Ashley Klinger & Co. recently had the opportunity to chat with still life & food photographer David Sykes, who gave us the scoop on getting started in the business, how to develop your "voice," and his most challenging (but ultimately rewarding) project!
AK&Co.: Can you tell me a little bit about where you're from and how you got started?
DS: I grew up in the U.K. in the countryside, outside a city called Leicester. I started off studying graphic design - part of the course was photography, and I quickly realised that that is what I wanted to do as a career. I then studied photography for 2 years, which lead into assisting. I was a full time assistant for one of London’s top advertising photographers for 4 years, and in 2001 I decided to set up on my own.
AK&Co.: Your work is very much your own unique style. When do you think you found your personal voice through photography? How did you get there?
DS: I started to find my style a few years after stopping assisting. It takes a while to break away from the style of those you have learnt from and form your own take on photography. I wanted to tell stories with my work, so I started to create narratives and build it from there - testing is a great way to find your own style.
AK&Co.: What was the most surprising or challenging shoot you've worked on?
DS: I did a shoot for British telecom in the U.K. - they are the biggest phone company here. The brief was to produce full size window stickers of customers looking into the offices, so that they could be viewed from the inside (seeing the front of the people) and viewed from the outside (seeing the backs of the people). The challenge was to shoot the front and back at the same time. This was in the days before we all shot on digital, so it was on film with analog cameras, and it was quite a challenge to have both cameras fire at the same split second. I managed to work it out by setting it up in a huge studio with lots of remote triggers, capturing it all in sync. The results were great - almost too realistic, as one of the stickers was used on the street facing windows, and a passerby called the police because they thought someone was trapped in the window ledge!
AK&Co.: It sounds like it was very successful! Do you have a favorite shoot you worked on?
DS: I’ve had so many fun shoots over the years... I’m very lucky; it’s hard to name them all.
AK&Co.: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
DS: I try to find inspiration for my work out in the real world. I’ve been very fortunate to travel quite a bit, so I find seeing new places and people inspire me and trigger my imagination. For instance, I came up with the idea for my balloon breakfast shot when I saw someone walking down the street holding a balloon with an additional balloon inside of it. I thought it looked like a fried egg, and from that I created an English breakfast out of balloons. Music and film have always been a source of inspiration for me, as well.
AK&Co.: What is the most important thing to you when composing a photograph?
DS: For me, lighting is the most important; I feel it can contribute to the story that you are trying to communicate with the viewer.
AK&Co.: Do you have any dream projects or jobs?
DS: I’ve always thought shooting the cover of the New York Times Magazine would be great.
AK&Co.: What is your general approach when working on an ad job?
DS: It changes from job to job, to be honest. The main thing to start with is understanding what the agency is trying to achieve with the project, then I start to tailor my approach to the project to best communicate the idea they have.
AK&Co.: Is there any advice you'd give to an aspiring photographer?
DS: Assist to learn from the best, test to work out what you want to do and what you enjoy doing, then get your head down and work hard.
Click here to see more of David's work!