A portrait commission, which I photographed in Geneva last year, has been given the above artistic revamp.
At the tail end of last year I had a fun shoot at Liverpool FC's home ground, Anfield. The images were to be used for a television intro sequence featuring three of the first team players. The desired pictures would be of the players straight after they came off the pitch at the end of the 90 minutes, so that they would be a little bit muddied, and ruffled around the edges, to create the rawness of high octane sports.
It was a late kick off on a Saturday, being broadcast on TV. My assistant Roy, and I, had to be at the ground several hours before kick off to gain our spot in a makeshift media area. We were given a very small booth, something akin to a tiny exhibition stand, where we would set up our backdrop and lighting.
By the time the game ended we were ready. Little did we know how quick the shoot would pass.
Ushered through were the selected players for the shoot, Firmino, Sadio Mané and Coutinho; probably the three in-form players in the Premier League at the time, all looking fresh as a daisy - it had been a very routine win over a poor West Bromwich Albion team, so any hopes of exhausted expressions were dashed. They were flanked either side by press officers, who were trying desperately to keep the three of them moving from interview to interview, BBC to Sky and so forth. They very quickly arrived at our little booth and stepped inside one by one. At a guess I'd say I had under a minute per player. So it was a case of directing them as best I could with the short time available and hoping that they brought something of themselves to it.
I have to say, I was pretty chuffed with the results.
I have finally started work on a new project, which will run concurrently with a few others, including my Open House series. This one focuses on London's independent bookshops, of which I am hoping to photograph around a dozen of them and their owners.
After getting married in the summer it was time to go on our honeymoon in October, for which my wife and I decided on California - a place we very much have always wanted to visit, and as such, we decided to explore Las Vegas, also fitting in a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon, and then onto San Diego, Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, Monterey and then driving over to Yosemite National Park and finishing up in San Francisco on my birthday. A trip of a lifetime you might say and driving that convertible Mustang along Highway One was a real treat, taking in the Big Sur, Los Angeles and Santa Monica along the way.
As far as photography goes, I took a few rolls of Fuji Velvia with me to capture the places in all their colourful beauty as a true, pure photographer only can, with an analogue Olympus OM10 and an assortment of lenses. But I also ticked off a lot of the same shots with my iPhone, regularly posting to Instagram, but in a thought out and measured approach. It had to be a good reason to post, as you'll see below from a selection I've put together, in chronological order.
As for the 35mm Velvia shots, I'll share them in due course...
Here's a quick portrait I took of Illusionist Derren Brown in April, in Wolverhampton, UK.
I was commissioned by Thorpe Park to produce some striking images for their new attraction, the Derren Brown Ghost Train experience. It is the first of its kind in the UK, and utilises the latest in virtual reality technology.
This was actually the second part of the job, following a shoot in the Midlands back in April, where I photographed Derren Brown himself with one of the demon characters that would appear in the ride. These images gained some terrific coverage both in the national and international media.
Here's something I worked on back in May, at a location house in Wimbledon, in south west London. This was an online campaign for Kellogg's and the image accompanied an advert featuring gymnast Louis Smith's supposed early morning routine at home, in which he performs all kinds of athletic warm up exercises...like you do!
A recent shoot with GB Olympic gymnast Louis Smith, in London.
I was very happy to have an image highly commended in the British Life Photography Awards with my portrait of Chiswick artist Jonathan Mercer. The image was displayed at London's Mall Galleries.
A commemorative book has also been published, featuring all the images from the awards. I was fortunate enough to have an additional portrait feature, of Dame Zandra Rhodes.
I acquired a negative scanner for my birthday last year and occasionally, when I have some time spare, I like to scan a few in. Shooting on film for me is still the ultimate challenge - especially since I spend my working week seeing instant results with a digital camera. I learned my trade with film, loading the camera, winding it on after each exposure and even manually processing it in a tank, so I'm a bit of a traditionalist, certainly as a hobby.
It's always nice to take a film camera somewhere new, generally when I go away on holiday. I've got quite a few old film cameras now, one being an Olympus OM10, which was actually my first camera, bought for me by my Dad. I sold it years ago but replaced it recently with an identical model. I've also just bought a Nikon FM which is a great little camera. I'm a Nikon shooter for a living so I just had to get a manual one as well for shooting film with.
The first image was taken from my hotel terrace overlooking Lake Garda. Actually my Fiance spotted the scene first and instagramed it - I had to go one better and try and nail it on film, much to her annoyance!!
The second image was taken in the Alps, while holidaying on the slopes in Meribel. The giant mountain you can see in the distance is Mont Blanc.
After a break from my Open House project, something I'd been working on since March 2014, I was back to it last week with this portrait of weaver Bobbie Kociejowski. She is joined by her beloved cat, 'Belle'.
The 'Open House' project is a series of portraits of London based artists situated in their working environments.
To view the project in its entirety go to the 'Projects' tab on the left column of the site and click 'Open House' from the dropdown. Alternatively visit this link.
All photography © 2016 Daniel Lewis
I was delighted to learn this week that my portrait of Putney based artists Ken & Margot Cox gained an "Honourable Mention" in the 2015 ND Awards. The portrait is part of my ongoing 'Open House' portrait series which focuses on London artists in their studios.
This portrait has already been recognised - last year it was highly commended in the British Life Photography Awards and was subsequently exhibited in London's Mall Galleries.
Ken & Margot are members of the Putney Artists group.
It has been announced today that The Independent newspaper is to close its doors to traditional printed publishing, but will continue to run digitally online.
I have to say that purely from a photography point of view this makes me sad. Us photographers, particularly ones like me who originated in news, have been watching the slow and steady decline of print journalism over the past five years. Many jobs have been lost at regional papers. Specifically, photographers have been shoddily axed in favour of public contributor content. This shows a distinct lack of understanding, and respect, for the art and skill of photography, as if it is easily replaceable with mobile phone images submitted by the general, untrained public, or even journalists.
My first paid work as a graduate photographer was to shift for the Southern Daily Echo. I was only paid £80 per day, but it covered my bills in those days, and helped me learn my trade on the job, instead of doing temp work, which I would've hated. I'd cover local events like school nativity plays, 'Soccer Schools' summer team photos and such like during the summer. It wasn't portfolio quality work but it taught me to think on my feet, for myself, navigate my way to a job, organise and arrange people and make sure I came back with the goods according to the brief I was given. Experience is everything when you make your living as a photographer - you call on past events to manage assignments, you learn, always by doing. Now there is a whole generation of would-be photographers, who sadly won't be, because they won't have the chance to start at that level and progress onward as so many photojournalists have done over the past century of publishing, simply because those jobs won't exist.
In 2014 I heard from a young photographer who'd recently graduated from Salisbury College, where I'd also studied. She came to me for advice about how to get on with her career in what was then the wilderness of graduation hangover. I'd been told on the grapevine that she was very good and was leaning towards a career in photojournalism. Naturally, I was happy to help so I suggested to her to get in touch with her local paper, get some work under her belt, gain experience and then when she was ready to move on to being a freelancer maybe 2-3 years down the line, like I did. To my delight they offered her a staff job - even two years ago these were hard to come by - and she thanked me for my advice. I heard from her next a year later to be told she'd been made redundant, the newspaper, owned by Newsquest, were cutting all their photographers and were to proceed using reporters phones and readers' submitted photos from the scene. I was gutted for her, but I was also gutted for the photography community. This is sadly the era we now live in where photojournalism, at least among the regional press, is on borrowed time.
The brutal truth is that newspapers are a dying business. I have photographer friends working in news who are actively putting together plans for the next phase of their careers, some of them are seeking a life outside of photography altogether.
Today sees the very first time that a national newspaper of note has announced it's to close (before you say it, News of the World was a different case). The Independent has always been a favourite among photographers because of its respect and appreciation of photography, and being aware of its importance to telling a story. In the 14 years I've been doing this job, one of my proudest tearsheets is my first double page spread in The Independent on Sunday. Their use of bold and striking magazine-like layouts, utilising large scale images, with terrific reproduction values are (or were) a dream for us photographers. I remember opening this particular edition up and venturing to the sports section, as I knew it was to be used that day.
I was so proud that they'd deemed my work of sufficient standard to use across two pages, it did wonders for my confidence as a 25 year old agency photographer. It also proved that I'd been right to frame the portrait the way I did; off-centre, because it encouraged them to spread it across the pages.
I do hope that with their new digital approach The Independent will continue at least to commission good photography and maintain the values that they did with the printed edition. Let's hope this won't be the first of many closures. We shall see.
With the return to UK television screens of The X-Files on Channel 5, next Monday night, it seemed only fitting that I post this portrait of actress Gillian Anderson, AKA Dana Scully, from a shoot I was on in December, for Audible UK.
Gillian was in the recording studio to voice a special one off, festive themed story, called ‘Mrs Zant & The Ghost’ by Willie Collins.
I was kindly contacted last week by Jonathan Cherry, a UK based photographer, who runs the well respected photography showcase website ‘Mull It Over’, asking me to do an interview with him.
I was thrilled to oblige…
JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you want to be growing up?
DANIEL LEWIS: I always had a creative impulse from a very small age so I knew it would be making something, whether drawing, taking pictures or writing words. But I knew it wouldn’t be a 9-5 desk job, that never interested me. I suppose I didn’t want to grow up and get a proper job. My first camera was an Olympus OM10 bought for my birthday by my Dad so I have him to thank for that. I went through a few phases of wanting to be a graphic designer, and a CGI animator for films in my teen years. Photography came into focus for me probably subconsciously through my own failings as an artist, my slight colour-blindness held me back in traditional art, so photography combined all the elements of creating imagery realistically, utilising graphic lines in the framing of my pictures in-camera and satisfying my creativity.
JC: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
DL: Right now I’ve been inspired by so much great photography in the public domain. There is a plethora of talent about, particularly in London, and I only see it as a booster to my own ambitions to be a better photographer. Every time I pick up the New Review section in the Observer newspaper (UK Sunday broadsheet) there is a new name I don’t recognise who I just have to look up and investigate. It inspires me to be better – that can only be a good thing, pushing yourself is the only way you improve, resting on your laurels is when you fall behind the competition.
JC: What are you up to right now?
DL: As well as my commissioned work, in which I move between the editorial & commercial/advertising fields, I have an ongoing portrait project that I’ve been working on for over a year now called Open House, focusing on London based artists in their working environments – namely their studios. The hope is that I will move around to different parts of the City capturing many, many different types of people, from various backgrounds, whether they be oil painters, street artists, sculptors, potters or fashion designers – all of those skillsets are contained within the 20 or so people I have photographed thus far and I’m hoping to gain more. I’m also hoping that the look and tone of the images will differ according to the regions of London I travel to; so Chiswick will look a lot different to Hackney (for instance), in opposite parts of the city – part of that is the aesthetic look of the buildings in which they inhabit, but also the beauty is that different artists will produce very different kinds of work, which by default helps keep the series of portraits eclectic and fresh. The main longer terms ambition is to get the project published independently, with perhaps a central London show upon completion in a couple of years.
JC: Have you had mentors along the way?
DL: The one that stands out was the Picture Editor at the news agency I worked at for three years who was a huge influence on me. He allowed me space to learn on the job, praising me when I did things well, and encouraging & explaining when things didn’t go so well. He was very calm so you knew if you tried things out on a job and they didn’t come off then as long as you got your safe shot in the bag, it was reassuring to know you weren’t going to get a telling off. He was a big influence in my early years as a professional and got me off to a good start in the business – I have stayed in touch with him since my move to London.
My Dad has also been a great guiding and influencing force in my life, never a photographer, yet creatively minded. He would have done well at it!
JC: Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you?
DL: I’m based in a lovely Victorian suburb of south west London, a kind of leafy village really, which I like because I’m not a native Londoner. So when I leave the City after a shoot it is nice to be in a quiet place, away from the hustle & bustle of central London. I’m close by to The Thames which is inviting and appealing when you want to get out for some fresh air to clear your head. The area I’m in is actually a thriving creative community that first spawned my artist project, from which I’ve made some new friends, so it’s nice to have fellow creatives living nearby who you can hang out with.
JC: One piece of advice to photography graduates?
DL: My advice would be to advise them BEFORE they graduate… and that would be to make absolutely sure that you set the wheels in motion BEFORE you graduate. So that you have work lined up, or at least have some kind of foot in the door that may lead to work. Otherwise, as happens to a lot of photography graduates: they take the summer off, perhaps get a part time job and then, over time, slowly but surely fall away and lose sight of their ambition to become a professional. I for one did not want to be getting multiple part-time jobs doing inconsequential things taking me off my career path, and eventually forgetting about photography. My ambition was to be a pro photographer, end of. So I made damn sure that during the BA Hons course I didn’t just do the minimum of just handing in my assignments on time, I made sure I was proactive in making some contacts so that when I did graduate I had something to get on with towards making it a reality and getting paid to do it. This was so important to my development because it meant I was ahead of the game and had a decent portfolio to show around when I was eventually in the big wide world. Straight away I was working for my local paper through the contacts I’d made, which subsequently led to other opportunities that led me here ten years down the line. I’m still hoping more of these opportunities will continue to present themselves.
But to answer your question succinctly, I’d say: be proactive and make all the contacts you can while you’re still at college whilst honing your technical skills as a photographer. And for graduates who have done this, persevere, keep taking pictures and keep knocking doors.
JC: If all else fails – what is your plan B?
DL: It’s a bit late for that! Hopefully now I’m established enough that I won’t have to think about it. I’m so busy with commissioned work that I’m hoping the only way is up. Plan B doesn’t exist because Plan A is still working…so far.
JC: Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community?
DL: Yes I think it’s a good thing to be part of some kind of group because you can speak the same language, make friends, compare notes on how you make a living and most importantly there is the added likelihood of passing each other work – ultimately as long as you are gainfully employed then you can stay in the game. Making a living in photography comes from the people you meet ultimately – I’ve been around long enough to learn that much. There’s never been a truer cliche than It’s who you know.
Here are some very funky images that were composited from my still-life studio images for Sunglasses Hut, shot prior to London Fashion Week. I photographed a whole load of brand new sunglasses and this is what they did with a few of them, compositing them into these colourful, abstract backgrounds.