’ve been commissioned to work with the Born Free Foundation with animals in their natural environment for advertising commissions. I’d say that’s “as good as it gets”.
What is your creative philosophy?
First and foremost, I try to steer my own path and not follow trends. I’m always pushing myself to come up with new concepts and am really tough on myself in interrogating the originality of my thoughts and ideas. As a conceptual, ideas-driven photographer I try to ensure my work always tells a story, however subtle, and generally give my work layers.
Can you tell us about your state of mind when you are shooting/creating?
It’s all about trying to turn what’s in your head into a reality – you have those moments when you look through the viewfinder and get such a buzz because you can start to see how it’s all going to come together. And then there are those instances where it doesn’t quite work first time round and you have to adapt and evolve. Pre-planning is important of course, but it’s equally important to allow for spontaneity and embrace the happy accidents along the way. When I’m shooting, I’ve always got the end result in my head and am constantly reviewing, honing and adapting to try and make that vision a reality.
What is the ideal relationship for you with your clients?
I always work very closely with clients/the agency. I tend to be involved with a project from concept stage so I’m able to help shape and evolve the idea and how we will go about achieving the right output. Increasingly, we find ourselves working on location, which I really enjoy – not least because it is always a privilege to get to travel to new places and meet new people, but because of the wonderful sense of camaraderie that working on location creates with everyone working together to overcome the inevitable challenges and ultimately create something really special.
What are some obstacles you’ve faced and how have you overcome them?
I think one of the biggest challenges is reconciling the realities of the commercial world with your artistic vision, and trying to avoid having to compromise the final output. There will always be debates about logo size and so forth, but it’s important to keep sight of the bigger picture and why the team decided to work with you in the first place: for your expertise and creativity. It’s always hugely satisfying when you manage to overcome those obstacles and put something out there that you as a team are collectively proud of and that goes on to do great things for the brand.
What is the toughest feedback you’ve ever received and how did you handle it?
I got rejected from both of the art schools I first applied to but I knew I wanted to learn more about photography so I left Scotland and I stuck with it. Determination has got me a long way.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration in a lot of places whether it be fictional books, inspirational people, London galleries, the African bush, or the grim Red Road flats in Glasgow.
What are you passionate about, gets your blood pumping, or gives you joy?
I love to combine my passion for Photography with my dedication to Wildlife Conservation.
We recently had a campaign for The Born Free Foundation directly credited with helping create a European Union action against wildlife trafficking. That was incredibly satisfying.
How do you approach your down time?
I go off and ride my bike!
I used to race motorcycles and still love nothing more than heading across Europe or haring around a local race track.