Inside View - An Interview with James Beddoes

Sorry for the lack of updates recently but real life has been a little crazy and I haven't been able to release my recent shoots yet due to confidentiality reasons. All that should change soon though and I have some exciting personal shoots planned all through till May now so watch out for those! I was going to wait to release this 'Inside View' until I'd posted some more personal material but I'm impatient and couldn't let it sit in my drafts folder any longer! 

This weeks interview is a strange one for me. I'm happy to get my questions answered by Mr James Beddoes, a Birmingham based fashion photographer who I have to thank for introducing me to the crazy world of studio photography! A few years ago now, I purchased a simple workshop to learn how to use my new camera, blind to the fact that studio photography actually taught me hardly anything about how to take photos of my family. James ran the workshop in his then, (I'm sure he won't mind me saying) dingy little studio and unlocked a hidden, creative passion in me, making me realise I actually had a bit of a knack for it! Fast forward a couple of years and I now share a studio with him and shooting strangers has totally taken over my life!

image.jpg

 

Hi James, it's great that I've got to interview the person that started me off with studio photography, so how did it all start for you?

Not in the normal way! 8 odd years ago I was studying filmmaking at university. During this time I wrote a script that got the attention of a producer that wanted to finance the film with me as the director, it was all very exciting, but long story short the producer pulled out at the last minute and I was left jobless with nothing to do. I had become friends, however, with the photographer of the film, a talented man by the name of Andrew Bainbridge. At the time he was working at a pretty horrific make-over studio, and despite me never picking up a camera before, said he could teach me the basics and get me a job there as a freelance photographer! After a few weeks of showing up at the studio and watching what the other photographers were doing, I managed to pick up the basics and pass the test shoot audition to land the job!

 So now I found myself in a job I was massively unqualified for. The concept of the job was pretty simple, I was put in a room with a few photography backdrops and two elinchrom lights, given a Nikon D70 with a kit lens and was expected to shoot about 15 clients per day. Each client was expected to get about 30 ‘good’ images per shoot so it was pretty demanding and I very quickly had to figure out which lighting setups and camera angles were flattering in order to avoid the semi regular firings that happened. I lasted in that job about two years before it was time to move on, but the amount I learned there was invaluable, also it was during that job that I decided this was what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life!  

Please could we see an image from your first shoot?

Yes, my first shoot was with an amazing model called Katie Lauren and I shot it in Andrew Bainbridge’s then studio. The shoot was pretty horrific as it was the first time I had even held a camera and I barely knew anything about lighting other then what I had picked up from doing modelling when I was a bit younger. It was one of Katie’s first shoots too so she seemed really understanding but I was there alone in a studio sweating, panicking and trying to make this awesome looking girl not look shit in my pictures! I thought I did a passable job on the day but when I got home I realised I shot the whole thing in low grade JPG.

To my credit I recently shot again with Katie and got much better results!

What do you enjoy most about It all?

Lots of things really, the lifestyle is amazing, getting to meet and converse with so many interesting and talented people from all walks of life. I wake up with a profound sense of joy each day and feel truly grateful to be doing what I'm doing. But honestly, and not to sound pretentious, I enjoy the creative journey the most. I think evolving your work and evolving as a creative is more important than anything. It’s so easy for your work to plateau and stagnate without you even realising, I have a rule that every year I set a new creative challenge for myself to force me to approach my work differently and stop me staying in my safe zone. This year my challenge is that I'm not allowed to use studio lighting and it has been the most liberating experience for my creative process. Removing the distraction of lighting has allowed me to connect with the models in a much deeper and more meaningful way and as a result I think I have created some of my most honest and personal work to date.

What is the most difficult part?

Marrying business and pleasure! Photography is my full time job and like any job its hard work and can take a lot out of you. If you're not shooting then you’re editing or you’re online emailing trying to secure jobs that will keep a roof over your head. But at the same time photography is also my passion and hobby, so I'm also trying to fit in shoots that I want to do for pleasure or do test new ideas. It can be really difficult deciding where your focus should go and what you should be doing at any given moment. Nothing is more annoying they when you have edits to finish for a paying client with a deadline, but you have just done some amazing test shoot that you are desperate to edit them for fun!

 What has been your favourite shoot so far and why?

Too difficult of a question really, everyone I have shot with has taught me something and every shoot has a special place in my heart. It would be disrespectful for me to pick one above all.

Any bad experiences?

Yeah, one that springs to mind was when a fairly famous Asian bridal magazine who shall remain nameless contacted me about shooting an editorial spread for them. This was pretty early on in my career so when they said they didn't have the budget to pay me I was stupid enough to still say yes!

Anyway after going to the trouble of helping organise the massive shoot they required and spending three days editing the images for the fast approaching deadline they never contacted me again. A few weeks later I was in WH Smiths and saw the magazine on the shelf, I started flicking through it and soon discovered that my shoot wasn’t for an editorial spread at all but was instead used for three separate advertising campaigns. I was pretty devastated at the time, but really it was my own fault for being a big enough chump to say yes to free labour!

How would you describe your style of photography in three words?

That’s a difficult one as my style is going through a bit of a metamorphosis at the moment, before I loved complex lighting and very staged poses, but images like that don't make me feel anything anymore, I find them to be more the work of a craftsman than an artist. Now I long for something that feels more real and honest! So if I were to describe my current work it would be raw, personal and intimate.

What are your favourite three images to date and why?

The first one would be my smoking image of model/makeup artist Roseanna Velin. This shot was done after we had finished our shoot, as she was having a cigarette and packing away her clothes we found this hat that I loved and had to shoot, we couldn't be bothered to pull all her clothes back out to find an outfit to go with it so she quickly took her top off as I set up a single light and snapped a few images. I would say to this day it’s still the best image I have ever taken.

 Next would be this image of Sophie Roaches, she is one of my favourite models to work with, we shoot together all the time and she always blows my mind how amazing she is with her poses and looks she keeps pulling out during shoots. This Image was taken when we were shooting early last spring in my latest studio, I had a big four light set up on the go when suddenly the sun started shining in through the window, we dropped what we were doing and started experimenting with the natural lights as it filled the room. Until that day I had never really gotten what the big deal was about natural light. But after taking this image I have had a love affair with it ever since.

 And lastly is this Image of the amazing Nell Nabarro. There is something so pure about it, she is such a natural and fearless model, during the shoot she decided to stop posing and started just messing around with her expressions and movements and this image was one of the results, I was doing the whole shoot with just an on camera flash gun so it really allowed me to explore what she was doing without concern for the lighting. This is such an honest image as Nell has really let go of any sense of ego not to mention she is so naturally stunning that I didn't even bother editing the image with the exception of curves and a little sharpening.

 Where would you like it to take you in the long run?

I would probably have to split that question into two answers as I have different goals both professionally and creatively.

Professionally I want to be paid for shooting what I want to shoot. I would love to get to the point where my decisions on taking shoots aren't based on financial needs. I would love to just be paid for doing shoots I want to do. Pushing that further I would love to get to the point where Vogue have me saved on speed dial and are calling on a semi regular basis.

Creatively I am really looking to shoot with my heroes of modelling, at the moment I'm really focusing on working with models I have looked up to for a long time, As I mentioned before I recently got to shoot with Nell Nabarro, who when I started photography I remember looking at her portfolio and thinking ‘if I ever get to shoot with a model of that quality I will know I've made it’ so to actually get to shoot her was pretty amazing for me, so next step is Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell!

What would your dream shoot be (anything is possible)?

I would just love to shoot fearless models that really just bring an x-factor to their images, models like Cara Delevingne Daisy Lowe, Jessie Andrews, Sahara Ray and on a more locally level Nadia Lee (who I did get to shoot with once but really didn't make the most of it as it was a hair shoot) But I would love to just travel the world to shoot them in exotic and far off locations!

If you have ever seen the video of Terry Richardson shooting the Pirelli calendar that would be my dream shoot!

Any tips for people starting out?

It sounds cliché be just be true to yourself and don't let others tell you what you can’t do, I really hate it when I'm talking to new photographers and they start saying how they ‘shouldn’t crop an image this way’ or ‘can’t light someone that way!’ just focus on what makes you happy and don't get distracted by what others are doing.

Also it’s important to remember that clients don't hire you because of a perfect lighting set up or that you always have the model perfectly aliened in the frame, they hire you for your vision of the world and how you choose to communicate that to your audience through your images, they want to buy into that vision!

The only other thing I would say is don't get pulled into the bullshit of thinking you need the most expensive equipment, it's all just clever sales tactics perpetrated by people with more money than talent who hide behind price tags to make themselves feel better. As long as you have a device that captures light then you are doing fine, don't upgrade until you have out grown the limitations of your camera.

Anybody that inspires you?

When I first started photography I remember looking at everything I could trying to fill my mind with images an inspiration, during this time the one person that really stood out to me was Terry Richardson, he had such a unique take on everything and captured a rawness that I had never seen before. Also the fact that I couldn't even afford my own camera and he was getting published in vogue using point and shoot instants really spoke to me. Then he had to go and be a borderline sex offender and ruin my love for him!

Some other photographers I find really inspirational are:

Ellen Von Unwerth

Juergen Teller

Sander Dakker

Walnutwax

 What’s in your camera bag?

Nikon D7000 with a 50mm F1.8 lens, as well as 18-105 zoom lens just in case. Yongnuo speedlight. An Instax wide camera, an Olympus Trip 35 and I’ve recently added a Nikon L35AF

Quick fire favourites:

Website - Instagram, maybe it’s more of an app then a website but it’s were I get a lot of my work these days!

Drink - Tea…always Tea

Food - Hard to say as I’m trying to be pescetarian so everything is thrown out of whack!

Music act - I’ve lost touch with music these days, last great album I heard was M83, hurry up we're dreaming.

TV Show - Lots of great TV at the moment, all time show would be Breaking Bad, but currently I'm enjoying everything Netflix is making!

Movie - Cant pick one, my top 5 would be,

Aliens

Jurassic Park

Empire Strikes Back

Terminator 2

Avengers

Joke - Life

Day off - Spending time with my loved ones

Quote - My dad’s un-profound yet always helpful advice quote was: “Never let the bastards get you down and never let them see you sweat!”

Thank you James for taking the time to answer my questions. If you'd like to see more of James's work visit her here

Facebook

Here are a few of my favourite images from James!