James Abbott has been interested in photography for 16 years since he studied a photography module as part of a media course he took at college. He went on to study photography at degree level and has since been a freelance photographer, photography technician and lecturer. Now James works for Practical Photography magazine where the core of his daily work involves shooting and writing features about how readers can achieve specific results across a range of subjects. He also shoots commissions and produces personal work so he’s quite busy.
I’d love to tell you one of those stories about when my dad gave me an old box brownie to stop me using his camera, but that’s just not the case.
Give us some insights about the Wrestling Project.
I noticed wrestling posters going up in shop windows around the town where I live. A professional wrestling event only five minutes away from my house – what luck, and an opportunity not to be missed. After tracking down the promoter I secured access to photograph the wrestlers. At this stage I wasn’t sure if I’d have much space to set up a studio, how long I’d have to photograph each wrestler or when during the event. It was simply a case of having my foot in the door.
When I arrived the promoter greeted me and showed me to the auditorium. After a long discussion with one of the other senior organisers I was directed to the bar area where I’d have a window of 15 minutes to photograph 16 wrestlers. I had half an hour to set everything up but I’d fortunately previously done some lighting tests so I knew exactly how I needed to set the lights up. My makeshift studio consisted of a black paper background, three studio lights, a ringflash and an assistant holding a reflector.
What’s your creative process like?
I was a latecomer to the digital revolution because I wasn’t impressed with the quality and was still shooting on a Mamiya 7II as late as 2006! But now I love the immediacy of digital and the control I have over the way my shots look without having to rely on anyone else. I am a huge fan of Lightroom 3 and process all my Raw files here before finishing them off in Photoshop. Very little of my work makes it to a tradition photographic print, most is shown in magazines and on the internet.
Where do you find inspiration and why you like photography?
My creative process is fairly esoteric and inspiration can come from almost anywhere. Sometimes it begins with an overall idea while other times it could be something as abstract as a model’s pose in a photo I’ve seen. I often know how I would like a photo to look before I’ve even picked up a camera, but even in these situations I try to remain flexible because ideas can and often evolve on a shoot. The thing I like most about photography is the process of creation. This exists in all other art forms but it was photography that interested me most because of its ‘reality factor’.
What are some tips you could give to people that really like your work?
Confidence is the key to shooting interesting portraits – you have to be prepared to ask people if you can photograph them, which isn’t easy at first. Sometimes they say yes and sometimes they say no. More often than not, people only say no because they’re more nervous about posing for a photo than you are about asking them. Confidence comes with experience so begin photographing family and friends. As your confidence and technique increases branch out to friends of friends and so on. Ultimately you need to have the confidence to approach almost anyone in the street to ask if they will pose for you.
Thanks James for telling us about your project, good luck in future, and hope to see more shots like these in the future. We’d love to see a series of boxers.