Stephen Rainer is a professional photographer from Lowestoft in the UK and is our latest StarNow featured photographer competition winner. When we first noticed Stephen’s impressive portfolio we were really keen to interview him so that we could share everything with you. Read on to find out about, amongst other things, who inspires Stephen, who he would like to work with given a chance and what he’s hoping to achieve over the next 12 months.
Q: Who are you called?
My original business plan was much broader than photography alone, hence the name Life in Images. Since photography has been my primary focus I have tried to promote my name, Stephen Rainer, for a more personal connection with the people I work with.
Q: How did you get into professional photography?
I’ve spent all of my adult life in the design industry and have found it increasingly difficult to express myself through my work. Photography appealed to me because of the freedom to do things the way I wanted and the opportunity to work with like minded professionals.
Q: What do you enjoy most photographing?
People with something interesting or unique about them. I’ve been accused of living life through a lens which isn’t far from the truth. It’s difficult sometimes not to stare at complete strangers, piecing together a concept, not realising that I am probably freaking them out.
Q: How has the last 12 months been for you?
Hard at times considering the economic climate but I have enjoyed the freedom to work on my own concepts and try new things. During the early months of 2010 I met some truly amazing people and in the last few months it has become apparent just how much I have been affected by their sheer determination and respect for life.
Q: Who inspires you?
The last person to inspire me was my father in law; I’ve known him for years, but saw something different in him recently which led to one of my favourite shoots to date. I try to find inspiration in everything, particularly the subtle things and let my imagination fill in the blanks.
Q: What makes a good photographer in your opinion?
The courage to see your ideas through, adaptability and being able to think on your feet.
Communication (expression, understanding, compassion and articulation) is very important; if you have other people working with you it is imperative that they know what you are trying to achieve.
Above all, the ability to set yourself apart from the rest, relay your vision to an audience and make it your own.
Q: Do you prefer using film cameras or digital?
Digital for sure. Coming from a design background I was familiar with the capabilities of post editing way before I even picked up a camera. I love the flexibility that digital offers both during and after the shoot. Whilst I strive to get as much as I can through the lens, I am by no means a purist and will use whatever tools necessary to achieve what I want.
Q: Do you prefer to shoot on location or in the studio?
Location, without a doubt. There is absolutely no substitute for the endless possibilities that shooting on location offers. It is important to approach a location shoot with an open mind and to be prepared for the unexpected but that is all part of the exhilaration.
A studio does have its benefits however. It gives me an element of control, timing and planning that I wouldn’t always have on location. As I know what to expect from a studio shoot, I can give thought to the lighting and angles beforehand, which gives me more time to work with the subject on the day.
Q: Do you have any interesting stories about a particular photo shoot you’d like to share?
Whilst on assignment in West Africa we stopped at the bamboo village of Kyekyewere. Virtually every village we visited greeted us with dancing and music and Kyekyewere was no exception. During the celebration I was moving amongst the crowd when a local tribesman approached me and offered to repair my shoes. The heat had melted the glue holding my soles together and they had been flapping about for days so I accepted. He showed me to his hut on the far side of the village. During the walk we were joined by five children aged from around 5 to 9 years old. At first they were quite shy, until I was given a pair of Disney flip flops to wear whilst my shoes were being sewn together. The children found this very funny and warmed to me. Before long we were playing target practice with improvised sling shots that the children used to shoot bats in the dark. This should have been a clue as to how skilled they were. Even the youngest was knocking bottle tops off rocks from 30ft away. I don’t remember coming closer than 12 inches myself. I appreciated every minute and I remember being quite disappointed when my shoes were ready (though glad to lose the flip flops). I paid the tribesman for the repairs and a little extra for the memory.
Q: Do you have a specific style of photography that makes you unique?
If I’m honest, I am still trying to find my style. There are so many ways to go and It’s hard to avoid fashionable trends if you intend to make money from your work. I guess the common thread in everything I do is that I always try for an emotional connection.
Q: Do you have a favourite photograph?
I have a few for very different reasons and even those typically change from day to day. I have one that I am particularly pleased with as much for the way it came together as for the final result. The image is of a close friend, Gemma, and was taken following a studio shoot. Inspired by a single item of clothing and a pocket watch, we threw the rest of the outfit together in minutes. I gave Gemma a short explanation of what I wanted and she nailed it right off the bat.
Q: Is there anybody you would like to work with (either behind or in front of the camera)?
Probably somebody like Ross Kemp or Bear Grills. It is easy to lose touch with reality when working with fashion or weddings. I think a short spell on the front line or surviving on bugs in the wilderness would even things up a bit.
Q: What does fashion mean to you?
I think fashion, like photography, is a way of expressing who we are or who we would like to be and each relies heavily on the other. The danger is that if we, as artists, follow trends too heavily we can blend in and fail to be noticed. I think the trick is to find an acceptable paradox and continuously evolve your style, setting you apart from the competition.
Q: How would you define your personal style?
I’m definitely a moody shooter and tend to shy away from the happy go lightly imagery. I’m not entirely sure why; I guess it adds a sense of realism for me or maybe I find it easier to connect on a compassionate level? This is not something anybody who knows me would associate with me, in fact, I can hear them laughing as I say this but I guess we all have an inner, less visible side to our personality?
Q: Where are you based?
I live in Oulton Broad, a sleepy suburb of Lowestoft, the most easterly point of Great Britain.
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
A little isolated at times but it is a beautiful and friendly part of the country. It’s quite a varied landscape with quaint little villages, fields, woodland and of course the broads. I live just a couple of miles from the coast too which is a favourite photography spot all year round. We could use a decent hill or two but I guess you can’t have everything.
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
Meeting Sir David Attenborough at the Lyceum Theatre in London whilst covering the Hope for Apes seminar.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in the future?
2012 will be about balancing my priorities, direct marketing and focusing on the disciplines I plan to move forward.
I have recently tried my hand at shooting video on SLR and am very keen to try more. I will be working alongside amateur film makers early next year on a short production to gain more experience with the view to working on a few more of my own concepts.
Time permitting, I would also like to try more writing. It isn’t something that comes particularly easy to me but I really do enjoy the challenge and it fits well with my reportage style of photography. I recently completed an article of the extraordinary David Murden, CEO and founder of the And-Albert Foundation following an expedition to Africa.
Q: Where would your favourite holiday (vacation) be and why?
I’d love to take a year off and travel around the world with my family and a healthy stash of memory cards. We’re not the kind of people to visit tourist spots or snooze on a beach somewhere. I’d like to experience as many different cultures and habitats as possible from New York to Tristan da Cunha. In the short term I have my eye on Iceland; my youngest is still just small enough to fit in a child carrier and my oldest has been craving for her first pair of hiking boots for months.
Q: What songs are on your iPod at the moment?
Permanent Residents: Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Guns n’ Roses, Muse, Janis Joplin, The Clash, Johnny Cash, David Gray, Ray LaMontagne, Bob Seger, The Jam, INXS, Led Zeppelin, Annie Lennox, Sex Pistols, Elvis Presley…
Just Visiting: Adele, Franz Ferdinand, Jeff Wayne, The Boxer Rebellion, Pixie Lott, The Killers, Duffy, White Lies, Emiliana Torrini, The Fratellis, Whitesnake, Erin McKeown, Glasvegas, My Chemical Romance…
Q: Do you have interesting hobbies?
I have recently taken to cycling, after a friend talked me into a coast to coast challenge 2 years ago. Reluctant at first I enjoyed it so much I completed a second challenge this year. I now regularly ride mountain and off road trails with a friend and have suffered quite a few injuries for my efforts. I also try to bag a peak whenever I can; I enjoy the solitude and the chance to clear my head.
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for aspiring photographers what would it be?
Be clear about what you are trying to achieve and keep it original.
Q: What motivates you to do what you do?
My family. People I meet. The talented. The need to express myself. Recognition. Respect. Dreams. Ideas. The unknown. Desire. Love. Fear. Coffee!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
I cover many genres of photography mainly centered around people including weddings, reportage, editorial, music and events. I also run workshops for aspiring models which includes a full day shoot with patient and timely direction and feedback. I am serious about my work and always approach my shoots with a friendly, professional attitude.
Editor’s Note: Stephen Rainer is a talented and creative photographer who creates an alluring and commercially appealing image whilst still maintaining his own individual stamp on each shot! Definitely one of Urbanity Chic’s “One’s to Watch”.
If you’d like to see more of Stephen Rainer’s impressive portfolio or get in touch; just follow the links below:
facebook link: www.facebook.com/pages/Life-In-Images/175151623213
web page link: www.lifeinimages.co.uk
Vimeo embeds: www.vimeo.com/user4691225/almost-see-the-sea