Luke Yates is a professional photographer and is the owner of Way Ahead Photography, located in Kent, UK. Although Luke is currently really busy working with clients in the Way Ahead Studio we were delighted when he agreed to complete an in-depth feature interview for Urbanity Chic. Read on to find out about his inspirations in photography, how he grew his business in 2010 and what his current career highlights have been.
Q: How did you get into professional photography?
Part-luck, part-persistence really! I started off taking photos of my kids, trying to document them growing up, and thanks to them, as well as an amazing photographer called Louise Forth who inspired me and gave me loads of advice, it just sort of grew – first into an obsessive hobby, then as I did some training into a part time job.
I managed to land a job shooting for a really lovely music magazine called “Bearded” one week after I finished my course, and then I was shooting at another gig and was approached after by another magazine editor who I’ve worked for ever since! I seem to often just be in the right place at the right moment. Then six months ago I formed a limited company and opened a studio on the high street, which has been an amazing learning experience.
Q: What do you enjoy most photographing?
People. It doesn’t really matter who they are or what they are doing – they can be models, rock stars or families. I love getting to know people, and recording the way I see them with photos. I will do almost any type of photography because I learn from each shoot and can apply the things learnt on one shoot to another, very different shoot.
Q: How was 2010 for you?
Amazing! I went full time with my photography, I had some incredible assignments such as working for Fashion TV, covering several festivals and meeting some of my heroes, such as Vic Reeves and Adrian Edmonson! And of course, I opened my studio.
Q: Who inspires you?
In regards to photography, people like David Bailey, Rankin, Gered Manovitz Louise Forth and Joanna Lane. All of these people remind me that photography is perhaps 10% technical, and 90% people skills! In regards to life generally my dad is a huge inspiration, and as I get older I realise just how important he has been in shaping me and allowing me to chase my dreams. My wife inspires me because she has been so amazingly supportive and encouraging in my photography (and she is usually willing to listen to me witter on about something dull and photography related). And I learn more about myself and the world from my kids I think, than any other people on earth!
Q: Which modern day fashion designers or fashion icons do you look up to?
Jeff Banks (I think that’s age-appropriate for me!) Be Urban Chic, Amy Jean Moore, and Vivienne Westwood because she is very big on reminding us that art/creativity should sometimes serve a purpose other than to just entertain, and that artists have a responsibility as much as anyone to try and improve the world around them.
Q: What makes a good photographer in your opinion?
Somebody who cares more about what they shoot, than they do about the equipment they use, and who is more bothered about what’s in front of the camera more than what’s behind it. Somebody with excellent people skills and somebody who still believes in romance and magic.
Q: Do you prefer using film cameras or digital?
Playing with film cameras is good fun, and I can see why the process is so enjoyable to those who do – but I just enjoy taking photos to the best of my ability, and I try and do as little work after as possible. And when I’m working to such tight deadlines, I need digital!
Q: Do you prefer to shoot on location or in the studio?
Both equally, and they both have a symbiotic nature to them – the more work I do in the studio the more I understand about light, so that when I go outside I can read the conditions better. And the more I do location shoots, the more resourceful I have to become, which then comes back to the studio with me.
Q: Do you have any interesting stories about a particular photo shoot you’d like to share?
I recently did a shoot for a fashion designer in a real working iron foundry. The model (Mary Ann) was amazing, she had about 8 leering workmen gazing at her as she posed in little more than a sheet of gold fabric. And then the best bit during the shoot they poured the molten iron into a crucible and it flared up with fire, sparks and steam – it looked absolutely amazing!
Alternatively I could tell you about the time I was supposed to go and shoot Dame Judy Dench and I forgot… Yes I had the amazing opportunity to photograph the lady who played M in my favourite films, and I “stood her up”. Shameful!
Q: Do you have a specific style of photography that makes you unique?
Yes probably, hopefully. But I’d be hard-pushed to tell you what it is! I think other people identify your style – you shouldn’t try and “define” yourself consciously because that is either going to limit you or make you become untrue to yourself. Best just to get on with things and let other people analyst you!
Q: Do you have a favourite photograph?
I have loads of photos that I love and which have inspired me, but I think it might be one by Jim Marshall, of Johnny Cash sticking his finger up at the camera (apparently he’d been asked by Marshall for “one for the warden”). It’s an incredibly paradoxical image – contrived and yet pure “decisive moment,” and it’s pure rock’n’roll despite him being a country singer. I love the idea of conflicting messages in photography – something being clearly wrong but yet somehow it works. And I love Johnny’s expression – it’s so heartfelt!
Q: Who is your favourite photographer?
David Bailey. The man is a genius, and I love his character as much as his work – he knew what he had and what he was doing and enjoyed it. Rankin is an extremely close second – he is the greatest photographer of this age in my opinion. I met him very recently and he was brilliant – really cool and extremely friendly. I hope I’ll meet David Bailey one day!
Q: Is there anybody you would like to work with (either behind or in front of the camera)?
I have a list! I would love to photograph Robin Williams – imagine the fun you’d have on that shoot!
Q: What does fashion mean to you?
To me fashion is a wonderful excuse to take amazing photos for, with and of remarkable, passionate, lovely people, and it’s given me a whole new world to explore, and even better, some fantastic new friends.
Q: How would you define your personal style?
My strap line is “photos that rock” -- as I mentioned I don’t really know how to define my own style, or even for sure if I have a single one -- I just try and take photos that aren’t just nice, but make people go “WOW!”
Q: Where are you based?
In Kent, in a lovely seaside town called Hythe – thanks to the amazing high speed train network, it’s less than an hour from London these days!
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
Fantastic. It’s a brilliant little community, we all look out for each other and we all help each other business-wise wherever we can. Recently I did a makeover-style fashion shoot in Hythe for a magazine and loads of the businesses contributed and were involved. Even the laundrette was used for a location!
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
Getting an email from Gered Mankovitz (he is a famous rock photographer who took iconic photos of Jimi Hendrix), containing some very kind words and some amazing advice.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in 2011?
I would like to photograph some ballet, meet David Bailey and get published in Vogue. Ballet, Bailey, Vogue – not necessarily in that order…
Q: What do you do to relax?
I play guitar, read, cycle, run and drink the occasional glass of wine…but not all at once, obviously.
Q: What songs are on your ipod at the moment?
The Rollings Stones, The Who, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Duran Duran, Neko Case and Blondie. I like to mix the old with the new – something I love doing in photography as well as in my musical taste!
Q: Do you have interesting hobbies?
I play in a rock band called Gherkin… we cover songs from artists like Queen and the Foo Fighters, to Lady Gaga, ABBA and Sugababes – again my eclectic side is allowed to get out and we’re definitely not a conventional rock band!
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for aspiring photographers what would it be?
Trust your own instincts, don’t let anyone (including yourself) rob you of your passion, don’t listen to critics, don’t work with or for rude people, and do drink lots of coffee.
Q: What motivates you to do what you do?
Trying to always take a better photograph each time than the one before, and the opportunity to give people a little pleasure, a little encouragement, and a bit more confidence about themselves – I love watching each model I shoot go on a little journey during their session – it’s as if you can almost see them “grow” a bit!
Editor’s Note: With Way Ahead Photography Luke has created a brand which has his artistic stamp and personality on. Luke’s shoot in the iron foundry has showed that he’s inspired by opportunities to explore new creative directions. At Urbanity Chic we’re sure that Luke will enjoy continued success in the future.
If you’d like to see more work or contact Luke just follow the links below:
twitter link: www.twitter.com/wayaheadphotos
facebook link: www.facebook.com/wayaheadphotography
myspace link: www.myspace.com/wayaheadphotography
web page link: www.wayaheadphotography.com
Youtube embeds: www.youtube.com/wayaheadphotography