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Interview: Photographer James Hall (UK) Winner of the month

Tell us something about yourself

I’m a photographer, body painter, and digital artist from the UK. I do all three on a semi-professional basis; I work a fairly mundane day job to ensure a steady source of income - this allows me to focus my creative energies on my photography and other outlets! Though it does limit how much I can shoot…

What does photography mean to you?

Photography is my primary creative outlet. It allows me to express myself, explore ideas and themes, and collaborate with other people to produce images that will - I hope - say something about everyone involved in its creation.

For me, photography is about capturing character - whether that be the character that a model is portraying (in the case of cosplay shoots inparticular) or the character of the model themselves. Humans are fascinating, multi-faceted creatures with so many layers of personality; trying to capture just some of those in an image is a challenge and a joy.

How and when did you get into photography?

I fell into photography mostly by accident. I first picked up a DLSR in 2013, borrowing one so I could take some reference photos of a model to use for my digital drawing. The more I worked with people, taking photos, the more I came to enjoy it, and I began to see it as an extension of my artwork; I enjoy creating and drawing characters most of all, and photography allows me to create characters and capture images of them in collaboration with someone else. I picked up my own camera in August of that year and haven’t regretted it for a moment.

Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.

I try not to pin myself down to one specific style, as I adapt my style to suit the type of work I’m doing and the image I want to create, but I do tend to gravitate towards one of two styles inparticular. For cosplay and fantasy images, I try my best to bring the character to life - often that will involve finding impressive locations to shoot at or compositing backgrounds into the image, and adding special effects and other elements to further enhance the effect. I’m particularly drawn to a more cinematic style, but I’ll often try and match the feel of the image to the source material of the character - whether thats a video game, film, anime, whatever.

For non-cosplay work, I tend to a more gritty, urban style; high contrast, interesting textures and locations, and with a sense of attitude and intimacy. I like to find ways to connect the viewer with the model, to bring across a mood or emotion, invite the viewer into their world and make them feel a connection.

Where do you get inspiration from?

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can often come in the strangest of places, hit at the strangest of times - I make sure I always have my phone with me so I can jot down any ideas in OneNote or Google Keep no matter where I am.

I’m also inspired by the work of other models and photographers - I regularly browse sites like 500px and Pinterest, and I follow a lot of talented people on Facebook; seeing the works of others is a constant source of inspiration for me.

Think you in advance what you want in the picture?

I normally have some ideas in advance but I’m very much in favour of working spontaneously. I don’t think you should have too rigid an idea of the image you want; for me its more a case of knowing the mood or look you’re going for, then experimenting and playing around with different ideas as you shoot. Sometimes the things you try that you don’t think will work end up being the highlights of a set.

Studio, on location or both?

Almost always location. I love natural light; the challenge of working with it and not being able to exert a lot of control over it really appeals to me. Even when doing boudoir or cosplay work I prefer using natural light wherever possible.

Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?

Although I do take on some paid work, I definitely view myself more as a hobbyist. I find I get the best results when I’m able to co-operate with other people on an equal level, where we can all input our own ideas and create something together. Paid work rarely allows for this level of creativity.

What has been your most memorable session and why?

Most recently it would have to be the shoot I did in Reading with Tinkerbella. The shoot itself was fantastic, but the day was marred a bit by someone trying to steal my kit halfway through (thankfully they only succeeded in dropping it and smashing one of my speedlights), and then I was crapped on by a pigeon. I got the feeling Reading didn't like me much.

What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?

There are many photographers and artists I could name as inspirations, but I’ll try and keep the list brief! Some of the key people who inspire me are Haris Nukem, Annie Liebovitz, Helmut Newton, Tim Walker, EOS Andy, Brandon Jordan, H.R. Geiger, and Frank Frazetta.

Nikon or Canon? Favorite lens?

Started out as a Nikon user, but changed to a mirrorless Sony a7ii a couple of months ago and haven’t looked back. I’d be lost without a 50mm Prime, though i’d like to upgrade the Sony 1.8 that I currently have to a Zeiss Planar 1.4 if I can ever afford it!

What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?

Think carefully about what you want to do and why you want to do it. If photography is your passion, be careful about making a career of it in case you become jaded from only shooting what your clients want you to. Its easy to burn out when you’re spending your time working solely on commissions for other people; make sure you set time aside to take images for yourself, too.

What do you think of our new magazine?

It’s a fantastic showcase of some amazingly talented people and an endless source of inspiration - its an absolute privilege to appear alongside them.

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