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Interview : Jake Lowe

When then 21 year old Jake Lowe decided to take up photography whilst studying at Uni, he discovered a passion for the art that eventually saw him named as the winner of Sony’s 2010 World Amateur Photographer competition.

What prompted your interest in conceptual photography?

I eventually want to work as an advertising photographer, and all of the best advertising photographs have brilliant concepts, so for me it was a natural progression. Photographers like Erwin Olaf and Tom Nagy are an inspiration to me, because their conceptual fine art photography is equally as brilliant as their commercial and advertising work. I want to make images that tell a story, whether my image is used to sell a product, or make a comment on environmental and social issues, the concept is what I use to make the image work.

You’re packing for an assignment, what’s in the camera bag?

I use Canon gear, however the difference between the major brands these days is pretty negligible, my first camera was a Canon so I’ve stuck with them. So in my bag I’ve got a 5D MkII and use my 5D as a backup. As for glass just the basics really, all Canon lenes; 17-40mm f/4, 70-200mm f/2.8 and my 100mm f/2.8 Macro always gets a run, it’s so versatile and sharp, also on occasion I’ll use the 50mm f/1.4. Other than that, I carry around a couple of 580EX speedlights, and my Minolta VF Light Meter, which seems to be a bit of equipment neglected by a lot of photographers these days. Of course I always take a tripod with me to keep it steady when necessary.

If a picture’s worth 1000 words, how essential is it to find the narrative of the image when creating a concept piece?

Once a concept comes into my head the narrative naturally follows, so it’s very important. A concept on its own is only a word or an idea. It’s the story that goes along with that concept that makes an image meaningful.

What are the essential elements for capturing a great concept shot?

All of the elements in the image need to work together to play out your story. If you have all of the right elements in place the viewer will put them together and gather some kind of meaning from your image. You should also remember, a single word is not a concept. Although it’s important that your photograph should be able to speak for itself, you should also be able to speak for your photograph.

You were the winner of the Sony World Amateur Conceptual Photographer of the Year – how did you achieve the shot?

Firstly, I had the image in my head before I even picked up the camera, which meant that I spent about a week or so resolving how I was going to achieve the shot in the first place. I had to figure out where I was going to shoot it, what time of the day it was going to be shot along with how I was going to light it, what the model was going to be wearing, how the character and the fox would be interacting with each other, and most importantly… where would I get a fox, and furthermore, how would I get it to co-operate? I have one word for everyone who asks me, taxidermy. When you’re thinking up a concept work – does an image pop in your head and then you think ‘How can i achieve that’?

You’ve pretty much summed up my process right there. I have an image come into my head, from there I take the time to develop the picture fully on paper, with sketches and notes, and go about shooting it as soon as I get the chance.

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