Clinton Barter is a commercial fashion photographer from Sydney, Australia who is the founder of Barter Photography and is our latest Starnow competition winner. Despite Clinton’s hectic schedule we were delighted when he agreed to complete a full in-depth interview with Urbanity Chic. Read on to find out about how Clinton returned to professional photography, which modern day fashion icons he is inspired by and what music he enjoys listening to.
Q: How did you get into professional photography?
I did photography as a subject for my school certificate in 1985-86. It has been an interest in my life since then. I owned a model agency from 2003-2008 and shot many photography test shoots for the models I had on the books, but I was shooting with a very average camera. I was surprised how well the photos turned out for a $750 SLR camera. I have really decided to get back into photography and make a living out of it about 6 months ago. I went back to school and did a DSLR photography course with renowned international fashion photographer Scott McGale. Since then doors are starting to open in different fields of photography (like Real Estate Photography), but Fashion Photography is my first love.
Q: What do you enjoy most photographing?
I enjoy seeing the final product. I also enjoying seeing the expressions of excitement that a first time model shows when they see how good they can look in a photograph. That gives me a real buzz.
Q: How has the last 12 months been for you?
I have only just started to get back into photography after a few years, as I have been involved in running a modeling agency called ‘Barter Models’. I sold this in 2008, after being the general manager for 5 years. I have always been around fashion and modeling since 1985. Whether it has been modeling myself, or photographing test shoots for the models I employed when I owned the model agency. So it has been a rather quick transition in the last 6 months.
Q: Who inspires you?
I am inspired by my mentor Scott McGale. He has over 20 years experience in fashion photography. He lived in London for 10 years, and now has many clients including being the main editorial photographer for Marie Claire magazine.
Q: Which modern day fashion designers or fashion icons do you look up to?
I have always liked Jean Paul Gaultier. He has always had great collections for men and women, and has been an icon for many years. I have always worn his fragrances.
Q: What makes a good photographer in your opinion?
A good photographer is someone that stays true to their individual style and remembers the basics of every photo, which is exposure and composition. They also should be willing to take risks and keep practicing their art every spare moment they have.
Q: Do you prefer using film cameras or digital?
I prefer to use a Digital SLR. I did learn how to use film cameras back in 1985, and develop my own film, and also process the photographs in the dark room. I like the simplicity and the romance of a film camera, but I love the technology of a modern DSLR as you can have an instant image result on the back of the camera. Not only is this great for checking your correct exposure on the spot, but I also find it a great tool for showing the model some of the photographs throughout the shoot. I pick a great shot and then show it to the model. It is amazing how much more confidence this gives to the model. You can then get a lot more from the model during the shoot as their confidence is boosted from seeing the instant photo. In the days of the film cameras a photographer only had the Polaroid for reference.
Q: Do you prefer to shoot on location or in the studio?
I used to prefer shooting on location, but after been taught the basics of studio photographic shoots from Scott McGale, I now love to shoot in the studio. I find you have so much more creative control of the light. You can experiment with different angles and start to get some interesting effects. Having said that, I do love capturing a great fashion shot on location. When outdoors there are so many more variables to consider. But when the light is right, like in the golden/magic hour, you can get some outstanding results.
Q: Do you have any interesting stories about a particular photo shoot you’d like to share?
Yes, I was doing a fashion test shoot for a female model. I had a make up artist, clothes stylist and hair stylist there at the shoot as well. I was in the middle of the shoot on location in a large park. The large park is in the centre of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and allows dogs in the park without wearing a lead. As I was shooting away, I had a medium sized dog come up behind me and started to ‘hump’ my leg. The professional that I am I tried to finish the shot that I was trying to get. The dog knocked me over and all I could think was to try and protect my camera. I saved the camera, while all the crew where laughing hysterically trying to get the dog off the top of me. I did see the funny side of it, although my face had gone red with embarrassment and I had lost a small bit of my dignity and ego. I still sometimes work with some of the crew, and to this day they give me a bit of hard time about my misadventure with the Labrador.
Q: Do you have a specific style of photography that makes you unique?
I believe my ‘simplicity’ makes me unique. Some photographers try to hard to create something special and forget the basics of photography. I tend to stick to the realms of makes a great photo. Put the simple techniques into practice and everything else happens from there.
Q: Do you have a favourite photograph?
Yes. The photograph that I like best is a photo I did for a test shoot for a model named Rachel. It’s a high fashion shot with a bit of visual difference. The old vintage lawn mower that the model is pushing creates a wow factor to the shot. I hired the mower from a Film Prop Business in Sydney for the day. The model is in heels and high fashion clothes and reading the newspaper. I told the model to look like she is enjoying herself in the shot. I think it works as the viewer is lead into the photo by the high fashion clothes and the concept of her taking on a dirty job of mowing the lawns in these clothes. It asks the question: “Why is this beautiful woman mowing the lawns in those clothes?” It’s a fun shot that makes you look twice. (See 1st photo in the interview at the top of this page.)
Q: Who is your favourite photographer?
I have 2 favourite photographers. Both are portrait photographers. The first is a friend of mine, Wayne Daniels. He shoots sports model and bikini models. He has shot for Ralph, Inside Sport, Penthouse, and Zoo magazines. I love his work as most of his photos tell a story. As I metioned before I like Scott Mcgale. He does high fashion photography. He has shot for many of the big magazines around the world. I did his photography course in Sydney and he is very willing to pass on his knowledge. Both these guys have great websites. Google their names and check out their work.
Q: Is there anybody you would like to work with (either behind or in front of the camera)?
I would love to work with Aboriginal model Samantha Harris. She has a unique look, and is one of the first Aboriginal models to make it big in international modeling.
Q: What does fashion mean to you?
It means showing an individual flare. If you like how something looks go with it. I see fashion as a ‘walking art’
Q: How would you define your personal style? (not sure how to answer this question but I answered it two ways below)
1. My personal fashion style is contemporary, yet classic. I love to go to the horse races and get dressed up in a nice classic suit. But during the day on the weekend in summer you will find me in a pair of shorts and (thongs) flip flops. I have a large collection of modern jackets so I love winter time. I love winter as I can wear my latest addition to my wardrobe, which is a leather aviator jacket with a wool collar.
2. My personal photographic style is editorial and commercial
Q: Where are you based?
I am based in the main fashion area of Sydney. It’s a suburb called Paddington. The main street is called Oxford Street where you will find that most of the big name fashion labels have their high end shops.
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
Sydney is a great city. It has the beaches, the weather (which are both great for location photos), and a great nightlife. People here are in the City area are very friendly and Australia is known for its ‘lay back’ attitude. I have been to over 20 countries around the world and the biggest difference here in Sydney is the stress free, ‘No Worries’ attitude that most of the residences display. I recommend that if you have not been to Sydney, put it on you list of places to visit. Come in Summer, (in January and February) to experience the beaches and the Aussie outdoor lifestyle.
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
I don’t think that I have a career highlight yet. I am still hoping that one day I shoot a model like Samantha Harris or Miranda Kerr. I think when that happens I can say that I have achieved something noteworthy…..
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in the future?
In the next year, I am hoping to move from being a part time photographer to becoming a fulltime photographer. I would love to paid everyday for something that I love doing! I would love to shoot Australian Supermodels Samantha Harris and Miranda Kerr. Preferably in the same shoot!
Q: What do you do to relax?
I love having a beer after work with friends. I also like to exercise. I run, swim and go to the gym. I try and get to the beach to go surfing when I can. Once a year I like to travel overseas for at least 3-6 weeks. Traveling opens up my mind, and when I return I find I am ready to tackle another 11 months of work.
Q: Where would your favourite holiday (vacation) be and why?
I love to holiday in Europe. All the countries are so close to each other so it is easy to hop from country to country. There are so many different cultures and hundreds of years of history to experience. You can hop from London to Amsterdam in about an hour. In Australia we have to travel at least 8 hours from Sydney just to get to Indonesia for an overseas holiday. Once you travel the 22 hours to get to Europe I believe its worth it as there is so much to see and do.
Q: What songs are on your iPod at the moment?
I have music on my iPod from BROHN. He is an upcoming DJ from Sydney. I was lucky enough to shoot his promotional photographs in November 2011. (Check out my website for these photos). He plays at his residency at CIRCO LOCO in Sydney. When and not listening to BROHN, and I want to chill out a bit more, I love to listen to 70’s music. Stuff like Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs, ELO, and The Eagles.
Q: Do you have any interesting hobbies?
I think that photography is my hobby. I don’t see photography as work. Most would say that work is boring, so I would not label photography boring. Hobbies are supposed to be exciting and you choose to do them of their own accord. So I would consider Photography a hobby.
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for aspiring photographers what would it be?
Learn the basic of photography. Sign up for a course. It doesn’t have to be year long course. Just do a 2-3 month course. It is important to know your camera like the back of your hand. Also every spare moment you have get out and shoot. Practice makes perfect. When you are starting out you will find it hard to find a model to photograph. If this is the case ask a good friend to help you out. He or she can go outdoors with you and help you master the basics. The basics like ISO, F Stop, and Shutter Speed, which are the foundations of all photography. Take lots of risks. Don’t be scared to make mistakes. Mistakes will help you learn your craft. Remember that there are no mistakes in life only lessons. Learn form your mistakes and do it differently next time around.
Q: What motivates you to do what you do?
To obtain the best photographs that I can. I am always improving and learning, so I am always looking around to see what new techniques are being used. My motivation is to one day be self sufficient that my photography pays the rent.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
I think variety is the spice of life. Keep trying new things and life will throw you nice little challenges. Challenges are part of life and anything unattempted remains impossible.
Editor’s Note: Clinton Barter has an attention detail in photography which undoubtedly comes from his appreciation and overall love of the art.
If you’d like to contact Clinton Barter or check out some more of his work, just follow the links below:
facebook link: www.facebook.com/barterphotography
web page link: www.barterphotography.net