London-based Tim has been a photographer for over 25 years. His professional career began in beauty and fashion but soon moved to interiors, food and travel. He has worked with many clients across the UK including: Cath Kidston, Country Living Magazine, Principal Hotels, Sunday Times Style, imbibe and Good Housekeeping, to name just a few.
Tim’s work has also featured in several books, with the most recent being Paula Pryke OBE, Wedding Flowers: Exceptional Floral Design for Exceptional Occasions.
1. How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to doing it full time, for a living?
I worked in Lloyd’s of London insurance market as a trainee underwriter for 18 months straight from school, quickly realising that I didn’t want an office-based life.
I joined a camera club, one evening a week, then found a job as assistant to a commercial photography studio in Oxfordshire, where I had grown up. I worked there for just over a year, printing negatives of cracks in metals for a local Government laboratory, as well as photographing books, paint tins and other products on a large format camera against paper backgrounds. Not the most inspiring work, but a fantastic technical grounding. From there I went to Gloucester College of Arts and Technology to take a 2-year HND in Advertising and Editorial Photography.
The course was hands on, practical and in no-way arty-farty, and aimed to send graduates out into the industry as competent assistants. Next stop London, and within a couple of weeks I had secured a full-time job assisting a long-established advertising photographer who at the time was shooting billboard campaigns for British Airways.
I assisted him and several other photographers for three full years, before finally feeling ready to step-up and go on my own, and immediately picked up a few small jobs for magazines (She, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping et al). From there work ballooned, I took on an agent and had ten very solid years in fashion and beauty work, before making a switch to interiors and food imagery.
2. Do you have a specific technique to help you achieve the results you require?
I like to light my images to achieve a degree of consistency (and have been told my style is very “clean”). I use a mixture of daylight and flash (we work mainly in the UK so daylight can throw up continual challenges). That said, I like to be flexible, and take the attitude that the client has a better idea of what they would like to achieve for the shoot than I do. I will not engage in battles of ego, and learnt from Anthony Crickmay, a photographer whom I consider to be my greatest mentor, that there is no room for stress in the workplace.
3. What other photographers have influenced your career?
Anthony Crickmay was my greatest influence. He used to shoot portraits of the Royal Family, Royal Ballet, and countless celebrities, actors and musicians. He was also responsible for many Athena posters, for those who can remember them.
He had the most beautiful studio in Fulham, and I was at times responsible for hiring it out to other photographers. Through this I met Patrick Demarchelier, who was shooting portraits of Princess Diana, and Michael Roberts (Sarah Ferguson in his case). They both bought large teams of assistants with them, but through all that I could see that their lighting styles were incredibly simple.
4. Can you tell us about your latest project?
I am currently engaged in a long contract shooting for Principal Hotels, who are refurbishing several huge landmark hotels in Edinburgh, York, Manchester and soon London. Principal have a very strong visual brand identity, and we have had to establish and maintain a clear style and “feel” to images in each room.
We will be shooting images of the Principal London, (formerly the Hotel Russell) in Bloomsbury, over the next few months, in time for its relaunch in the Summer 2017.
I also shoot regular updates for the Aqua group of restaurants. Each time I am asked back to the 32nd floor of The Shard to photograph food, cocktails and staff, I get a real buzz of affirmation that I am doing the job I love.
5. From your whole body of work, which is your favourite photo and why?
Without a doubt, it is a portrait I took some years ago of actor Jenny Agutter. Unfortunately, the image was shot on film, and is hidden away in storage somewhere. It was for a magazine feature called “My favourite dress”, and she had chosen a Zandra Rhodes, elfin, pleated rust-coloured number.
I should point out that I had had a huge adolescent crush on Ms Agutter (think Walkabout, Equus) and was quite nervous at the prospect of meeting her. We hired a studio that happened to have a wooden throne and two enormous floor-standing candelabras, so sent out for 40 large church candles, sparked them up, and awaited hair and make-up to do their thing. I hadn’t at this point had the chance to say hello to my sitter.
When she walked on to set, my voice went. I was unable to speak.
Jenny coped well, and said “Hello. Tim, isn’t it? I suspect you would like me to sit here, Tim?”.
She sat, very upright.
“I could sit like this and look very sweet, or, and I think you might prefer this, I could sit like…this”, at which point she slid down in the chair, and reclined in the most alluring way.
I nodded. Then pressed the shutter a few times, and nodded again and gave a weak wave to suggest that I had all I needed.
She stood, thanked me, and went off to the changing room.
A while later she returned, thanked us all once more and started to head off to her taxi. Seeing my opportunity, I picked up her bag and escorted her out, hopeful that my power of speech might return. It didn’t. We got to the cab, she got in, I shut the door, and nodded. And waved.
And Just for Fun…
6. What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
It would have helped had someone given us a warning that digital technology was due to come in and upset the apple-cart! When I was at college, there was one word-processor in the whole faculty. We shot film, were careful in our use of polaroid, and had to keep an eye on how many frames we took of an image. That meant we composed, checked, dusted, rechecked everything as we went along. We also used our imaginations more, and were more decisive about how and what we were shooting.
Digital has changed everything. We used to have our own favourite film types, and knew how to manipulate the film in chemical processing. This can all be done now in post-editing in Photoshop, and there are myriad apps and filters to take you “there” with an image, but the excitement of waiting, sometimes in doubt, to see if you have achieved the planned result has been taken away, as has the social circle that was the processing laboratory. This is now the preserve of the bearded hipster. Clients don’t want or need to see film now, nor pay for the conversion of it to a digital file.
That said, Photoshop has bought so much more control. We shoot more by coalition now, with many more people having input on the day, and it has made photography more affordable to more people.
7. If you could take a photograph of anyone or anything in the world, past, present or in the future, what would it be?
I still have a wish-list, and am trying to make time to tackle it. I have always wanted to see and photograph the Aurora, be it in the Northern or Southern hemisphere. I was finally going to have a commissioned chance this spring (now, in fact) as I was invited by a cruise company to guide a group to shoot the Aurora Borealis in Norway. Unfortunately, their company went under in January, so I will have to keep looking.
8. What are you most afraid of?
Like any freelance professional, I most fear that the phone will one day stop ringing. Our industry favours youth, but that said, having survived two large and one small recession, as well as reinvented myself in the digital era, I hope I am doing something right. The current generation of photography graduates have grown up with digital media, and should have a competitive advantage, but having learnt my trade by looking in detail when composing an image, there is a lot to be said for experience. Oh, and those running snakes on Planet Earth!
9. Where is your favourite holiday destination and why?
New Zealand. We went there for our honeymoon 22 years ago, and are going back this year, this time with our children. It is the most photogenic place I have seen, and so varied. That said, I am getting better at looking and enjoying the moment now, rather than feeling obliged to snap at every juncture.
10. What is your favourite quote?
I personally detest manifesto-style preaching: so many people use Instagram to illustrate that they have just found another daily mantra! Route 1 to an “unfollow” in my book.
I quite like one I heard on “Quote, Unquote” the other day: “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth” Mike Tyson!
View the gallery below of Tim’s work: