What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?
I was introduced to photography at school but didn't really take it seriously until I was at Art College and experimenting with painting, sculpture and design. I realised the unique power that photography has to engage head on and directly with the world as I experienced it day to day. I have always enquired into my own nature and photography became a part of that long term enquiry which probably explains why I have been committed to Street Photography for so long, it is the approach that most satisfies my wish to understand. I find working with a small camera in a public place with no preconceived aims to be a revelatory process, the act of being there and looking with that magical light recording device often results in the most unexpected results. I have always recognised that the still camera has this one wonderful trick, to freeze and store a scene for long term inspection. I don't think I will ever tire of playing with that process.
In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?
I think it takes quite some time to find your own voice and vocabulary as a photographer and there are a lot of attractive diversions along the way. Inevitably one starts by mimicking the work one admires of the previous generation and hopefully along the way one stumbles, often by accident, on to a unique path of ones own and realises one has something new to contribute to the history of the medium. When I teach I always encourage my students to 'own' their pictures and be confident being the 'author' of them, I get them to explain their decisions and I don't think its ever to early to start this process of self assessment. When you are content that you are achieving your own goals as a photographer, that is probably the point at which you are ready to show your work more widely and seek external criticism and exposure.
As a new photographer I think it is vital to recognise that people like to pigeon hole and categorise you and recognition will come more quickly if you focus your work in one area or style for the first few years, you will get shows, publications and work if you are the guy/girl that does 'that' thing....it's a shame but it's just the way humans do things. Once you are a name in your own right, you can experiment more widely and people will accept it.
How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?
I think confidence, self belief, enthusiasm and above all energy have driven forward most of my projects and ideas. It takes a lot of faith to see through an idea you have during the night into a published book or a public exhibition. There are always times with any project when the pictures aren't coming and you begin to doubt the whole venture. I have developed strategies to get me through these periods and they come out of experience, out of having been there before. Having the confidence to experiment and do things a differently can go a long way to getting you noticed and for commercial work simply doing a great job is the best promotion you can have.
Everyone needs a break at some point, mine was being given a job on The Independent Newspaper in London at the time when that paper was leading the way and transforming the perception of newspaper photography, it was a very exciting time to be there. I have made mistakes a long the way of course, my biggest lesson was when I started to get Advertising work in New York and allowed myself to be bullied into working in a different way to my usual approach, the pictures where not good so the next time I shot for a big US Agency I behaved like a Prima Dona, ignored the client, demanded to use my usual little cameras with no tripod making spontaneous observations like I do on the street.....it was the best commercial Ad campaign I've ever shot. Those kind of lessons can only be acquired the hard way and they are the lessons that make one a safe pair of hands for expensive commercial commissions.
The climate for photographers has and is changing constantly though and we are all having to adapt quickly, my experience of 'making it' will very likely be different for someone starting out now. My advice to anyone on a photography course now would be to get out of the classroom and get some real world experience as regularly as you can, just go down and observe a professional shoot, make coffee at a photo reps office for a week and listen to the phone calls and conversations
Grenoble, France 2010 From 'The French'
© copyright all images Nick Turpin