Jay is a NZIPP Accredited Professional Photographer based in the Auckland region of New Zealand’s North Island.
Hi Jay can you please tell us about yourself, childhood, family, where you live and how you first got into photography?
I spent my childhood growing up in Auckland [Grey Lynn in the 1980s and Northcote in the 1990s]. My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic 133 that my grandparents passed on to me. I remember how much fun my brother and I had just mucking around taking pictures. I have always associated cameras with excitement, enjoyment and a sense of curiosity. I wanted to be a news camera operator or work in the film industry so I studied TV and film production. I gained work experience at 3News which led to a role at Trackside TV. Work was sporadic for me as a young freelancer but fortunately my partner encouraged me and gave me the confidence to teach myself to shoot stills in order to expand my skill set. This also coincided with the availability of more affordable digital SLR cameras which meant I could experiment, lose the fear of failing, and learn without all the pressure and expense of shooting film. Hayley and I married in 2006 and she has been the biggest influence on my career, not only from a business perspective but also from a creative/design point of view being a designer herself.
How did you find your own photography style and what do you find yourself thinking about when you edit?
I look back on earlier images of mine and feel grateful that my style has changed! I have always been involved in lots of different sports and growing up I was in a variety of productions and studied drama. I think this gave me valuable experience and confidence in terms of being able to anticipate things, get to the right place at the right time, have a good sense of timing and be comfortable around the stage and in front of large groups. All these factors have definitely helped to influence a type of documentary style and approach to my work. When I’m editing, I am always thinking: How are my clients going to use the images? What are they trying to communicate to their audience? What is the story they are trying to tell? How will the audience view the images? Am I fulfilling the brief?
What kind of clients make up your client base?
Along with my style, my client base has changed over the years. Currently my clients are a mix of corporates and small businesses mainly in construction, architecture, environmental planning, urban design, art & design, consultancy and tourism industries.
How do you practice and improve your skills as a photographer?
I like to experiment as much as I can. I learn mostly from “doing” and taking action. I find the best way to break out of a slump creatively is to actually start creating – start making stuff. Because once you start, you create a beginning. This leads to trying something different and generating opportunities to change what you’re doing slightly. Before you know it – you’re on the journey. When I try something and it doesn’t work out, I learn from that too. Joining the NZIPP and entering the Iris Awards has produced great opportunities to try new things and learn from them, all within a very supportive environment.
What equipment do you prefer to use?
I started out shooting with Nikon but quickly moved to Canon and have used Canon bodies and lenses ever since. I also now use Profoto lights and modifiers, and drones and gimbals by DJI.
What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer to you?
Doing something I love and enjoy for work is one of the most rewarding things about being a photographer. Also, I enable my clients to tell the stories of the work they do. Some of this work is truly making a difference in people’s lives, and to be a part of that and share in what they do helps to make my work meaningful, and gives a real sense of purpose.
What is your favourite subject to photograph? Why?
Architecture is my favourite subject. I joke that buildings never look the wrong way, move, moan or say “Oh, I hate having my photograph taken!” “Can you photoshop this out!” etc, etc! Don’t get me wrong, I do like photographing people. There’s just a calmness or mindfulness about architecture that draws me in and I enjoy the challenge of recording an architect’s work for them in reality (and they often really appreciate seeing their work through someone else’s eyes).
Are you currently working on any personal projects?
Photographically, I am currently working on some Iris Awards entries. My other personal interests are family and sport [surfing, playing touch rugby and coaching my son’s junior rugby team]. These allow me to step away from work and keep a fresh headspace.
If you could go back 10 years what advice would you give yourself?
From a career perspective I would say: “Hurry up and join the NZIPP, enter the Iris Awards and attend the conference in Wellington!”
From a personal perspective I would say: “Don’t lose sight of what’s truly important and try to live in the moment because life exists in the present.”
Why did you join NZIPP?
I heard through colleagues how supportive the NZIPP family was and I was also encouraged to enter my work into award competitions. To be honest it was a struggle to find the time and I had self-doubt. But I made it a priority to invest my time – and by becoming an NZIPP member, entering the Iris Awards, attending the conferences and achieving accreditation – I gained belief and lost that self-doubt. I have been reminded of how to look at photography from a photographer’s point of view, this is quite important because as a commercial photographer you are often at the mercy of your clients or other creatives/designers.