“I want to travel to places where there are new opportunities to tell stories“
I first met Greg at an ‘International Students Welcome Event’ at Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia – where we quickly recognised each other as the ‘two English fellas’. After some mandatory small talk, occasioned with the odd Alan Partridge gag, Greg quickly became a good friend to me during our time in Australia. Despite staying in touch, we only managed to meet up for one weekend in Newcastle last December, on the arrival of our mutual friend from Adelaide. Yet, in September of this year, by pure coincidence, Greg arrived in Edinburgh (where I’ve been living for postgrad since June) to begin his MSc Economics postgraduate course. I recently caught up with him in a city coffeeshop where we discussed all sorts of things – from Labour under Corbyn, to Brexit, to rising cases of mental health and ways to change the world. We also reflected on what we had both been up to since our time in South Australia and for Greg, a large proportion of his time has been focused on photography. So here’s an insight into the life of a student photographer.
Sidenote: the images have been purposely left large for you to recognise the sheer skill of photography.
When and why did you get started in photography?
It’s hard to really pin-point an exact start to my interest in photography but I’ve certainly always known which side of a camera I would rather be on. For a long time, it was just that I liked taking photos and I preferred that to being in them. But it was going back year and half or two years to being in interesting places and thinking this is my chance to get an amazing shot from awesome places. It was just on my phone and it became a hobby to take myself to somewhere interesting and try to get the one shot that I would love. That was particularly in Australia – I went down to the beach very often (Adelaide is known for its spectacular sunsets) and just became obsessed with getting that one shot.
When did you get your first camera?
My first proper DSLR camera was only actually in December last year (just under a year ago). I’d been using my smartphone for a long time, that’s where I learnt a lot of the photography basics and then I wanted to have more control over my photos and enjoy some of the benefits that DSLR photography gives you. It’s allowed me to expand on a lot of the areas that I only managed to touch upon before.
I think it starts out with – it’s an art form where you can really capture a moment or what that moment can represent. However, that is actually in contrast to what I usually do with my photography now – in that, i’m looking at ways of reimagining and creating photos that don’t necessarily look like reality. I think the fundamental attraction is that by the click of a button you can create something that with other art forms, would take a lot longer to do.
Which photographers are your biggest inspiration and why?
I try to draw inspiration from a lot of different places and people. I think the first sort of time I was learning about manual photography and how to control your camera, I was in Hawaii and just needed an activity to do for a day – I came across Oahu Photo Tours. I had a fantastic day out with a guy called Kurt who showed me photography in a different way and I learnt a lot from just a few hours with him. Going on his Instagram account and viewing his portfolio afterwards was a huge inspiration for me and a goal in terms of that I know the level I’m at now and that’s where I want to be.
I takle a lot of inspiration from Youtube, in terms of getting to know how to use a camera, Peter Mckinnon’s videos were pretty essential for me. And then, although a completely different style to me, Mark Denny is an amazing landscape photographer that I have definitely taken so much from through his Youtube channel, particularly in his editing techniques.
Finally, Stephen Wilkes has definitely given me plenty of inspiration too. One of my favourite things to do is photos that blend different times of day into a single capture. When I thought of doing that for the first time, I had no idea how to even approach the task and I hadn’t even properly seen photos like the ones I wanted to create. Having researched it and came across Wilkes – although he does things slightly different to me, in that he considers himself a street photographer rather than a landscape photographer, his work is absolutely stunning and a huge source of inspiration for me.
What makes a good photo?
What makes a good photo and a great photo have quite a big difference. For me, a good photo is that everything has been done well. It’s a good composition, there’s a nice subject, it’s exposed correctly and it’s nicely edited. But a great photo, a great photo tells a story. That story might not be visible to anyone else who is seeing it other than the artist, but the story is what takes me back to certain photos that I love the most. They hold amazing memories and the photo might not necessarily be directly linked to that memory. For example, I look at a photo I took in New Zealand – just of a lake and the surrounding mountains on the South Island. To most people, that’s just a really nice, peaceful scene. To me, it reflects the memory of the 12 hours I spent in Wellington Airport, the day before, because the flights were cancelled with fog. And then the effort it took to get to South Island and the taxi ride it took to catch up with the Kiwi bus that was going to take me to that spot the next day. When I finished editing that photo, it was just a relief that I had made it through that ridiculously stressful day, to create one of my favourite ever pieces.
Where has been your favourite place to photograph?
That depends on the style I’m trying to work with. The most picturesque, amazing place would have to be New Zealand for me – the lakes and the mountains. But that was at a time when all I was really doing was landscape photography and since then, my style has developed more into cityscapes and night photography. For that, Edinburgh has been just the perfect place to be. There’s so many amazing places to explore and find new spots and ways to capture.
What is/are your favourite photo(s)? And why?
That’s a tough one. I have so many I love for so many different reasons. As I said, so much of it is about the story. I don’t necessarily think that my favourite photos are my best photos. I would point to that one that I took in New Zealand that I talked about earlier. It’s a nice photo and it means a lot to me. A photo I took at Flinders University of the sunset reflected in the lake is another favourite of mine. Throughout my time there, I had been obsessed with trying to get that perfect sunset shot. I had been there for 4 and a half months and it was the week before I left when I went out for a walk and I found a spot by the lake. But it didn’t look like the sunset was going to come. I decided to give up and as I was walking away from the spot, the sky was suddenly a crazy mix of yellow, red and orange and I ran back and the light only lasted 30 seconds before it vanished again. That’s what it’s all about – I was lucky enough to be there for that one moment where it happened.
Finally, the last one is definitely a favourite – but I don’t think it’s one of my best – a photo taken at Keele University. It was the first successful DSLR photo I ever took (taken in January 2020). It took a couple of attempts to get it right – I had the idea of viewing Keele Hall through a reflection in a puddle, but actually shooting it was harder than I anticipated. I didn’t know my camera as well as I do now. It took 2 nights in a row and persevering with it, out in the cold, to make it work. It wasn’t the easiest thing to edit either. It was the first time I got a real reaction on Instagram. I was contacted by the University to see if they could use it for marketing and for a future prospectus – that was a really significant moment for me.
Where and what next?
I think there is a lot of scope for where I can go with this, For me, the most important thing is the art itself, rather than the business side of things. I want to just keep taking photos that I love and also enjoy the process. I’ve got a long list of things that I want to try out and shoot in Edinburgh. I actually came up with an idea last night, that I’ve never done before and that I’ve never seen anyone else do. I’m excited to test it out because it could be really interesting – it’s still true to my style, but shot in an unusual way.
In terms of what else I want to do, I want to travel to places where there are new opportunities to tell stories. I want to revisit places to take better photos. Next year, I’m going to launch a new website and expand my product line a little. I want to keep building on the success I’ve had recently and keep up with people’s interest in my photos.