Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in photography. What inspired you to start taking photos?
33. Born in Sydney. Succinct. Likes music and cats.
Grew up on a little island called Scotland Island. Would go sailing with my dad and take photos of the races. Initially it was a good way to not have to crew the boat and pull in the sails. That’s still what it is. A good way to avoid having a real job.
Everyone has a unique style. Can you describe how you would define your style and what visual or conceptual elements characterize it?
I don’t agree that everyone has a unique style. Everyone has the capacity to but you don’t get there by liking things that aren’t actually unique. In the end a lot of what you become has to do with what you don’t like rather than what you do. It’s easy to stop pushing when you’re satisfied. What you accept as good is where the work stops. Saying no until what you’re doing is new is what makes it unique. If you’re satisfied with a girl being sexy on a beach or a hazy photo of a service station at night there’s nothing unique in that. If one day you look at those photos and say I’m bored of this, that’s the beginning.
Photography has the power to tell stories and convey emotions. Can you share an experience in which one of your photos had a significant impact on people or on yourself?
I hope people feel something about my photos but to be honest I do it for myself. If it can float me emotionally for a few weeks before I can move onto the next thing that’s all I need.
What has been your most challenging photographic project to date and why?
I shot a project on the trans Siberian railway across Russia a few years ago. This year we drove the length of Patagonia in the middle of winter on another. Honestly it’s easy doing what you want to do. The hardest shoots are, by far the boring ones.
Technology and photo editing tools are constantly evolving. Can you tell us about the techniques and equipment that you consider essential for your work?
I shoot mostly film these days but digital is still an essential part of the process as I photograph and invert all my negatives with a digital system. If i could do all my work with a rock and a stick I would.
There are many genres in photography, from portraits to nature photography. Do you have a favorite genre in which you feel most comfortable or enjoy shooting the most? Why?
I think documentary work feels most native to me. Happiest I’ll ever be is somewhere strange with a 35mm Leica around my neck. I find normal fashion photography mostly disposable and forgettable. All the best people have taken interest in other genres and applied it to fashion. If I can do that then I feel like it’s a successful image.
Can you share an interesting or unusual anecdote you’ve experienced while taking photos?
Here’s a few. I was shooting Massimo Bottura in his house in Italy for Vogue a while ago. At the time he was the best rated chef in the world but we couldn’t get a seat at his restaurant as it was booked out for months and months. As we arrived the house was full of the smell of freshly baked cookies. Assuming the best chef in the world had made us cookies the team was over the moon until he threw them on the floor in front of us. They were dog biscuits for his golden retriever. I’ve lied about my flight and underwater credentials before and ended up strapped to the side of a helicopter to shoot a city scape, or with a team of divers being held under water for as long as I could hold my breath to shoot swimmers for a campaign. Pretend confidence gets you most of the way. Had a two week shoot in Tasmania with a supermodel and a guy dressed as a polar bear. That was weird. Weird and great. I shot a campaign for a suiting brand many years ago where we took the model from Sydney to London on every stop possible over 5 days. We shot 24 hours a day and never got a hotel. I think we crossed 8 countries and 11 cities on like 8 modes of transport. The idea was to prove the suit would not crease so he wore the same thing the whole time. Lots of strange encounters on that one.
Many photographers find inspiration in other visual artists or everyday life. What are some of your sources of inspiration?
I try to work out my shoot ideas from things entirely outside of photography. I make a lot of music too. Often that bleeds in. Working on a film and stills shoot at the moment inspired by the instrument, the Theremin.
Photography is a visual medium, but it often has a conceptual background. Have you worked on photographic projects that address specific themes or concepts? Can you share information about one of those projects?
Almost all of them have some grounding in a simple idea unless it’s just plainly selling clothes which is never satisfying. Separation, age, lust, stupidity, nonsense, structure, lack of structure.
What inspires you when creating new images? Do you have a ritual or creative process you follow to find inspiration?
Wake up. Feel anxious about everything. Go for a run. Come up with an idea. Get excited. Message the creative director I often work with and try to get her involved. Walk my cat. Smoke too many cigarettes wondering if it’s actually possible to do. Go to the pub. Try to work out if it’s an idea that’s worth doing despite the difficulty. Play some guitar and decide it was a stupid idea. Do it all again until something sticks.
For aspiring photographers who may be reading this interview, what is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received in your career, or what advice would you like to share with them?
Look at the right stuff. You can waste years of your creative life trying to replicate terrible images without knowing they were terrible. Look at photo books not Instagram.
Recommend us the Instagram account of an artist that you like their work.
Life goes on.