Interview: Photographer Steven James EmbertonPosted: March 14, 2013
In light of me falling completely and utterly in love with the work of London-based photographer Steven James Emberton, I had to interview him…
When did you discover your interest in photography?
When I was a boy I learned with a friend and by trial and error to develop and print black & white. I had the bathroom at my parent’s house blacked out.
What is it about fashion photography that you prefer over other forms?
I like many types of photography. In fact, recently I’ve been shooting street scenes in a Canadian prairie town. It was almost by accident that I found myself involved with fashion.
In 2001 I was shooting for a motorbike magazine in London. Those guys are quite tough and back then never seemed to like my work much at all. It was a struggle. Then one day I got a call from Storm asking me to shoot for them.
What were you doing before you became a photographer?
I was involved with music and also painting. In the late 70s and early 80s I played in various bands as a bass player as well as doing session work at Amazon Studios Liverpool. I did that for about 8 years. I also tried my hand at music production which seemed the natural step and I would still be in music if photography didn’t exist – but at this point I realised that the visual world of light and colour was where I needed to be.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers and fashion photographers in particular?
Fashion is a people business so you are always working in a team, which is basically in conflict with the nature of most photographers; we are loners so being among a lot of people whilst trying to be creative is not that easy. I think it’s vitally important to understand this.
I always identify mostly with the models that are in a quite unique and vulnerable position, they are highly scrutinised and need all the support they can get which is what I try to do.
Being able to motivate people is important although it’s not that easy with some of the people you encounter. It’s a fast and ever changing business so some inner strength is needed. I would say just try to stay real and find something uniquely yours.
What has been the highlight of your fashion career so far?
For me it’s the building of The Camera Room. But on a personal level, the time spent working with Storm was a great fun and meeting all the young models and their families.
What are you doing when you’re not taking pictures?
The usual normal stuff… Spending time with family and so on, and playing the guitar a little while planning the next photography project.
If you could work with any designer or brand, who is it that you would work with?
On the fashion side of things of course I like the big names like Westwood and even Prada but I also like the ‘High Street’. Some of those brands would be interesting to me.
What would you consider to be your ‘signature’ style?
I’m aiming for understated but distinctive.
In your opinion, what camera should beginners be using?
There’s a lot of superstition and chance involved with photographers and their cameras. Probably you start by getting the same camera as your hero? At least that’s what I did, only, my heroes (August Sander, Richard Avedon and Paolo Roversi) all used an 8×10 inch plate camera at times, which is very cumbersome to use and today really hard to get film for. Nevertheless I obtained one in 2004 and I love the results. I met Paolo and he said he hoped I didn’t regret getting it, but not so far. I also use a Leica which is the opposite end of the scale. I like the results of this too but I can’t explain why it works. I mean if you look at it, it shouldn’t work when you compare it to the super technological cameras of today. I do shoot digital at times, but never much liked the results. Yep, it’s complicated!
Photography by Steven James Emberton
Images courtesy of Steven James Emberton