Ian Nolan Interview

Ian Nolan

24th November

Via email

Commercial Photographer, with an emphasis on skill life.

How did you learn your photography practice?

–       If educated where? How did it help create your style? How did it prepare you for the ‘real’ world of being a photographer?

–       If self-taught, how? Was it hard to find your area of skill?

After leaving school I jot a job as an apprentice welder. The factory employed a full-time photographer (things were very different in the 1980’s! ) and meeting him made me realize that it could be possible to make a living from photography – I was an enthusiastic amateur at the time. I took redundancy, and spent the next 4 years at college. 2 years BTEC at Mid Cheshire College, then 2 years HND at GLOSCAT (Gloucester).

College prepared me for the next step – assisting. There was no way I was ready to be a photographer when I left college, but assisting various photographers in London for the next 4 years was a fantastic preparation for turning professional.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

 All sorts of things keep me motivated – the need to put food on the table is always a factor! But the satisfaction of producing an image or series of images that I can look at with pride is the best motivation really.

Who or what inspires you in your work?

Inspiration comes from many different places. Anything from a walk through London, looking at the latest advertising posters or window displays, to a trip into the country – some beach combing or a long walk. Keeping up with exhibitions and art galleries helps a lot also.

Do you have a favorite job that sticks out in your mind? Why that job?

I can’t think of one particular favourite job. A few that spring to mind are when there is a big enough budget to justify a large(ish) team – assistants, stylists, set-builders etc. But most of my jobs tend to be just me, and maybe and art-director, and I also enjoy working this way too.

If you don’t mind me asking, what has been your biggest mistake career wise? What were the lessons you learnt from this?

My biggest mistake career-wise is probably not being completely on-top of self promotion. You have to work hard at updating your portfolio and website, and making sure potential clients are aware of your services. But I tend to neglect this part of the business and leave matters too much to chance

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of the job is the boring stuff – the economics of running a business / dealing with paperwork & tax etc. If I could be just taking pictures life would be much easier, but unfortunately that’s not the reality of being a freelance photographer.

What is the easiest part?

The easiest part is being my own boss, and being able to take time off whenever there isn’t work to be done.

Where do you see/ hope your career goes next?

I am quite happy with my career at the moment, but I am pushing things slightly away from studio work, more towards location, so I am hoping things carry on in that direction

What is the best advise you were ever given?

Best advice ever was “always aim to make every job, however mundane, good enough to be included in your portfolio”. It’s not always possible, but a good place to aim for.

What advice would you give to a photographer just starting out, like me?

Times are tough right now, but it was never an easy business to be successful in. Keep your overheads low, even if this means sleeping on friend’s sofa’s until you get established (I spent my 1st year in London sleeping on the floor of a friend’s bedsit). Aim to assist for as long as possible, and work with as many good photographers as possible. You will learn more in 6 months of assisting, than you ever would at college (that is in no way meant to knock higher education, which is excellent at preparing you for assisting) . Then when you feel the time is right to go it alone – go for it!

What is your favorite/must have photography accessory other than your camera?

As for ‘must have’ accessory – a good piece of silver card can be the most useful thing to have an a shoot!

What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?

There is always a ‘fantasy list’ of equipment – more lenses / faster flash heads / carbon tripod etc., but right now keeping things minimalist and not having unnecessary overheads is a reality-check. An Elinchrom Quad Ranger kit would be a very welcome sight under the Xmas tree though!


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