I grew up in Biggar, a market town in central Scotland, the youngest of two kids to Les, the local vet, and Geraldine. Whilst my older sister, Linda, excelled at school on her way to becoming a doctor and making my father very proud, I was always the one that couldn’t quite make words in to sentences and for whom the numbers on the page would never quite add up. My only love was on the sports field playing rugby and so my parents, not quite knowing what direction I would take, would often send me off to work as a farmhand or labourer on building sites.
I found out about my dyslexia aged 8 and it finally made sense why my teachers had always said, “he answers very well in class, but struggles to get it down on paper.” As I grew older, it became clear that I should do pictures and not words. I can clearly remember the confused faces of my traditional Scottish country folks, when I headed off to study a Fine Art, Drawing and Painting degree at the University of Dundee and then eventually told them I was upping sticks and heading to London to be a photographer, but for me pictures captured the words I couldn’t.
London was tough, I grafted as a photographer’s assistant for a few years, once even driving a van for Annie Leibovitz, which though I found terrifying allowed me to say I had assisted Annie Liebovitz. I started shooting small jobs of my own and was eventually put forward for a global campaign featuring the sponsored athletes of a leading sports brand. When it didn’t land my way, it gave me the impetus to build on my work and focus on sport and portraiture. But it wasn’t until I landed my first big break in 2008 shooting a Nike campaign, that my mum and dad finally breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I knew I wanted to become a photographer at university, when I was handed ‘Cyclops,’ the first published book from Albert Watson. He too had studied at Dundee some years before and had gone on to become one of the most successful fashion and art photographers the industry had ever seen. For me, it was mind-blowing that this Scottish lad, from a not too dissimilar background to me, was now travelling extensively around the world, building this enviable repertoire of celebrity portraits and working on campaigns for global brands. His story made me determined to leave rural life behind and head to London, and the birth of my first son Ben in 2002, gave me the drive to work hard to make my career a success. I still can’t quite believe that I have been fortunate enough to go on to shoot major global brand campaigns and portraiture of elite athletes and celebrities. Not to mention the opportunity to travel around Europe, America, Asia and Africa, the furthest I’d ever got growing up was Cornwall – which seemed very far from Scotland at the time.
Over the years, my work has diversified into moving image to meet the demand for social and digital content. It is however, pursuing personal projects as an artist, that gives me the opportunity to push the creative and more emotive boundaries of my work.
Auschwitz and the Holocaust Survivors
History has always been of great interest to me, in particular WWII and the holocaust. I felt compelled to visit Auschwitz to explore and document the suffering there. The Holocaust Educational Trust facilitated my visit, and when I came back, they introduced me to 23 British-based survivors, this became my first portrait project.
It was a great honour to meet these amazing people who embodied the word survival, who had gone on to have happy, fulfilled lives with their families after all their loss and suffering. I took a picture of Kitty Hart-Moxon’s hand, which became particularly poignant for me. When I asked if I could take the picture, she had agreed but was filled with apprehension and questioned my motives. I told her that I wanted to capture the lifelines on her hand as a symbol of her survival and after I had taken the photograph, she told me that whilst she had been in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, a gypsy lady had taken her hand, read her palm and told her that she would survive, a story she did not often share. Kitty’s hand, to me, became a symbol of survival and the rights to our liberty. The Holocaust Survivors portraits are a lasting testament to the survivor’s stories, one that can still be told to future generations.
American Portraits and Landscapes
The works of Richard Avedon and August Sander along with my fascination of the vast and diverse American culture were the inspiration behind my ambitious American Portraits project. It was 2010 and by now I had two more beautiful children, Millie and Archie, and felt it was time to focus on more personal work. I embarked upon a road trip through America, with my assistant Chris, to document the American populace, starting on the back streets of Las Vegas with an armed guard, photographing local people off the streets and from local shops in a mobile pop-up studio. Unexpectedly, I started to shoot more observational landscapes as we travelled and my project grew into both my American Portraits and American Landscapes series. 9 years on, it’s still a working project, distilling like a fine whisky. I hope to finish it over the next 2 years and see it culminate in an art book.
The Study of Movement
The human body and the way it moves has always been at the centre of my commercial work and I wanted to take my knowledge of capturing movement and explore it further for my next art project. Sebastian Foucan, one of the pioneers of Parkour, started this now global sport, with his friend David Bell, when he was a teenager. Together, over two years, I worked in tandem with Sebastian, steering clear of the parkour clichés of free running through concrete cityscapes, to pull together a body of work and film entitled ‘The Study Of Movement.’ Personal projects are the life blood of my creative process and have been vital to my development as an artist.
More than twenty years on since I started out, I now live in south London with my fiancée, Simone, our new baby Adelène, my three children, Ben, Millie and Archie and my step-daughter Renée. My latest personal project involves a campaign against knife crime with Steel Warriors, a topic that touches a raw nerve bringing up our teenagers in an area where the knife crime statistics are alarming. On a more personal level, we are just waiting for our house purchase to complete and then we will be renovating our new house in Crystal Palace.
Commercial clients include: Adidas, BT Sport, Disney, Guinness, Hugo Boss, Nike, Puma, RedBull, Samsung, Sky, Sony, Speedo, Stella McCartney and Virgin, Tag Heuer, Huawei, Aston Martin, GQ, Red Bulletin, The Guardian, The Times and Sunday Times.
Celebrity portraits include: Amy Adams, Anthony Joshua, Callum Turner, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Dizzie Rascal, Karlie Klosse, Jeremy Reiner, Jared Harres, Lionel Messi, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Gambon, Mo Farrah, Neymar, Nikolaj Coster Waldau, Rob Lowe, Ronaldinho, Stanley Tucci, The Foo Fighters, Usain Bolt, Victoria Pendleton, Zara Phillips and Zinedine Zidane.
PADI Scuba certified since 2011, for underwater shoots.