Nothing Comes Easily
Growing up I was never the best at anything. Don't get me wrong, I was capable, but nothing ever came easily. I spent weeks trying to learn how to draw, to find that others would easily best me without trying too hard. It even took me years longer than most to learn to tie my shoes! I was verbally bright but couldn't get my thoughts down onto paper. I remember one of my school teachers telling me I think too fast for my hands to keep up with what I want to say.
This has been something that's followed me most of my life. It takes me longer to learn how to do something than most people. I remember picking up the guitar as a teenager and spending over a year to get to even a basic level of skill. I remember sitting in my music classes at college wondering why I was so much further behind my peers - I practised more than anyone in my class but I still couldn't keep up.
Not long after that I was diagnosed as Dyspraxic (Developmental co-ordination disorder). This is a disorder that affects the way that I can perform fine motor skills and affects my balance and co-ordination. It felt like a relief. I finally understood why I found physical things harder. It didn't change my circumstances but it helped me to realise that I was working to overcome a weakness. My effort wasn't wasted. I wasn't less intelligent. I just had an obstacle to overcome.
After that moment this was fuel. I felt that if I could learn how to do these things even with a limitation, ANYONE could learn. I started to teach people the guitar, not because I was the best guitar player, but because I knew every potential pitfall and frustration first-hand.
Nothing had ever come naturally so I got really good at learning, and learning to teach others. That is, until I picked up my first camera.
...Until it Does
I remember walking into a little gift shop in Manchester one day after losing a number of my guitar students. I had just moved to a new town and hadn't realised the amount of competition in the area. I lived around the corner from a small, family-run guitar shop that had been offering lessons for 20 years and as a result I was struggling to get more work.
I was browsing the shelves and I noticed they had a wall full of old polaroid cameras. I got talking to the owner of the shop and it turns out this gift and card shop was the UK distributor for the Impossible Project (the company that saved Polaroid film when they went out of business in the early 2000s).
I picked up 24 packs of the film and walked out of the shop. From that moment I was obsessed with photography. When I took pictures my co-ordination wasn't a factor. All of a sudden my knowledge and eye were the things that gave me an advantage.
One week later I had plundered the ebay listings for vintage polaroid cameras and arranged a photo scavenger-hunt workshop. We had 16 people attend that workshop and the person with the most interesting photo took home a camera and 8 packs of film as a prize.
As it turns out, those early runs of film didn't work all that well. For those that don't know, a polaroid is an amazing feat of chemical engineering and not something that's easy to replicate. The new film was temperature sensitive, had crazy colour shifts and, in some cases, actually rusted.
I started teaching a regular workshop at the store and when they saw the upward trend in sales as I taught people how to get the best out of this awkward yet wonderful film, I was asked to do more. Before long I was making regular trips around the country to deliver more workshops and teach more people how to shoot on polaroid.
Learning your voice
Working with the Impossible Project opened so many doors for me. It gave me my first chance to take pictures for money and opportunities to work with my first brand, Kopparberg. (I set up a pop-up polaroid studio at their launch event for their Naked Apple range).
That said, after a while I realised I wanted to make a more permanent body of work and moved on to shooting on 35mm film and then digital cameras. During this time I learned more and more about the craft of photography. Over time I started to see themes in my work. The way I used focus, the light I preferred, the people I chose to work with, and more and more I moved forward, getting closer to the work I felt like I was meant to make.
In the last 7 years I have had some amazing opportunities. I have worked, and continue to work for, amazing private clients on their weddings and portraits and followed people's lives as they grew. I have regularly had my commercial work used by companies like Tesco, Home Depot and Proctor & Gamble.
In all this time I have been learning more about what I want to do with my skills and I think I have the answer.
I want to show the world what you make. Not just the stuff you do because you have to or because it's sensible. I want to show the world the work that keeps you up at night and excited to wake up for the next morning.
I want to give your art a voice.