Photographer and director nternationally recognized for story-driven, cinematic imagery spanning clients from American Express to National Geographic.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF AND THE WORK THAT YOU CREATE.
I’m a commercial advertising photographer and director based in Los Angeles. I was raised in Perth Western Australia, though I was born in South Africa. My work focuses on story-driven imagery of people and characters. I am known for dramatic and technically lit images, though I often deviate from that depending on my subject matter. I strive for my images to be cinematic and about character, those are about the two consistent traits that run through my work. I also shoot and direct small films for commercial clients and for myself - of which the most current iteration is a series of films about craftsmen.
WHO HAVE YOU WORKED WITH AND WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE ASSIGNMENT?
Some of my clients include American Express, National Geographic Channel, Indian Motorcycles, Wrangler, Asics, Infiniti and a host of other brands both large and small. Recent favorites include shooting Tuna Fisherman for National Geographic Channel’s show ‘Wicked Tuna’ and shooting the Indian Motorcycles brand campaign in the redwoods of Northern California.
RECOUNT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN ARTIST.
I began as a zoologist of all things - Australian wildlife was my early passion and I worked as a field biologist specializing in reptiles (known as a herpetologist) for a few years until I gradually realized that my obsession for photography had outgrown my obsession for catching wildlife. I had always been into painting and drawing through my school years and although my father had given me an old Olympus film SLR when I was young, it wasn’t until I encountered digital photography that my interest in the medium really took off. My parents gave me a small point and shoot camera for my 18th birthday and I was hooked. From there I consumed everything about photography, lighting and post production that I could get my hands on. I shot constantly and was never satisfied with my work, constantly looking to improve. It’s the obsession with improvement that has been the backbone of my journey to where I am today. Eventually I was invited to join a commercial studio in my small hometown and from there accepted a job as a retoucher here in the U.S. where I was exposed to high end production and what it takes to be a commercial photographer. After that, I moved out on my own into the trenches of being a commercial artist.
YOU'VE TAKEN A LOT OF RISKS ALONG THE WAY, BUT WHAT WAS YOUR DEFINING ONE WHERE EVERYTHING WAS ON THE LINE?
Moving to the United States was a big risk, as was leaving my full time position as a retoucher to go out on my own as a photographer. In both those moments I had almost nothing to my name but the desire to be successful. At the time I didn’t see those moments as risks, rather they were opportunities and moments where I could leap into the unknown.
HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS SUPPORTED YOU THROUGHOUT IT ALL?
My parents have always been incredibly supportive, as have my friends. I have my mother in particular to thank for supporting my artistic tendencies throughout my younger years - sending me to all manner of extra curricular art classes in order to nurture my talent for drawing and painting. My father has always been supportive as well and taught me that we create our own destiny. He taught me to be self reliant and to go after what I want out of life. I have a network of friends who have inspired me for all sorts of reasons, whether in their own achievements or in the lifestyles they’ve created for themselves.
LOOKING BACK ON ALL THAT HAS UNFOLDED, WHAT NUGGETS OF WISDOM HAVE YOU LEARNED AND EMBRACED?
I still feel like I’m in the midst of the journey, but some of the things I’ve learned include the need for one to have a point of view or style in their art, something that is particularly valuable in the commercial space. I’ve learned that one’s art should be a unique fingerprint that pulls from who you are, what you’re attracted to and the stories you want to tell. No one can duplicate an authentic point of view and it’s something that should be built upon for an entire career. I’ve also learned that business and interpersonal skills are just as important to a career as a commercial artist as technical ability.
IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
I’m not too sure - though perhaps to remind myself that this is a marathon, not a sprint and there’s no need to be ruled by my ambition and constant desire to do more. I’d likely tell my younger self to stop and smell the flowers, as the saying goes.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL HAS ALLOWED YOU TO BREAK THROUGH AND SUCCEED, PARTICULARLY AMONGST YOUR PEERS?
I learned quickly that developing my own aesthetic, one that is unique to me, was extremely important for commercial success. It’s still something I think is incredibly important, especially now when we find ourselves in a sea of sameness, where almost all photographers are using the same cameras, the same photoshop routines and the same outlets for their work. Doing things a little differently has been something I’ve always aspired to.
WHO ARE THE MENTORS THAT HAVE INFLUENCED AND INSPIRED YOUR LIFE?
My father springs to mind as the person who has inspired me the most - he has a business and interpersonal acumen that is very inspiring to me, not to mention has lived a very interesting and adventurous life. My agents Pam and Geoff have been great mentors for me in my career and my wife inspires me to remind myself what is important and to take action in areas outside photography, like in my health and fitness.
IS THERE ANY ADVICE THAT YOU WOULD GIVE A YOUNG PERSON FOLLOWING THEIR PASSION AS AN ARTIST?
Shoot constantly, but also think constantly about why you’re shooting what you are, why it’s important to you and how you can approach your subject differently from what has come before you. I would encourage photographers to look less frequently at the stream of images coming at them online and look inwardly at what it is that really gets them excited about making images. I often ask people I meet what they would be doing or what would they be shooting if tomorrow they found a billion dollars and could spend their days doing whatever they wanted to. It’s a question that stimulates great conversation and gets one close to what their work should really be about, and it’s a question I try to remind myself of often.
WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CREATIVITY, WHAT DO YOU FIND YOURSELF CONSTANTLY SEARCHING FOR?
I find myself searching for stories and subject matter that inspire me which might also lend themselves to film or a series of photographs. I’m constantly searching for the next story to tell.
WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT KEEP YOU CREATIVELY INSPIRED AND CONSISTENTLY INNOVATING?
I think my own internal drive is what keeps me moving forward. Where that comes from, I’m not so sure. Any creative satisfaction that I might feel creating the work that I do, is fleeting, so once a project is done I tend to immediately be onto the next one. This overwhelming desire to create is a big part of my life and I can’t imagine what I’d do without it. I find inspiration in film, in characters from stories and the real world, in music and in themes or concepts that I want to explore visually. Both artistically and commercially, I know how important it is to constantly innovate and push my skill set forward. I enjoy the challenge of constantly pushing my own boundaries.
LOOKING AT OUR WORLD, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN IMPACT AND CHANGE ABOUT IT?
I think as photographers we have the ability to shine a metaphorical spotlight on any issue or subject that we turn our cameras to. I would like to make more of a difference with my images, to shoot something that spreads more awareness of climate change, or of globalization, or overgrazing, all manner of issues that concern me. I dedicate a portion of my time every year to a cause that means something to me, but I should really be doing more.
WE ALL DREAM OF LEAVING A LEGACY. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR, AND WHY?
I’m not sure yet. I haven’t thought enough about legacy since I still feel I’m so early in my artistic career. Having a series of films and photographs about issues and stories that are important to me would be something that comes to mind - but what those are in the longer term, I’m not sure yet.
ANY CURRENT ALBUMS, ARTISTS OR SONGS ON REPEAT?
I listen to a lot of deep house music mixes on Soundcloud. I can’t put my finger on one in particular. Film scores are another favorite - Hans Zimmer, Nick Cave and James Newton Howard are some favorites.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MOVIE OR TV SHOW?
The Proposition would be one of my favorites, so too would Gladiator or ‘The Revenant’.
Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts.
I have a sweet tooth, so anything on the dessert menu.
STAR WARS OR STAR TREK?
WHAT IMPORTANT TRUTH DO VERY FEW PEOPLE AGREE WITH YOU ON?
I wouldn't say very few people would agree with this, but it’s the only thing that came to mind - that climate change is a very real and imminent threat to life on our planet.