Q: Steve, tell us a little about you.
A: I'm a Freelance Photographer residing in the South East of England but most of my day to day work is in London at television studios shooting and editing stills for television programmes. When I'm not doing that I may attend a photo call shoot or I’m taking stock pictures and now stock video - while I'm doing that always keeping an eye out for 'that street shot'.
Q: You’ve been shooting for a while haven’t you, how did it all start?
A: It all started around 30 years ago when I left school at 16 and got a job in a camera shop which my grandfather Bruce Fraser-Betts owned, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school but within a month of starting work there I was hooked on photography. My grandfather taught me how to use a camera and put me through college and kept me in film during my time there.
Also whilst at the shop I started to read anything to do with photography that I could get my hands on. I remember there were piles of Amateur Photographer Magazine going back years, so I started to read through those during quiet times - I learnt so much from reading those magazines cover to cover. Chatting to the customers who came in was a great help during those early years. I then started to attend Barking College one day a week to study photography. Once I completed this I left the camera shop and took a job at a photographic printing firm in Aldgate, here I learnt all about colour theory and dark room printing.
It was my next job that gave me a chance to get my photographs published - up until that point I had been doing small photography jobs for friends and family but photography was still mainly a hobby, something that I enjoyed doing in my spare time. I was now working for the press agency, Rex Features and started to venture out on a few Press/Photo calls which introduced me to the world of celebrity and music gigs and also gave me a chance to shoot stock photography.
Q: Looking at your work, would you say it’s more general as in “Urban Photography” rather than just “Street Photography”. You seem to capture anything that tickles your shutter in an urban setting, right?
A : I suppose I do combine the two, I definitely try to leave the house with a subject in mind ie: SP but it doesn't take long before I'm drifting into other areas and as you say the Urban Photography starts to show. I definitely like to shoot Street Photography as I really enjoy it and there's no brief other than try and get 'the shot', it's a bit like fishing you get a bite and wait and just maybe, if everything is in place you get the shot. I find it quite relaxing to take a camera and just one lens and walk and see what happens, even if I get nothing I'm not too disappointed - with Street Photography they are one off moments that can never be repeated, so when you do catch one its a great feeling.
Q: Do you spend your life in gigs? You’ve shot so many it’s unreal. Got any particularly cool story to share?
A: I have shot quite a few music festivals over the years which meant I could amass a lot bands in one day or a weekend so it was possible to cover a wide variety of the music scene but I don't do so much of it now as the market for this type of photography is completely saturated and some bands won't even allow photography anymore.
As for cool stories they are not so much stories but maybe happy accidents, like a picnic on the grass backstage with Kylie Minogue before her first night at a gig in Paris on the X tour. Another time she flew us out to Ibiza to cover the launch of her new album at Pasha Nightclub – standing in the middle of the dance floor at 3am waiting for her to perform, I felt very old and out of place that night, but it was great.
Also meeting Paul Weller for the first time, as I'm a big fan of his was a moment I won’t forget. I can also remember photographing The Prodigy for the first time; I have never experienced a gig so hard to shoot. They were running around all over the place with mostly strobe lighting making it not just difficult to focus but also to frame the shot. When I was done and made an edit I think there were only about five or six frames that were even keepers.
It's always fun (not) waiting for bands to change over during a festival as the crowd get impatient, things start to fly around and before long are aimed at the stage; I've been hit by bottles, shoes and once a lump of metal just missed my head and buried itself in the grass just next to me. I also remember photographing Lady Gaga and her management decided to have some fun with us, so when her performance started a whistle was blown and we had ninety seconds to take pictures then the whistle would blow and we had to stop and the madness would start over again.
Most recently it was a real pleasure to be involved with Kate Bush and her concerts back in the summer; it really was a great show.
Q: And then TV too?
A: Yes I have been photographing on set now for about six years and have had the pleasure of meeting many actors, film stars and celebrities, working on some of the most popular shows on television. What l will say is that the majority are just normal people whose job happens to be in the limelight.
It's a great environment to photograph in, you have to have your wits about you at all times - you need to be very aware of your surroundings because it's usually live recordings and television cameras move fast from one position to
the next! Noise is a very big issue so I use Panasonic Lumix and Fuji X series cameras set to silent mode so there is zero noise and they do a fantastic job.
Q: So I imagine the street/urban stuff is less for commercial use?
A: Oh definitely yes it’s more therapy for me really, also there doesn’t seem to be much demand for that type of photography at the moment, maybe this will change?
Q: You seem to shoot London mostly? Where else?
A: Yes, I'm in London most days at television studios so when I finish I usually walk instead of using public transport and always have my Lumix GX7 or my Fuji X100 on my shoulder ready! As London is so busy you’re never far from potential shots, everybody else is in such a hurry, I just slow down my pace and start to observe. This time of year is great; when the sun is out as it’s so low in the sky so produces nice long shadows.
I also live quite close to Southend on Sea which is a great place for street photography. I seem to be very drawn to seaside towns and always find something there. As a family we've always holidayed in England so have visited many coastal towns; I always sneak out on my own for a while to see what I can capture - it's something I enjoy very much.
Q: What do you think of the regeneration / gentrification of Soho which is talked about a lot at the moment?
A: I'm not sure I want to get started on this, Soho is a fantastic place for photography (and life) and I think they’re making a big mistake trying to regenerate it and leaving just small traces of it behind with blue plaques and old signs, its an awful thought that is becoming a reality, Where next?
Q: Do you feel like in general areas like Camden, Soho, Shoreditch are losing their uniqueness?
A: We’ve seen it before all over different parts of London where they have quite literally ripped the soul out of an area and I fear it has happened and is happening in Soho as well, from film makers, jazz clubs, music venues, coffee bars, private members clubs, sex industry, fashion all disappearing and now Tin Pan Alley is about to take a hit, revamped (ruined) and full of high street shops, chain pubs and expensive flats so, so sad.
Q: What piece of advice do you wish you’d been given early days?
A: To open a coffee shop instead!! No, I think it would have been to not be afraid to take pictures or worry what other people think while you're taking them, just go for it! I lacked a lot of confidence back in the early days and I think that cost me some good photographs.
Q: Finally, what does 2015 hold for you?
A: This year I hope to make more time for street photography and I want to finish my book which started life as a Black and White portfolio then became a Street Photography book and is now back to a Black & White book with Street and other subjects, the problem seems to be that every time I I look at it I'm not happy with the layout, one day I'll open it and be happy, and can then move onto the next one.....
Thanks very much Steve!