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Interview with Alter-View Photographer James E Harvey-Kelly

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Interview with Alter-View Photographer James E Harvey-Kelly

The Alter-View team is growing with wickedly talented people and today we are psyched to welcome a new photographer to our team: James E Harvey-Kelly, a London-based photographer and fashion designer. Although photography has been his lifelong passion, James started out in fashion as a designer and creative director for menswear brands. In 2015 he decided to ditch his fashion career to follow his dreams of being a full-time photographer, and it worked.

How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?

My father was always very passionate about photography. In our family house where I grew up there was a dark room, and he had lots of amazing cameras and he taught me from a very young age. When I was 8 he bought me an Olympus OM10, which is a little manual 35mm SLR with no automatic functions and he told me that I had to work out how to use it before he let me use any of the big electronic cameras he had. Because of this from a young age I had a real fascination with photography. I was always really interested in fashion and I was always really interested in photography, those were always my two passions.

When I left school I went and studied theology at university but really I was into photography. So I was in London and I was working a lot with photographers as an assistant and stuff like that and doing almost no university work. At the same time I was quite social so I met a lot of people, who were already working in the industry. I had the opportunity to work in fashion photography with a couple of really amazing photographers, to assist them and learn from them. But it became clear to me that, although I was really passionate about fashion and about photography, those two passions weren’t really connected. The photography I liked was more reportage or art photography, and so I started to realise it wasn’t possible for me to express what I wanted to in terms of photography by doing fashion photography. When I left university I kept assisting and then I ended up working as a photographer and doing more landscapes and reportage, but not really doing proper jobs, just kind of messing around, building up my personal work, assisting people a bit. But I couldn’t work out how to make any money doing it. And I suppose also I didn’t have the confidence to know whether my work was good or not or how to use my work.

So I ended up having an opportunity to go into doing fashion as a tailor and designer. I worked as a menswear designer and then I ended up moving to Paris, to work for a menswear brand there. Then I came back to London as a creative director and worked for a while in that space and I didn’t touch a camera for about 7 years at all. But I was working a lot with photographers, I was the guy who was producing and art-directing the stories, or the campaigns, or the lookbooks. I was the one who was saying “ok this is what we want”  and then I picked photographers and worked with them to create what we needed. And because I had a background in photography I understood the language of it and could have very useful conversations with photographers which was a really important part of my job. After a while I quit my job in fashion and I didn’t know what to do next so I took a year out. I started doing freelance work, producing and art-directing photo shoots for fashion brands and then I got the opportunity very randomly to shoot a couple of them, because photographers became unavailable. Even though I wasn't confident about doing this, I thought I should give it a try. I think because I’d spent the last 7 years before that, being the person who was in a position of authority working with photographers, suddenly I had the confidence and the insight to apply that same authority to my own work. Even though technically I was less good, because I hadn’t photographed in such a long time, I had a much more clear idea of what good photography was. Then I got more and more opportunities until I hit a point where I decided that's all I wanted to do. So since then I’ve been working as a photographer in the fashion industry, but also in art-photography, portraits and landscapes and that’s the journey so far.

Have you had any mentors along the way? Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

I’ve had a lot of mentors, although I’m not sure they have always been aware of it. The first was my father, who was really passionate about photography. He has never worked as a photographer, but he’s always been someone that’s been really passionate about it and this  shared passion has always been a big part of our relationship. He taught me the basics of how photography works and when I was young he introduced me to all these great classical black and white photographers, like Jeanloup Sieff, Norman Parkinson and the old Magnum photographers like Cartier-Bresson or Robert Capa. When I was a kid I really understood photography as being about that, those guys represented what photography was to me . So he gave me a great grounding in this classical framework of photography.

I’ve been really lucky over the past 10 years to have been able to work really closely with some amazing fashion photographers and I have learned something from every single one of them. They’ve had some wildly different perspectives and I think that’s one of the main things I learnt while working as an art-director and as a producer rather than photographer, that it's not that meaningful to categorise people as good or bad photographers, rather it's about having your own vision and sticking with it - it’s as simple as that. It was really cool being able to work with all these super talented people and get inside their aesthetics and understand where their approach was coming from.

Also because I mostly shoot on film, a lot of my process involves working with printers in darkrooms in the labs. Over my career I’ve used a few different labs and I’ve been really privileged to develop some very close relationship with printers. When I was 20 I used to work with a guy who printed a lot of the Magnum photographers’ stuff. Every morning I would get up, cycle to his lab and stay there for 2 to 3 hours. He’d just show me all the things we could do or he’d do all my prints or we’d just talk. He taught me so much about what was possible with photography and gave me so much confidence. And he’s just one of them. All of these guys have become mentors to me in different ways, because I didn’t have a classical education in photography and these people know their stuff and are super patient.

Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?

That’s a funny question, because a lot of people in my life around me maybe see me as someone who takes quite bold moves. Often I’ve taken jobs, which I was completely unqualified for, but for me they never felt like risks. They’ve always felt like the only thing I could possibly do at that moment. I think I’ve always been someone who’s passionate and I’ve been extremely lucky that my entire life so far I’ve only ever done jobs I’m really passionate about. In that sense I’ve never had to do a single bit of work in my entire life, it’s always been natural. For example when I left my last job with a brand in London a year or two ago, it was probably quite risky. But again - it felt inevitable. There’s a saying “ fortune favours the bold” and maybe that's a bit true.  Before I decided that photography was all I wanted to do six months ago, I’d been quite reserved showing people my work, because I felt I had a lot to learn still, which I do. So I thought I’d just work quietly in the background, build a body of work and when I’m really proud of it, then I’ll push it. But then I realised - you’re always improving, you’re always changing, your work from a year ago never looks good to you - so you might as well put yourself out there now. And as soon as I put myself out there, I had so much positive feedback and so many opportunities and it’s still seems to be happening and I’m still learning which is amazing. I’ve been lucky.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

I think when people see you doing something which is really authentic to you, then of course they are 100 % supportive. Also photography is a cool job, because it gives you good stories to tell. You’re a bit of an explorer: you’re exploring places or other people’s lives and you get to go and sit with interesting people and photograph them, understand the world better and be aware and alive, so I think that's only going to enrich the lives of those around you.

What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such great imagery?

I’m not sure. I think I’m most interested in quite simple things, when things feel really natural and true.  I’m interested in empathy, although that sounds pious. That’s why I love portrait photography, although the same thing extends throughout the disciplines, because you get to sit down, you get to look at someone, you get to talk, you get to know them a little and you get to slowly find moments of commonality and hopefully through that create something meaningful. There’s nothing more specific than that. I like it when a photo looks authentic and real, and doesn’t feel contrived or overly directed. In a more practical sense I’m always inspired by other photographers. I love those early colour great american landscape, road trip kind of photographers like Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston. I can look at their photographs for hours - they have such a wonderful relationship with light and this very composed, but also throw-away kind of aesthetic. And it always feels so honest.  That’s something that influenced me hugely and I find that style very fascinating.

How would you describe your style?

Whats’ funny is even when I was working as a designer, I always seemed to gravitate towards a rich, bold colour profile in everything I do and that’s something people often identify in my work. I suppose also there’s kind of the looseness I go for, I generally don’t like things looking like they are too deliberate, too composed and I like something that has an emotive hook to it. Ultimately everything I do - even fashion and landscapes - comes from reportage standpoint.

Do you have a routine?

I get up at 7.30 pretty much always, then I meditate for 20 minutes, have an egg white omelette with spinach and an espresso and then I spend maybe an hour doing emails. I keep in touch with people, talk to my lab, arrange production of photoshoots, That’s always a good way to begin the day, it gets your head straight in terms of what you want to achieve. Then I usually cycle to my l lab, where I look at prints we’re doing to make sure they are ready or take the printers through what we need to do. And then I’ll usually come back to the studio and either I’ll be shooting, or I’ll be working on retouching or production for whatever’s happening the next week or two.  I’ll find some time to socialise and have dinner sometimes but now days mostly I work into the evening - usually until 11 or so - creating mood boards, making references , and that’s my life pretty much every day.

What do you see yourself doing in a few years?

I hope the same thing I’m doing now, but just more. I love to travel - that’s a really important part of my life and something I’ve not been doing so much recently. At some point I would like not to be based as much in London. London is a very important city for me to be in right now, because it has that creative energy and I have a really good network here, but at some point I’d like to live someplace more sunny and by the sea. I spent a lot of extended periods of time staying abroad by the sea and it always improves your life so immeasurably. I’d like to be travelling more, shooting more, just doing the same work really. I’d like to shoot a mixture of occasional fashion campaigns, occasional reportage, work on exhibitions - variety keeps you fresh and you keep on learning the whole time. As long as I’m taking photographs, I’m happy.

Why did you join Alter-View?

Misha Stroyev, the founder of Alter-View, is a good friend of mine and much of my work has been based around my personal relationships. Which is really important, because you end up with a positive natural energy around your work. I’ve also been interested because it’s an agency with more of a reportage, documentary focus. In London I find my work gravitating more towards fashion, because that’s where most of my network is, but I was really interested to work with an agency, that has this reportage/landscape outlook. It's something I’m excited to explore more.

To see more of James's work go here:


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Photography tips from photographer Andrew Semark

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Photography tips from photographer Andrew Semark

Smart people learn from their mistakes, geniuses learn from others. Here at Alter-View we’ve got a stellar team of photographers you can learn from. We asked Andrew Semark, a photographer and surfer from Western Australia, to talk about his favorite tools, accessories and sources of inspiration.

1) What Technology and Gear do you use?

I shoot with Canon gear mainly. I use the Canon 5d mkiii with a mix of canon L series Lenses. I have been trialing a new Sony setup for some of my landscape and surf work and the camera is producing some nice quality. I think staying focused for me personally it's a mentality, my gear is just a tool to help me produce the images I see in my head and bring them to life.

2) How do you Edit and what Tools and Accessories do you use?

I don’t edit to much on the go, I have a little system at home that I like to shoot and come home to my office and work away at my images. I think the comfort of my home office helps with my images. Love my Wacom tablet to help with finer details.

3) Where do you get your Inspiration from?

To be honest, I am still trying to focus on perfecting what I do, so I don’t visit many blogs or websites. There are so many amazing photographers going around it’s easy for me to get distracted so I try to keep my mind focused on what I'm doing. I use social media quite often so it’s easy to log on and see some amazing crew shooting some mental images. When I was asked to be a part of Alter-View, they sent me a couple of links of the other photographers and it blew my mind how good some of the crew I'm lucky enough to be included with.

To see more of Andrew's work, check out his page:


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5 Tips for Lifestyle Photography from Maïder Oyarzabal

5 Tips for Lifestyle Photography from Maïder Oyarzabal

Lifestyle photography is arguably today’s most in-demand genre. While it might seem pretty effortless from the outside, there’s much more to lifestyle photography than simply taking impromptu shots. We asked Alter-View photographer Maïder Oyarzabal to share some tips, that’ll help you get that lifestyle feel.

1. Always Have a Camera with You

You never know, what’ll happen in a second  and you don’t want to miss something worth shooting. Sometimes you’ll have that great light or a very inspiring moment that you’ll want to to capture, so bring your camera with or at least have your phone with a camera feature out and handy.

2. Zoom In

While you might be tempted to literary look at the big picture, sometimes it really pays off  to focus on little details. I have nothing against wider shots - they tell their own story, but very often it’s the little things, that make a photograph special.

3. Look for the Light

The right light is what makes the main difference between a good image and a very special one. Try to let things unfold organically as much as possible, but don’t be afraid to change your shooting position or angle of your camera.

4. Stay Weird

Stay true to your weird side - that’s what makes your picture unique and personal. Don’t limit yourself, because you never know how things will unfold. Connect with you inner child, it will give sensitivity to your work and special style to your images.

5. Always be Ready

The key to great lifestyles is avoiding posed pictures, and to do that you should always be alert. If you want to take a great portrait you need to be spontaneous and capture the right expression without imposing anything. Also, if you manage to build a connection with the person you’re shooting, your photos will come out great.

To see Maïder's work click here!

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Photographie urbaine : 6 conseils à toujours avoir en tête

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Photographie urbaine : 6 conseils à toujours avoir en tête

La ville est par définition un lieu de contraste, à la fois construit et mouvant, et souvent vécu en tant que tel : concentration de population qui recherche un coin de tranquillité. La photographie urbaine a pour sujet la ville et ses habitants, les gens et leurs lieux de vie, de travail, de rencontre, plus ou moins marqués par l’Histoire avec un grand H ou par des histoires du quotidien. Quelques soient ses partis pris esthétiques, la tâche du photographe urbain est de rendre compte de la dualité vitale de la ville.

1) L’ouverture aux autres : le maître mot. Quand vous sortez dans la rue, soyez le plus ouvert et discret possible pour pouvoir saisir l’Instant ou Le détail qui donnera du sens à votre photo. Si vous photographier des foules, plongez-vous dedans avant de photographier pour en saisir l’atmosphère, si vous photographier des personnes, soyez prêts à respecter et à accepter leur refus. Si vous photographier des paysages ou des objets urbains, gardez toujours à l’esprit les symboles et les récits qu’ils véhiculent. Un conseil pratique : si vous voyagez à l’étranger, connaissez vos droits à l’avance et renseignez-vous sur les coutumes locales en termes de rapport à l’image. Aimer les gens, et aimez raconter ou imaginez leur histoire.

2) Timing et positionnement : une question de feeling. Tout en étant prêt à saisir la scène ou le détail insolite, prenez le temps d’observer et choisissez le bon moment en fonction de la lumière et de la fréquentation du lieu. Sortez par tous les temps et à toute heure : les photos de nuit sont un des privilèges de la photo urbaine. Un des trucs de nombreux photographes est, avant de commencer à shooter, de se placer soi-même dans la même lumière que le sujet qu’on veut photographier et de faire la mise au point sur le gris de l’asphalte ou sur sa main. Là aussi, être au bon endroit au bon moment ne dépend pas toujours de vous, mais être dans la bonne disposition d’esprit et avoir les bons réflexes de préparation vous permettront de mettre toutes les chances de votre côté !

3) L’originalité du sujet est indispensable. A moins d’une commande spéciale, évitez de photographier les monuments historiques trop connus et déjà photographiés des milliers de fois ; ou alors, trouver un angle de vue ou un traitement visuel inédit. La photo urbaine doit tenter de refléter les contrastes, les mouvements de la ville et de ses habitants : jouer sur les couleurs, le cadrage, la lumière, les perspectives qu’offre ce formidable terrain de jeu qu’est la ville. De même, rechercher les endroits insolites, parfois même délaissés ou oubliés du tumulte urbain mais le plus souvent porteurs de nombreuses histoires. La ville est comme un mille-feuille de vécus et de projets plus ou moins achevés. Enfin, sachez jouer sur les contrastes de la ville et sur le hors-champs : cadrez sur un vide qui en dit long sur les présences qui l’entourent, montrez la nature en ville et jouer sur l’opposition classique nature/culture.

4) Le mouvement dans la forme. La photographie urbaine tente le plus souvent de saisir les dynamiques d’un lieu et de son usage, eux-mêmes très structurés et codifiés. Pourtant, les photos de villes les plus marquantes sont souvent celle qui parviennent à recréer le mouvement de la ville : pour cela, utiliser les lignes, gérer la lumière pour jouer sur les contraste, les ombres et les textures, utiliser tous les ressorts et toutes les occasions qu’offre la ville pour déformer le sujet comme par exemple les reflets des surfaces vitrées, les flous qu’impliquent les mouvements d’une foule ou encore les détournement de sens des affiches publiques. Bien entendu, le jeu sur la lumière offre des possibilités infinies : jeu de lumière de jour avec les ombres des bâtiments, de nuit avec les illuminations (éclairages publics, phares de voiture, fenêtres éclairées…).

5) Matériel : privilégiez le côté pratique. Pour cela, utilisez de préférences un appareil compact, par exemple un boitier reflex 24x36, plus discret pour vous fondre dans la foule, avec une focale plutôt entre 35 et 50 mm qui privilégie elle-aussi la proximité avec le sujet, la profondeur et la multitude de détails. Vous pouvez aussi utiliser un fish-eye ou grand angle pour varier les plaisirs. Si vous n’êtes pas un pro, le mode programme (P) permet de pouvoir saisir une scène sur le vif.

6) Spontanéité : tous ces conseils ne sont que des recommandations, et si certaines d’entre-elles peuvent vous paraître contradictoires, c’est bon signe ! Sortez dans la rue, photographiez le plus de choses qui vous touchent et n’ayez pas peur de vous tromper, en ville, peut-être plus que nulle part ailleurs, un détail décisif que vous n’aviez pas remarquez tout de suite peut se révéler à n’importe quelle étape, alors tenez-vous prêt et bon shooting!

Photo par notre photographe De-Stroyev

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5 Tips to Make Photography Habit Stick

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5 Tips to Make Photography Habit Stick

So you’ve made shooting more photos your New Year resolution but we’re 17 days into the new year and your camera is still collecting dust? Alter-View offers 5 easy-to-follow tips to stay motivated in your photography and make more great shots.

1. Always Have Camera With You
Make this your core philosophy: carrying your camera everywhere will inevitably result into more shots and this is the case where you gradually transition from quantity to quality. If you’re serious about photography, you should give preference to DSLR, since practice is the only way to learn your camera capabilities through and through. It may cause some difficulties at first, but eventually the habit of always carrying a camera will affect your gear choices - what’s the point in a big fancy camera if it’s never going to leave your bag?

2. Move Around
In today’s world where everything’s moving and changing so quickly, you don’t have to wait for stuff to happen anymore: go places you haven’t been before or places you don’t go often to and document everything you see. Finding the right location has always been challenge, but in the digital age it ceases to be a viable excuse. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out Discover Earth - their Instagram @discoverearth is sure to get you in the right mood.

3. Get New Gear
Getting new tools and equipment is always motivating - you need to figure out how it works after all: like this super-cool 360fly 4K video camera for amazing spherical shots, or revolutionary Phantom 4 Pro by DJI, that will elevate your aerial photography. Not ready to purchase? You can always borrow, rent or trade the equipment you need. Experiment with those and before you know it, you’ve already created a new habit. Just make sure you don’t develop gear acquisition syndrome, no matter how great the equipment is, it’s only a tool.

4. Challenge Yourself
Take a simple numeric challenge of making 5 photos a week and promise yourself a nice reward in the end or join one of the many photo-challenges that Instagram offers - it will affect a positive change in your work. You can always start a #365project and document your progress on a daily basis or just pick a theme - it may be something as simple as geometrical shapes as in #DSShapes challenge - give yourself a timeline and work with it. You’ll get the desired practice, community support and become a better photographer when it’s over.

5. Pay Attention
This world is a beautiful place - sometimes all you have to do is look around. Photography teaches us to be mindful, present and see beauty in the little things. Make photography your personal kind of meditation and magical things will start to happen.

Photo by De-Stroyev.
#AlterViewTips

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