A series of on-going Interviews
by Mike Langford, GM HF NZIPP, GM F AIPP
This column is dedicated to those who are the building blocks of the NZIPP and who are a part of its history. Through understanding what happened in the institute before many of us were born, is to have a greater understanding of the value it offers us today.
I was born in Kenya, and at the age of seven (in 1968), my family uprooted and moved to Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom.
My education includes a one-year foundation course in art and design in Coventry and then a three-year honours degree in Multi-Disciplinary Design at Staffordshire Polytechnic in Stoke-on-Trent.
At art college, I just could not get my head around f-stops and ratios or handle the antiquated Nikon and Pentax college cameras. So, in 1980, as a student, I spent £250 of my meagre study grant on the best camera I could afford, which was a Canon A1, a superb film camera of the day. It has long since ceased to work, and I now keep it for sentimental reasons—it’s more of a paperweight than a ‘functioning marvel.’
My college photography days were exciting times. I loved exploring my creativity and discovering technical aspects such as the types of film to use and when. For me, seeing images reveal themselves in the darkroom and then experimenting with paper types, dodging and burning etc., was ‘magic.’
At the time, I never saw photography as a career — more of a creative expression that would be integral to my visual communication skills as a graphic designer.
For over 15 years, I worked in Central London for some of Europe’s leading design houses. And for six of those years, prior to immigrating to New Zealand in 2001, I owned a successful design business. While in London, I gained valuable experience in design strategies and the visual communication of corporate brands. I also collaborated with photographers to art direct photography to achieve desired results for my clients, which gave me a deeper understanding of photography.
When I immigrated to Auckland, a much smaller economy, I soon discovered that my design business had its own challenges. As a designer, my clients required more of my creative time, and that included photography. So, I worked towards adding photography to my existing skill set.
For me, learning and mastering photographic techniques was a challenge. Initially, there was very little in the way of online tutorials, so my learning was, basically, through trial and error, books and meeting other amateur photographers. I also came across many professionals who were willing to extend a helping hand.
In recent years, I have found Creativelive.com, and YouTube photographic contributors to be an absolute godsend for accelerating my education in the art of photography.
I also discovered Meetup groups for photography. Initially, I found that they offered a great opportunity to get out and shoot with other like-minded photographers; however, I soon realised there was a limit to what I could learn within an amateur environment. So, I also set up my own Meetup group (Image Central) dedicated to helping photographers, like myself, with a thirst for knowledge and self-improvement. I organised events such as workshops, seminars, member exhibitions and field trips. NZIPP members also provided support, particularly regular contributors Mike Hollman and Harry Janssen, who to this day provide me with encouragement.
One of my personal challenges when providing photography as part of my design offering was credibility. With so many other photographers out there, how could I, as a designer/photographer, standout? For me, becoming accredited as a professional photographer of NZIPP was the perfect solution. Not only did it give me a platform to do business, but it also enabled me to be a part of a community that strives to ‘raise the bar’ in photography.
It took me a little while to build up the confidence to submit my first images for the Iris Awards in 2014, and I was pleased to receive two bronze and one silver from the three images I submitted. At this point, I suddenly felt as if I had arrived, that I was no longer playing at photography. Consequently, I got the ‘bug’ to do even better and look at photography communications differently. I also learned from the judging process, not only of my work but of other contributors to the awards.
In 2016, I submitted a full complement of 10 images, which resulted in 10 awards and an Associate honour. And last year, I achieved a further eight awards and a Master of photography honour.
Creating photographic images is a natural extension of my creative passion. Photography is immediate, creatively challenging, often frustrating, but always satisfying. It is also relevant to many of my clients who need high-quality images to support their brand messaging for marketing material or their websites.
Today my photographic offering is directly linked to graphic and web design services at Image Central – about 50%. I provide studio and environmental business portraits, interiors and exterior, and product photography. All of my photography work comes through personal and business networking contacts.
After 35 years in design, photography has revitalised my creative output, as I see things with renewed vigour.
Finally, a major source of encouragement is my wife, Kirsty; she is my number-one supporter and the person who continually challenges me. Kirsty was instrumental in me managing to submit images for Iris — with a dainty foot aimed at my backside. Sometimes you just need someone to push you in the right direction!
Design & Photography: Image Central | www.imagecentral.co.nz