Your series ‘A&E (Alcohol & England)’ has some pretty visceral images, along with the amusing ones. How do you approach a project like this? Did you get in any trouble with drunkards while collecting the images?
The fear of the drunkard is generally in the photographer’s head; in fifteen years of photographing the English imbiber, I’ve only ever been punched in the face once and it was perhaps, avoidable. I’m not ashamed to be a photographer and to take the photographs I do. My camera is always on display and I have a succinct sentence to deliver to anyone who asks what and why I’m photographing. If the situation looks too tricky, I may collaborate with the local police constabulary as I did in Plymouth and Hull for the A&E book.
And what about from a practical perspective? How do you fund a project like this, and how does it all get put together?
When beginning a project; I’ll notify all the magazines and organisations I have a working relationship with. Generally, if a commission comes their way that has a similar theme or content they’ll offer it my way which helps develop the project. Likewise, I will offer them a set of pictures if I think it would be of interest to their audience. If I’m travelling on an unrelated commission, I may stay in the area an extra couple of days to shoot personal work. There’s always more reasons not to swing your legs out of bed and spend money travelling to an unfamiliar place to photograph in the company of strangers! Funding the book itself was straightforward as all the finances were absorbed by the publisher.
In all of your travelling, is there another country that’s grabbed you in the way the UK has, and made you think ‘I want to spend some time documenting life here’?
Not quite grabbed me in the same way but I am fascinated by landlocked Belarus and would be keen to find reasons to return to Columbia.
Aside from photojournalistic work, you’ve also done a lot of portraiture. Tom Jones, Jamie Oliver, Alicia Silverstone. This world of lighting rigs and poses must be quite different to shooting in the public realm?
It’s not so different; the kit bag pretty much remains the same as it would for a more traditional reportage assignment. The biggest difference is there’s a lot more chatter.
And finally, which photographers inspire you?
In relation to the development of my own work, I’m more inspired by writers, bloggers and columnists; Danny Wallace; Tim Dowling; Jon Ronson and Sean Thomas among others. The photographers I admire, are the ones who do what I don’t, and here I’m thinking of Marcus Bleasdale; Tom Stoddart and Brent Stirton.