Can you please tell me what first inspired you to get into photography?
I always wanted to be a painter, but I was introduced to photography very early on at art college and was bewitched by the alchemy of it. This was back in the days of film and chemistry and the magic of the darkroom. I had a very inspiring tutor who specialised as a photographer and would lend me his personal gear and even his home darkroom to pursue my new found passion. I cannot thank him enough for this.
Once I had realised the comparative immediacy of photography over painting, my impatient teenage self was hooked.
Your photos are high quality, with some superb poses. Are you self-taught, or did you do any formal training?
Well, I was formerly trained, I suppose, as a photographer; I did a BA hons and a masters degree in photography. However the techniques are largely self taught. There didn’t seem to be a lot of studio specialists on hand during my student days, other than the tutor on my first diploma as mentioned earlier. The higher the qualification the more it becomes about theory rather than technique, which I confess to finding a bit of an issue. The lighting has been the result of 25 years experience and finding ways of getting high end results with a low end spend. You do not need to spend a lot of money on gear as a photographer but this does cost in time. It is one or the other. The poses are largely organic, born of dialogue between the model and myself. I tend to work with “non models” if I can, the posing becomes more organic, more interesting, rather than the usual pro model set stances.
Where do you find your inspiration for your photos from?
I look at a lot of figurative painting, admire the work of a lot of photographers, largely from the 20th century, and can find inspiration in film. I also get inspired by my own work, if you do enough of it for long enough it becomes a dialogue with one image leading to another. I like to try and sit on images for a while, to allow me time to forget what I was trying to
achieve and come to them with fresh eyes. And then there is always the journey of discovery that is photo editing with so many options open to interpreting a digital image.
What is your favorite subject to photograph and why?
Well it has to be the human body, or the “nude”. A dangerous term in these “community guidelines” governed times of social media. I have suffered from ill health most of my adult life, and with serious body issues of my own, wanted to develop a dialogue about the body that was a little more inclusive. I have been operating an open door policy to the studio and my collaborators for the last two years, and the current project promises anonymity. It has been an interesting and rewarding journey that has allowed me to photograph many people that have never dis-robed before a camera, and never seen their bodies under sympathetic lighting and translated into a photograph. I have had nothing but positive responses to the images made, and I do marvel at the trust people place in me. It is a very privileged position to be in. I am always o n the lookout for new collaborators, any ethnicity, size, gender, and am very keen on including more physically disabled people, who are woefully under-represented and whose bodies tell such fascinating stories.
I see you also run photography courses; how did they come about?
I started teaching in adult education in community colleges around Sussex. I confess I was terrified to start with, but it turns out with a bit of practice I have become rather good at it. You never realise what it takes to be a good teacher until you try to do it. An in depth subject knowledge is simply not enough. Once I started to develop the teaching skills I found I really enjoyed it and then started putting on workshops and private photo courses so photographers could fill the gaps that I felt were in the mainstream education system. It is an immense privilege to share my student’s photographic journeys, and to see them take new creative directions, and in some cases even undertake careers as photographers. So if you are reading this, and interested in photography, I would love to see you on one of my courses.
If someone signs up for your photographic courses, What are They to expect?
I run several courses taking people who have never shot an image in anything but Auto mode; to understanding how to manipulate their cameras and more importantly how a camera sees differently from us. A camera is a machine for making the world look interesting in the right hands. Students learn a multitude of different genres, landscape, portrait and still life, to name a few. And I am always trying to find ways of engaging with students creatively rather than being tied down with technical jargon. I also run a lot of studio based workshops which are becoming increasingly popular. The courses are informative but always focused on creativity and above all a sense of fun!
Has anything embarrassing happened whilst running one of your courses?
Well, there are always times I am caught out by either a student or a camera. As a teacher, I need to know how a wide variety of models and makes of cameras work, and there has been an occasion when a beginner student has turned up with something like a Lieca camera, which
I had to confess I had no idea how to use it. So a few youtube videos later, I found my feet, but at the time, my ignorance was not a good look.
What would you say is the hardest part of photography to master?
Probably composition as this is all down to the photographer. It does not matter how much
money you spend on a camera it will never have a composition button.
Is there a piece of photographic equipment you can’t live without (apart from your camera?)
It would have to be some sort of strobe light. I can work with natural light, but it is so changeable it infuriates me. A consistent light source is the absolute key to the majority of my work.
Do you have any goals you want to achieve in the next two years?
I am hoping for a solo show of my work at an American gallery, and hopefully one in Europe too off the back of that. I am trying to get a book together on a specific project, but cannot seem to quite draw it to a close. I am hoping to develop a working relationship with Fujifilm, both as an ambassador for the brand and a teacher. And of course there will be some interesting developments in my teaching practice too!
If you want to know more about Tobias
W: Tobias Slater-Hunt Photographer / W: Tobias James Photography School / I: Photography School Instagram
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