SUPERFEX - INTERVIEW
Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and how did you get into photography?
Oh boy! I'll need to take it right back to the beginning I guess. You may want to make yourself a hot drink first.
I was very fortunate to have such a good childhood. Both my parents encouraged me to get stuck into all sorts of clubs and activities at school and I always found that side to be more interesting than the education itself. I didn't seem to excel at anything academic but I was creative and had a pretty good imagination! I think that has always stuck with me.
When I was choosing my GCSE classes (I'm not sure what the American equivalent is) I noticed a Film Photography class on the roster and decided to give it a go despite having no prior experience with it. Who knew that would become one of the best decisions I would ever make in my life.
My dad had an old Canon AE-1, which he kindly gifted to me, showed me vaguely how to use it and off I went!
Since then, I have studied it for a further six years (including a gap year where I decided to partake in another Photography course) fallen in love with it, fallen out of love with it, studied it for a year at Plymouth University and then switched to an Illustration degree.
I actually didn't really pick up a camera for a while after that. Maybe I burnt myself out, who knows. The funny thing is that I got back into it in a big way about three years ago and haven't really been able to draw since! Maybe I'm doomed to just shift dramatically between the two for the rest of my days.
Please provide us with a list of the gear you use on a regular basis:
Nowadays my weapon of choice is my beloved Canon 6D with Sigma ART 35mm 1.4 lens. I only have the one lens at the moment and apart from potentially investing in a zoom at some point, I don't think I'll need much more than that or it'll start to cloud my judgement.
I also use a Pentax K1000 with either a 24mm or 50mm prime lens for all my film shots. I'm also usually carrying my Instax camera and a waterproof disposable because you just never know.
What does your post-production process look like?
First thing first, I have to organise it all. Things can get a bit chaotic without a little file management so I try to minimise that by getting it out of the way early on.
I use Adobe Lightroom Classic to edit my photos. I've tried CC but I just can't get to grips with it but maybe that's just me acting stuck in my ways. My go-to preset is Wolf Pack 05, which I use as a base. I pretty much always reduce the grain and ramp up the warmth and contrast as I like to increase the drama in my images.
How has your photography style evolved over time?
Well, I like to think it's gotten better, ha!
I think because I also work full-time that I started to associate my photography with the outdoors quite early on. Any spare time I had was always spent outside on some adventure with a camera in my hand so it made sense to combine the two.
I definitely feel like I have a more defined style now and I'm much more confident in knowing what I want to create. So I'd say my editing has become more focused but I let my experiences govern the moments I capture.
What are your favourite tools for capturing, editing, and enhancing your photographs?
I try not to rely too heavily on tools for capturing, instead, I try to judge the light or conditions I'm likely to get by checking the weather forecast or using an app called SunNow to determine the golden hours before a shoot.
Other than golden hours, which are pretty much every photographer's dream, I also love overcast or super foggy days because it naturally disperses the light evenly and creates a more intimate atmosphere. This leads into the whole 'adding drama to my images' thing I spoke about earlier —deepening shadows and bringing that warmth through in the editing stage.
What is your greatest piece of advice for emerging photographers?
If you have equipment or facilities at your disposal, USE THEM!
When I was at uni, I had access to a whole treasure trove of equipment that I could hire out and a number of studios I could use for free, but I only did that when it was required for my coursework.
It never occurred to me that I could also use the same gear and studios to start creating my own body of work solely driven by me. Start asking other students if they would model for you, come up with shoot concepts together, and book a studio on the weekend. Start a website/blog/Instagram account, and get your name out there. You don't have to wait for a lecturer to tell you when to do it; there's no better time than the present.
That's something I wish I knew back then anyway.
What type of photography do you most enjoy?
I actually enjoy quite a lot of different kinds. I find it's the best way to stay inspired without becoming overwhelmed or creatively stifled.
I obviously love modern landscape and travel photography but I also enjoy anything from macabre narrative pieces and dramatic portraits to minimalist interiors and surf photography.
What are you discouraged about in your work/business? What encourages you?
I'm quite a socially introverted person until I build a bond with someone—then I can be quite the opposite. This can affect how I feel working with other, more outwardly confident kinds of people, which make me feel a little vulnerable sometimes.
At the same time, I adore finding kindred spirits and collaborating with them, being part of a community of creatives and turning ideas in my head into reality. That's why working with your ideal clients is so key.
When was a time you thought you would/had failed? How did you overcome it?
Yeah, my first paid portrait shoot actually. It was outdoors, in England, in winter—so a recipe for disaster really!
To add to it, the client had very different ideas to what myself and the label had previously discussed and then we had pretty much every weather condition thrown at us on the day.
There was a moment that day when I could have just sacked it off and gone home, and believe me, I thought about it. But, I didn't. Sometimes you have to just put all that anxiety and fear aside and get on with it. It wasn't a wasted shoot thankfully but I've definitely learnt a few lessons off the back of it.
What defines success for you as a photographer? If you never achieve that, will you still be satisfied with what you do?
I guess because I'm not a full-time freelancer, the success side of things isn't something I need to consciously think about. Maybe I will be one day and it'll come into play more but for now, I'm just enjoying getting out and shooting, pushing myself further and having fun.
I think as long as I'm slightly scared of what I'm doing then I'm on the right track. There is no end goal for me, I'm just making sure I enjoy the journey.
We love the consistency of your work and IG feed. Do you ever struggle to maintain that consistency? Any tips for others wanting that consistency in their own work?
Thank you very much! It's actually something still very new to my practice but I love the uniformity it can give over a body of work. It can present challenges, like omitting colours that don't 'fit' but I try to avoid those colours in the first place so it doesn't occur too often. I also use an app called UNUM to drag photos around (purely for Instagram) so that I get the best visual impact in my feed. I was once told that your top nine squares in your grid are your Instagram real estate and that you need to be able to sum yourself up in just those nine.
My tip would be to narrow down a few keywords that you want your work to convey and keep them in the back of your mind when coming up with shoot concepts or out in the field taking pictures.
"Superfex" is such a great pseudonym. Would you mind sharing what made you decide to use one?
I've been using that name for over ten years now and it was semi-inspired by a Sandy Skoglund picture I saw in the Phaidon Photo Book. I came up with the name at school when a friend told me that I wouldn't be able to wrap my head around Adobe Illustrator, so I formed a pseudonym to practice on a platform called DeviantArt before I showed him that he was in fact, wrong. I blame middle-child syndrome but I'm now also a full-time graphic designer who uses the program every day, so the joke's on him really.
I'm constantly wondering if it would be better if I just used my real name but the thought of that makes me sad so I quickly bat it away. I think there's a line between doing things because people advise you to and trusting in your own intuition.
We noticed that you work full time as a graphic designer as well as being a travel journalist! How and when did you get involved with travel journalism, and is it difficult to maintain a balance with both responsibilities?
To be honest, I keep those worlds very separate. I have always enjoyed writing, so it made sense to start a blog that was linked to my personal website where I could write about my travels, give honest advice and upload some of my less portfolio-worthy images. I doubt the writing side of things will ever evolve into anything more than a hobby but you never know.
It is hard to balance both sometimes. I won't pretend that I always have my shit together and occasionally 'Superfex' will suffer because my work commitments need to be the priority. I try to use my evenings and weekends to either travel and take pictures, write, socialise with friends and family or have a little self-care time. It's all important and you just have to do your best at the end of the day and feel content knowing that.