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Rebecca Bradley interviews lifestyle and fashion photographer Richard Moran, whose clients have included Waitrose, HSBC, the BBC, Granada Television, the Canadian Opera Company and Thompson. He recently received the runner-up prize in the 2005 Observer Food Monthly photography award and was runner-up in the Arts, Entertainment and Fashion Photographer sector of the 1996 Nikon Press Awards. Richard Moran is 37, based in Leeds, and is commissioned to work all over the UK and in to Europe.
My career in photography started as a kid. My father was a newspaper photographer at the time, so standing in the dark working the fix tray and breathing in second-hand Benson & Hedges smoke started at the age of about 10.
When I left school I studied photography for two years at a very basic level at a college in Leeds. The course introduced me to various techniques but really just gave me two years to find out nobody can teach you to see composition. I had other jobs as well, for example, at one point I worked as a chef. I loved the cooking but the hours I had to work were appalling. I had also been drumming since an early age. It got to the point where I had to choose between pursuing a career and music or photography, both of which I had practised for a number of years. I chose to pursue photography.
I'm in the frame of mind now where I really want dig deeper into the history of photography. At age 19, after studying at college, I landed a position as an assistant to a commercial photographer through a friend of my dads, who is also a photographer. Half of my time was spent assisting and the rest as a journalist for national newspapers. I hated the hard news element of the job so I started to push on with getting commissioned for arts features such as theatre, opera, film, portraiture and fashion, which really took off.
I think that my greatest photographic achievement so far was being commissioned by a New York Food Mag (Gourmet) directly, without the help of an agent, in my small loft office in West Yorkshire. Other things that spring to mind was shooting films directors the Coen Brothers (of Fargo fame), Hollywood legend Gregory Peck, and the buzz of working the Cannes International film festival for four years. I was working for a movie trade magazine called Moving Pictures International, producing magazines on a daily basis to be distributed during the festival. Just making a living from shooting is a constant buzz for me. Achieving runner up at the 2005 Observer Photo Awards has also been a great achievement. Recognition for your work is always welcome, and a great comment from Harry Borden, a photographer I admire, was a real confidence booster.
At the moment I'm starting to step back in my personal work and shoot more observational work, with people becoming secondary within the image. I've spent most of my career shooting people, and you have to be a great communicator to be able to do this which can become very trying. I still love shooting people though. I find it fascinating.
If I could give one word of advice to anyone wanting to break into the world of commercial portrait photography it would be communication. Articulate planning is the key, and keeping things simple. When you're photographing people, you need to talk to them, win them over and speak about how they perceive themselves. Celebrities can be difficult to photograph too. You need to catch them on a good day and you need them to be interested in what your trying to achieve.
A lot of my inspiration come from sub-cultures, good photography and cinematography. I love independent and art-house cinema, in particular films by the Coen Brothers, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, and German film-maker Wim Wenders. My dream job would be a worldwide commission on sub-cultures based around bizarre hobbies.
Personally, I love shooting colour negative, as it has a much wider tonal range than RGB. I don't use colour negative in my commercial work, but for my personal work I find it has a much wider colour range. I like to photograph anywhere with great natural light – it beats studio lights every time for me and is a truer representation of the world that we live in. I find perfectly exposed and composed images very boring, and aspire to take collections of images that really make you think.
In order to find new clients, I tend to have a bit of a push every three to four years towards editorial publications I want to work for and then a bunch of design agencies I have researched. I find that being a member of the AOP (Association of Photographers) makes London based agencies and editorial commissioners take you more seriously as a photographer.
Hassleblad 503cw with a Phase One P20
Hassleblad 40mm and 80mm
120mm Macro Planner
Pentax 80mm and 150mm
Xpan standard and wide
Nikon 20mm, 60mm macro, 35-85mm, 80-200mm f/2.8