Harry is a NZIPP Accredited Professional Photographer based in the Auckland region of New Zealand’s North Island.
Hi Harry, can you please tell us about yourself…
I have been working from home for the last 14 years or so as a commercial photographer, graphic designer and teacher. My clients are located in the Franklin District, in and around Pukekohe and the greater Auckland area. My client work varies from tiny little almost microscopic items to huge things like container ships and anything in between.
What has been your career path? How did you get to being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?
As a young lad I studied a technical direction and worked in the engineering trade for the first 4 years of my working life, but then the economy went South and I lost my first job through redundancy. Because of this I had more time on my hands, a lot of it was spent on photography. I had a darkroom at my home and much effort went into something I loved doing. Being a regular visitor at a local photography shop, I got to know the staff and owner very well. It was about a year after I started photography when I was offered a full time job at that same business. It was a lucky start for me because I could learn many aspects of photography. There was a camera shop, huge studio, darkrooms, developing and printing of all black and white as well as colour work. As for photography, my daily and weekly work included weddings, portraiture in the studio and also on location, commercial and product photography. I worked in the family owned business for about 5 years before permanently leaving for New Zealand in 1982. From here on, I spent many years working in professional photo labs and working as a retouch artist for NZ photographers.
What type of photography do you do and where do you get the inspiration for your work?
OK, it is getting more complicated now. My day job is commercial photography and it mostly involves products, machinery, architecture, food and so on. I shoot mostly on location, but I can do some product photography in my simple but effective studio. My other side is creative, illustrative and fine-art photography. I challenge myself to transform dreams, ideas, feelings into a visual. My early and even some of today’s inspirations are based on LP/CD covers. They are a brilliant canvas. Mesmerised by the photographic imaging of Hipgnosis and illustrations by artists such as Storm Thorgerson, Aubrey Powell, Peter Christopherson, Hugh Syme, Colin Elgie, Geoff Halpin, George Hardie, Roger Dean and many, many others. But it was these artists that made me pick up the camera. Images that cannot be made by photography only. I am totally in love with the digital creation process. Life without Lightroom and Photoshop is unthinkable for me.
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing what you do?
For the commercial/technical photography part, it would be the interpretation of the clients’ needs. How to photograph their products in an interesting way that grabs attention. How can you capture something less appealing in a captivating way. The clients love what they do, so it is important to respect that, no matter what appears in front of my camera.
For the personal, artistic work I do, it would be to find the ‘heart’ of the interpretation I try to create or capture. Of how to translate a thought or feeling into something visual.
What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer to you?
Happy and returning customers and people liking what you do. Wow, I really like that, how did you do that and how did you think of that. Or an emotional person telling me that they took up photography after seeing my work, and being able to teach others what I have learnt.
What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
One that makes you stop in your tracks, even just for a second. The difference between looking and seeing. Or if you can feel the image instead of seeing it. It is like the difference between hearing or listening, touching or feeling.
What was the best piece of advice you were given when starting out?
This is a very good question. I think it is important to have a mind phrase or mantra to reinforce your mind every day with. This piece of advice was given to me in the first week of my first photography job. I was hired on a Monday and photographed my first wedding on the Friday. I was reminded “not to come home without the pictures”. I can still hear that voice every time I am on my way to a shoot; “don’t come home without the pictures”. And the other one I got for free was: “don’t push that button when you can see that it isn’t right”. I learned my trade in the film-era, wasting film was not an option. Look and be critical before releasing the shutter. It is the best advice I can pass on to anyone.
Are you currently working on any personal projects?
Yes! Back to the Future, Forward to the Past. I am super excited to have a film camera again. Thanks to a friend, you know who you are, I have an awesome Mamiya C33 Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) which shoots 120 film to 6×6 format. I totally love the square format, remember those LP’s, they were square too. And wow…no camera tilting! I only shoot black and white and develop my films using alternative developing methods. A bit of this, a bit of that and a pinch of salt.
Do you have a funny story you would like to share from a photoshoot?
Funny stories and/or mishaps, either to personal or other people’s misery. I scoot off to shoot a wedding (in those film years) and had to drive a fair distance to get there. Upon arrival I discovered that the film insert on my Mamiya M645 1000s was missing, holy moly now what? Too far to drive back. I remembered that I passed a photography business so I went in there. Guess what? They used the same make and model. They let me have it, no questions asked. Photographer helping photographer.
On another wedding shoot, again not so close by. I was told to meet “in front of the church”. So I arrived nice and early and thought it strange to see no one there. But hey, I was early, right. But as time passed, still no one showed and it was getting late. Next, a car comes screaming around the corner, tires smoking and someone yelling “hey, you’re at the wrong @##%%& church”. There are many crazy stories that happened during my 45 years in the photographic business.
Why did you join NZIPP?
I joined NZIPP in 2008 and I thought at the time that it would be good to be part of a community of like-minded people. To get a sense of belonging to something. To hang out with people who understand photography talk. The other thing that was very important to me was (still is) the annual NZIPP Iris Awards. I liked creating images and the Iris Awards gave them a reason to exist. I thought at the time that my work would be good enough to show to others. Little I knew, oh boy. My first attempts were taken apart by the judges and that hurt my pride a little. I made certain that this would not happen again, so I sharpened my pencil and tried again, and again, and again. Then, a couple of years later I got a silver. In the years since 2008, I learned more than I did all the years before that. Every year that personal level was getting higher and higher. Listening to the judges, taking it in and applying that to your commercial and personal work. I kept going and got many more bronze and silvers. Gold was still something elusive and virtually impossible to get, but stubborn perseverance got me to the golds and to become Grand Master. It is a journey of self-discovery and personal growth.
Anything else you would like to add?
I think that in these tough times it is more important than ever to support one another. Why not team up with a photography friend or colleague every once in a while, to go and shoot some fun projects. Something totally different than your day-to-day work. It is very inspiring, and it reminds you about why you started photography in the first place. There is much left to learn and to explore. Get out there and shoot something.