by David Cotsworth•20th January 2012
Since I was very young I have always wanted to be a photographer. I remember collecting photography technique supplements from the Sunday Times when I was about fourteen years of age. I originally studied at Berkshire College of Art and Design in Reading. From there I assisted full-time in a commercial studio which was a great way of learning the business side of things and being able to use the kit. This was when 10x8 and 5x4 film cameras were still widely used in commercial studios. I can’t remember the amount of times I nearly fell asleep in the dark room loading up hundreds of dark slides!
Although I could easily have progressed within the company, my heart wasn’t in it because I wanted to do more than just product shots. I decided to travel for a year before continuing my studies in Plymouth. A year turned into 18 months and I travelled extensively throughout South East Asia and Australia which gave me such great photographic inspiration and a real bug for travel.
I still love to travel and try and go with my family as much as possible. We went to Thailand for three weeks last year, spending a few days in each place and my two year old son loved it.
After graduating I worked as a freelance assistant with a various London based photographers from whom I learned a great deal. It was hard in the beginning as I was getting a few photography jobs but it was tough trying to pay the bills. After three years assisting I managed to get a job as a full time photographer in a studio. It felt great because it was a secure job but I was back doing mostly product shots again, so I did feel I was stepping backwards.
Six months later and one of the company’s biggest clients decided to take the bulk of their photography in-house which meant that either one of the photographers had to go or we could go back to being freelance and split the work between us. This turned out to be a great thing for me as I now had regular bill paying work and I could focus on getting the shoots I really wanted to do.
The first big break I got when I started working freelance was when I took my photographic portfolio book to Food and Travel Magazine. It turned out that the Art Editor at the time had studied at my college in Plymouth. We didn’t actually know each other but the connection really helped break the ice. She gave me a feature there and then shooting a restaurant and I have been photographing restaurants and hotels ever since.
I work mostly on location and I like the fact that I don’t have a typical day. I love turning up to a shoot and scouting out what would make a good shot or a backdrop for a portrait. The beauty of editorial work is that the brief is generally open so you can be quite creative. I’ve recently started to shoot more portraits and I really enjoy doing them, so I hope I get the opportunity to do a lot more this year.
There are lots of photographers I admire but a big influence on me is my friend Mark Roper (www.markroperphotography.com) we went to the same College and travelled together, he’s based in Australia now and his work is stunning.
My work takes me all over the UK with the occasional trip overseas so I’m usually not too far away from home which means I get to spend a great deal of time with my family. I live in Surrey with my wife Becky, son Charlie and our cat Alfie.
I love to cook, it really helps me to relax and my work shooting in restaurants means I get really good tips from chefs. We have a very small vegetable patch in the garden, this year we grew courgettes and corn, which we cooked on the BBQ. We have a great local butcher and a delicatessen and there’s also a few farm shops close by.
Food and lifestyle photography is continuing to have a very relaxed feel, it’s more about showing the accessibility of the produce and the simplicity of getting the food on the plate rather than just presenting a picture of a perfect dish that people will be scared to try and recreate at home in their own kitchens.
The advice I would give to anyone starting in this business is to work as a freelance assistant to various photographers you admire and within the field you want to pursue. Working with them will teach you what is expected of you from clients, right from booking the shoot to delivery of the files. Working freelance will also give you the opportunity to work on your book and see potential clients. It is tough going and very competitive but perseverance and hard work will pay off in the end.
David Cotsworth: www.davidcotsworth.com
Follow David on Twitter: @DavidCotsworth