Burn The Canvas (BTC): What initially interested you in photography?
Sam (S):It all started back when i was a kid, I had a long thin box camera that took cassette film, I think they’re advertised as retro spy cameras now haha. After that, I seem to remember being about 8 or 9 when i took my dad’s point and shoot film camera – while he was windsurfing, i just sat there on the beach for hours and papped crickets on a surfboard til the films ran out… I think there was one shot of him windsurfing in the end – after two 36exposure rolls haha.
BTC: What would you say is more important Good Knowledge/Good Equipment?
S: It’s a tough one, but it totally depends on what you shoot, and why you shoot. When I first went digital, it was with a crappy 2megapixel vivitar point and shoot – It HATED any situation that wasn’t bright sunlight, and even in some bright shots, the sensor would darken it anyway, so the quality of the pictures weren’t good at all, but at least I was recording events in my life that i can still look over – i learnt the basics of composition on that camera. Then, sick of poor image quality, I upgraded to a Fujifilm s7000 point and shoot – the main difference being that it had the option of controlling everything manually – shutter speed, ISO, aperture etc. Immeasurably helpful when it came to learning about all these three things and how the changes affected the image. It produced nice, slick images, and had a mental macro distance, it could focus on things less than 1cm from the lens. I then upgraded to a DSLR, Samsung GX-1L, which was perfect for what I was using it for at the time, but the sensor noise was ridiculous – i’d have a noisy image at ISO400. Not on. Now, I use a Canon 40D with battery grip (wicked bit of kit – i charge up about once a week now) and use a Canon 17-85USM, and a Canon 50mm f/1.8. I’m happy with the set-up I have now, and the quality is good enough for print and online photographs, but without the previous cameras to learn on, the 40D would have been a real pig to learn on. Thats not to say amazing equipment makes amazing photos. I still use retro 35mm point and shoots, and a Holga, and can still obtain nice shots from them.
BTC: Which photographer do you look up to and why?
S: Henri Cartier-Bresson. The guy just had so many fantastic ideas, and his images are amazing, compositionally, technically, aesthetically. The shot of a man hopping over a puddle – simple idea, iconic photograph. Salgado as well, beautiful photos, beautiful compositions.
BTC: What genre of photography are you most interested in?
S: I love shooting everything. Sometimes I love just strolling around London on a lazy day, and shooting the wierd and wonderful, looking for patterns, symmetry, reflections, silhouettes and candids. I shoot music stuff occasionally as well, but the real passion for me is Skateboard photography. I work for a skateboarding company called Drawing Boards (http://www.thedrawingboards.com) aand regularly shoot photos of the team, including the team tour of the UK last year – it’s something close to my heart, and i think that inspires me to try and constantly better myself and be the best when it comes to my subject. One of my university lecturers told me “When you raise that camera to your eye, stop for a second and think – “Does this interest me?” If you’re taking the piss, don’t bother, but if you really love that subject, it’ll show.” So true.
BTC: Would you say photography is a hard line of work to get into?
S: It really depends on being in the right places at the right time. First of all, you need a slick portfolio that you wouldn’t be ashamed to show the bloody Queen of England if it came to it, and second of all – resilience. If your pride takes a knock, if someone really grills your photos – keep at it. If you go for a newspaper job and they say your stuff just isn’t good enough? Just think “F**k that, I’ll show you.” and go out and make some images that will knock their socks off. Also, get yourself known. Do work experience wherever you can. If your name is out there, it means you can be considered. If no-one’s heard of you, how can they employ you?
BTC: What method of photography do you use: film/digital and why?
S: I use both. Mainly digital for all my professional work, and sometimes film stuff for the personal stuff i shoot. Digital gives you superior quality and portability, but film has that quality and texture that just can’t be captured on a digital camera. I love the dodgy things my Holga spits out sometimes. Plus, it’s such a buzz to get some negs back from the lab and you see pictures you’ve forgotten you took.
BTC: Now everybody has a digital camera do you notice less work coming your way as people now think they can do it themselves?
S: In terms of News photography, definitely. Everyone has a camera phone now, and most point and shoot cameras can hold up against DSLRs when it comes to print quuality and sizes, so citizen journalism is definitely on the increase – sourcing is becoming more and more common in news now, as opposed to photographers being employed to do shoots. Other stuff though, like ad shoots, profile shoots, film shoots and music shoots all require that specialist equipment to make a distinctive image – most point and shoots fail miserably when it comes to this stuff.
BTC: If you could work along side any one photographer who would it be?
S: Nadav Kander – the guy takes the most amazing portraits – check out his shoot with the actor Christopher Lee. I’d love to learn some techniques from him, his portraits have a painterly quality to them, amazing colours and lighting – especially the shoot of Obama and 52 of his aides. Amazing stuff.
BTC: What goal are you working towards within your photography and when will you know you have reached it?
S: I don’t really know if there's a goal as such… maybe a career goal, to live off of my art and be happy and rich and live in a riverside penthouse on the thames with a studio in the spare room. Well – actually, the goal of my photography is to be able to capture the image exactly as I see it in my head when I have an idea. That’s a goal, right? I don’t know if i’ll realise I’ve achieved it. maybe i don’t need to… Unexpected results sometimes turn out better than you’d originally hope!
BTC: What genre of photography do you dislike the most and why?
S: Food photography. I mean, seriously.. come on… That must be the most boring genre of photography to work in. Plus it never looks the same when they’ve cooked it.