Digitalab Featured Photographer: Alexander James
At Digitalab, we appreciate the power of photography, whether it’s personal or professional. We asked Alexander James for one of his images and posed a couple of questions to find out exactly what it is he loves about photography and what he’d say to any enthusiastic photographer hoping to make a career out of their passion.
Tell us a bit about this image and why you chose it to be featured.
This is an image from a shoot called Daughter to the Desert shot in the centre of Marrakech and its perimeter deserts last Summer. It was shot on Kodak Portra 400 rated at 200 on a Contax 645 with Carl Zeiss 80/2 at f2.
A lot of life’s great photographs stem from unplanned moments, on this occasion our model Wendy, an 18 year old Parisienne and I had never worked together before. I could feel a sense of unease in this distant foreign land as she sat in an open topped courtyard whilst the hair and makeup team set to work. I always endeavour to personally get to know models I work with, a pretty face in an image will only go so far. In order to extract real emotion there needs to be a connection, laughter, vulnerability, stories, friendship, of course this list is by no means definitive but you get the idea.
In this case I had decided to pull Wendy away with one of the creative directors, Pearl. We found a quiet beautifully lit corridor in the riad and decided to become acquainted over a couple of rolls of film. Nothing serious, no mood boards, no styling and certainly no pressure. We laughed and played about, made fools of ourselves and suddenly we all felt more relaxed. Two minutes later I shot this. I employ this method on a lot of my shoots when there isn’t a lot of energy building up. It helps diffuse anxiety and stress and allows peoples creative natures to surface. This is when I am happiest photographing.
Which styles of photography most interest/inspire you?
Photographers I admire and my works inspiration are very different things. There are only a handful of active photographers whose work I follow. The reason for this being that I don’t want my work to look like someone else’s. Jose Villa was the first photographer I came across and thought ‘wow, this is different, I want to photograph like this.’ He photographed my girlfriend Emily and I last Summer in Oxfordshire and it was a magical day. Jose is such a humble person, it’s not until you meet him that you realise that his work makes so much sense. His colours, tones, composition, subjects are all present in his facade and personality.
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
There is so much technical knowledge available in books or online these days but the ability to notice good light can make or break a photograph. Good light often dictates where and when I photograph at a given location. So much emphasis is put on the latest camera or lens that photographers often end up chatting about gear rather than the actual photography. Talk to me about a location you’ve just found that had beautifully soft colours where the evening light cascades downs the walls and I’m in, or a dark forest that comes alive when the sun rises and I’m there, just don’t get bogged down with all the gear talk because it won’t improve the photographs you create.