Yasmin, Golden Square 2014.

Friday, 25 April 2014

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything on here for so long.  Since my ’78 - 87’ book came out I’ve been incredibly busy.  Which is, obviously, all good.

And I’ve done quite a lot of interviews.

I really enjoy doing interviews because almost always people will ask me either a question I haven’t been asked before or, if English isn’t their first language, they’ll ask me an old question but phrase it in an interesting and thought provoking way.

One of the questions I often get asked is - where does a photographer get their inspiration from?

This is a question that somebody like me really ought not to be asked.  Anyone who needs instruction on how to find inspiration is probably not equipped to handle it, even if they had it.

But… I do realise that one can’t say that in an interview because you have to try to be helpful and remain positive.

And in reality, if you are the sort of person to whom inspiration is a useful and appropriate commodity, then it can come from absolutely anywhere.

As a photographer, I’m often inspired by looking at other people’s work but the work itself doesn’t always have to be good work, it just has to sow the seeds of an idea.

The David Bailey show was, to me, inspirational.  As I have written before, in David Bailey you have the UK’s greatest living photographer but he doesn’t always succeed in what he does.  Looking at some of his less successful works helps a photographer like me to refine what I think I should be trying to do as well.  So it’s inspirational in that sense as well.

Watching  other photographers work and hearing them talk about their working methods can be inspiring.  You’d need to be a very hard hearted and disengaged sort of photographer not to be inspired by the film ‘Everybody Street’.  And BBC4 has done a couple of recent films about the photographers William Klein and Vivian Maier that were equally brilliant and just made one want to grab a camera and rush out straight away.

Prior to becoming a photographer myself, as an art director, I was able to watch professional photographers at work for years before it dawned on me that I could become a photographer myself.  And all professional photographers seem to work in a different way.  At that point, I don’t really know whether I was ever really inspired by any of them.  Possibly not, mostly they weren’t of the David Bailey class.  I was probably more inspired as a teenager by watching the film 'Blow-Up'.

At that time, I did work with a couple of other art directors who were inspiring. Inspiring because they were so incredibly meticulous and they were both utterly relentless in their pursuit of perfection.

I’m not a perfectionist myself, it’s very hard to be in the real world, but I do know the difference between what I’m prepared to accept and what a real perfectionist will put themselves through to get things to 100%.

In the ten years I worked in the advertising business I worked with hundreds of people but only those two were real perfectionists and neither of them was ultimately very successful. Everyone thinks they are a perfectionist (over things they really care about) and it’s very instructive to know the difference.  One also has to know when to stop.

Last week I did an Instagram Takeover in Soho for the Photographers Gallery.  It meant me walking the streets for anything up to about 4 hours a day looking for interesting Soho faces to document.

Whilst doing this, late one afternoon I saw a girl with big hair crossing Golden Square and, when the sun caught and lit it up her hair, that was enough inspiration for me.  In fact, enough inspiration for a month.

I asked her if I could take a photograph and she was compliant, charming and very friendly.

I ended up not posting this shot because, ultimately, I thought it looked too set up.  Almost like a fashion photograph.

Yasmin looks like a model (I have a sneaky feeling she is a model) and I felt the Photographers Gallery would think I was just setting all these photos up.

In fact, this was the one and only time we’d ever met.

So this photograph didn’t make the cut for that project. But I still love it. I may save it for my next book.