Photography has always been around for me. I can remember an early family train journey and being allowed to hold my Dad’s valuable camera and look through the viewfinder: just to look though, not to take a photograph! It was never a certain career though, I just kept being drawn back to it, until I finally decided to dedicate myself to it. I haven’t regretted that decision.
I studied photography for a bit when I was 16 but didn’t finish the course. I then worked in camera shops for a while. When I was 22 I went back to college and studied at Filton College in Bristol, which sadly is no more. I think I learnt more there in a year than most people do on degree courses.
I count myself lucky to have come into photography when film was still the main medium. Using a basic manual camera with only 36 frames, or 10 frames on medium format, teaches you something that is easily missed with digital cameras.
After the course at Filton I had the opportunity to work at Magnum Photos in London and following that I assisted Magnum photographers Peter Marlow and Martin Parr.
Later, I went back to college again to study Graphic Design for a year. I sat through lectures on design thinking about how differently I had felt about my photography lectures and by the end of the course I was shooting again. My final show was essentially a photo exhibition.
Getting the first job is always tricky as someone has to give an untried photographer a shot. I am very grateful to the picture editors who took a chance on me at the beginning. Fortunately, I was able to work as an assistant and as a photographer at the same time so that gave me a regular income, just in case the phone didn’t ring.
I shot a personal project on allotments in London and showed that to everyone I knew and a lot of people I didn’t. After few months of getting in touch with people and showing subsequent edits, I got a portrait commission for a Saturday newspaper magazine to shoot a Desmond Morris at home. I was still shooting only film then so spent the journey back to London a bag of nerves, worried that nothing would be on the film. Thankfully it worked out and that portrait is still on my website.
All shoots are different. One of things I enjoy most is having to think on your feet and solve problems quickly, to walk into a location and decide where the lights need to go, what lens to use, the props you need, what are the best shots, all the while talking with someone you’ve usually never met before.
I enjoy book shoots a lot as photography can often be quite a solitary profession but with book shoots you work as part of a team for days at a time towards a final object, something that lives on people’s shelves.
Most of my work is London based so I’m never too far from home. I live with my girlfriend who is a freelance writer so we both have quite irregular work patterns and are able to support each other which helps keep us just about sane.
I think one of the reasons I enjoy food photography so much is that I’m very into food. In a way I was a portrait photographer who combined two interests and ended up as a food photographer.
We get a veg box delivered to the house and then try to use local butchers and fishmongers as much as possible. I love to cook.
One great place is the butcher at Spitalfields market. They sell to a lot of restaurants, it’s great stuff and cheaper than supermarkets as you buy in bulk; you do need a bit of space in the freezer however.
I think that food styling and photography is going in a natural direction, certainly for me. I love books like Richard Corrigan’s ‘Clatter of Forks and Spoons’ or the ‘Ginger Pig Meat Book’ where portrait, detail and food shots combine to give a lovely atmosphere, and, most importantly, make you want to cook the recipes.
I enjoy each project I work on, and I’ve been very happy with all the books I’ve been a part of. I’m happy to take on any challenge!
Jonathan Lovekin is a big influence in food photography as I learnt to cook with Nigel Slater’s recipes after having a few of his books thrust on me by an old housemate. Outside of food Henri Cartier Bresson’s work stands above the rest and currently I think Mark Power does some great stuff.
Looking back on my career I think that I did put a lot of pressure on myself to be shooting all the time a while back and be down on myself when I wasn’t, but I don’t think I’m the kind of photographer that jumps out of bed everyday with a camera in hand.
Just getting to a point where you’re producing good work when you want to and getting a bit of a voice and style is as a good thing as any to aim for.
Getting a good website that’s easy to use, business cards and a portfolio will go a long way to getting you work.
Steven Joyce’s website: www.stevenjoyce.com
Follow Steven on twitter: @SteveJoycePhoto