Interview – Andrew Jarvie
Photographer – Andrew Jarvie
What do you consider the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?
We are very lucky in our jobs as we get to work with such a range of people, all with different stories to tell. In family and wedding photography it’s creating images that genuinely mean something to the client that you know they will treasure. Often we capture a look or an emotion that stops them in their tracks…. It’s not unusual for our clients to shed a tear when they see their images because of the emotional content we have captured. For example, a look between two people in love or the interaction we caught between them and their children or simply because we have shown them a beauty that they don’t normally stop and see. Seeing this overwhelms them and that is truly a special moment for us as photographers.
We also work in fitness photography, a realm of capturing people on their health journey to a competition or weight loss transformation. Capturing someone during this time is such a special thing. This is most likely a once in a lifetime occurrence where this person’s physique is at its best or they have lost a substantial amount of weight and we are lucky enough to capture this. When the client sees the images, the most common feedback we get is ‘I can’t believe that is me’. We show them what we see, posing them, guiding them and showing off their physiques the best we can to showcase this moment in time of dedication, motivation and their discipline. It is so rewarding knowing the person has enjoyed themselves and we have captured something priceless for them.
In the commercial sector the greatest reward is knowing that not only have you met the client brief but you’ve gone beyond it and given something that has taken and encapsulated all their ideas and then taken it a little further. Across both consumer and commercial sectors one of the great rewards can be simply meeting people, sharing their experiences, listening to their stories and being a small part of their or their brand’s journey. We meet genuinely amazing people and families and have wonderful life experiences in our job. That too can also be the greatest challenge as we have to be able to adapt quickly to interact with people in such a way that enables us to get the images we require.
If people were considering working as a photographer what advice would you give them?
Learn all the basics inside and out and know your equipment well. Photoshoots throw you curve balls all the time and you don’t have the time to think through solutions, you just have to act and know your basics well enough that stopping to think what to do is removed from the equation. Learn to be confident without being egotistical or cocky so you can take command of a situation in a non-forceful way. Go and learn about business or hire someone who has…. the photography is the commodity that you sell but if you can’t run a business then your images might be the best in the world but your business will fail. And above all, learn how to interact with people and enjoy that interaction. The way you treat people will always have a major effect on the end images you take.
What qualifications or experience is required to become a photographer?
That’s a hard one and I think you have to take the learning route that suits you…. I have no qualifications but I served years in an apprenticeship under press photographers in the UK Newspaper industry and two tremendous photographers (John Paul and Les Parker) shaped my attitude both in my work and how I deal and interact with people. That said though I am useless at learning in an academic situation, I got kicked out at the end of my first year of university. I need to learn on the job.
In contrast, Emily, my business partner, is formally trained to bachelor degree level in New Media Arts, majoring in digital media design and digital imagery. I know some great classically trained photographers and some great self-taught photographers and I also know photographers who I do not class as good who are both self-taught and academically taught. I think you have to find a way of learning that suits you best. Always stay open to the fact that you will never know it all, and every person you meet in the industry can teach you something whether it is how to or how not to do something. You must be willing to constantly learn. That said beyond the basics of photography and your own personal style is something you have to develop over time as it differentiates you in the market place…. be inspired but don’t copy others always put your own twist on something. If you keep that attitude then you will constantly improve and satisfy your client’s needs. The second you think you know it all you will fail. Working in any art form is a lifelong learning curve.
What path did you take to become a photographer?
I have a varied background, I started out as a photo-journalist in the UK Press working on weeklies then daily newspapers. Photography has always been part of my work but I have also strayed into other areas, working in public relations for a UK Government Agency, being an associate director and director of what was at the time, the UK’s largest independent PR Agency, working in everything from crises management for a nuclear power station to brand awareness for a whisky company, and indeed head of PR in the UK for what was at the time one of the largest alcohol distributors in the world. Every day I draw on all of that experience for my work be it in dealing with nervous subjects or understanding how to protect, demonstrate and enhance brand values through imagery.
Were there any other careers you considered pursuing when you left school?
I actually had planned to do a double degree in Archaeology and social anthropology and actually got accepted into a couple of universities for that, but then I saw UK TV Reporter Michael Burke breaking news of the Ethiopian Famine and his stories having such a global impact that they were the inspiration for Live Aid and all that followed. That planted a seed in me which grew to the point that when it came time to go to university the only thing I wanted to be was a photo-journalist during a time when news values were still very strong across the whole industry.
Is this your first career? Can you see yourself remaining in this line of work forever?
It’s funny that photography was my first career, I dabbled in other areas and then came back to it. The industry is rapidly changing these days but photography sits at the very heart of my identity so in some shape or form it will always be what I do both to earn a living and simply to enjoy life.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Astronaut, explorer, eco-warrior, adventurer, fighter pilot, Indiana Jones, Robert Capa, Archaeologist, Journalist, Photographer….. funnily through my photography over the years I’ve had a taste of most of the careers I wanted to do as a child…. though I still have to nail the astronaut position LOL
What are your standard hours?
When you own and run a business, your hours can be flexible, non-stop, or whatever you want them to be…. We have zero hour working days and we have 48 hour days with no sleep. We work when the jobs and clients dictate as well as running the business full time such as marketing, social, financials and business planning.
Is there anything you can tell us about your job that people wouldn’t expect?
I love my job for the images I create, but for me the reason I go back day-after-day is for the people I meet and the experiences they bring along the way. I’m a lad from Scotland who has had little direction in his life and is academically very average but over my career I have hung out of army helicopters searching for mountain accident survivors, water bombed forest fires, met and photographed world leaders and movie stars, talked to normal people who have the most amazing and inspirational stories from a human shield from the first gulf war to people who have overcome the most horrific or challenging experiences and come through the other side… I even experienced a little boys dream of the biggest Tonka Toy in the world when I turned up to a job and had an M1 Abrams battle tank and crew handed to me and asked “what would you like to do with it?”. My cameras have taken me to every one of these experiences and it has been meeting, talking and sharing with these amazing people that has made my job so great and also made me understand that in life it doesn’t matter who someone is, every person rich or poor, famous or “normal” has an amazing story to tell. If you just listen long enough you will be lucky enough to hear it.