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My Career: Jack Alexander Photography

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Whether you dream of being a designer, fancy yourself as a photographer, or are made for marketing, we’ve spoken to individuals currently working in various areas of the fashion industry to find out how they made themselves stand out from the crowd in this increasingly competitive industry, and what their job is really like!

Jack Alexander, of Jack Alexander Photography, is a portrait photographer with a rapidly rising reputation.  His stunning portraits of upcoming fashion models and celebrities such as Olly Murs, Charlotte Church, Lawson and Keith Lemon are gaining him international acclaim as one of the UK’s most talented young photographers. He spoke to The National Student about his career as a photographer, which follows his time at university studying an entirely different subject…

When did your interest in photography begin?

A friend of mine bought his first DSLR and, having stolen his at any given opportunity, I asked for my own for my 18th birthday. I did my first portrait shoot in July 2009. I just enjoyed taking photos of friends but most were reluctant to be photographed, which is when I began setting up organised shoots as such, and it went from there.

What led you to choose to study English Language at university rather than photography?

I started shooting over the summer before I was due to begin university. By that point, I’d already picked my course and sat my exams. I was leaning towards a career in journalism but wanted to choose a degree that gave me other options, in case I changed my mind three years down the line.

But I wouldn’t change anything now. I enjoy photography because I shoot what I please, and do so at my own pace.

Did you ever, during your degree, consider pursuing a career in something other than photography?

My time at University only further confirmed how much I wanted to pursue photography long term. When I moved I had a whole new town to explore, including new places and new people. I had to remember my English degree was the real reason I was there – but things were going increasingly well with photography at the same time, so it was hard to find a balance at times.

When did you realise that photography was what you really wanted to do?

‘By the time I finished university in April 2012 I was already sure it was what I wanted to pursue. I’d been left with no time to shoot due to assignments, but had lined up a lot of work for as soon as I finished. I spent May travelling the UK for various projects and felt right at home doing it.

Shooting portraits of Charlotte Church for the press campaign supporting her return to music in September of that year was the point I really felt I could make a career of it. To have a household name trust me with such a responsibility was definitely a turning point. After that, I just wanted more.’

Was it difficult to balance studying for your degree with finding time to pursue your ambition for a career in photography?

Of course, it was difficult to balance my studies with finding time for photography.  The more I enjoyed photography, the less I was invested in English. I felt I was wasting my time on a degree I had no intention to use. My uni course often took a back seat, but I had to remind myself it wasn’t forever. In my final year I put photography aside for a few months, worked hard at my degree and managed to get the results I wanted.

Are there any photographers that were an inspiration to you as you developed your own style?

I used to look at Nirrimi Hakanson’s work a lot. She had a style that just made me want to go out and take more photos.  Where I grew up there are a lot of photographers and we had a bit of a friendly competition going on. Every time one of my peers posted up something really great, it motivated me to go out there and try and better it. These days I prefer following the work of undiscovered photographers who don’t get anywhere near the recognition they deserve.

You must have had a lot of fun experiences since you started - what’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you (that you’re allowed to tell us about!) since becoming a photographer?

I’m quite lucky in that I’ve never had any disasters at a shoot. I’ve lost count of how many run-ins I’ve had with the police. Many of the best locations I’ve come across have been on private property, so I quite often get kicked out of places. We got escorted off the tube once. I find claiming that the photos are for a university project usually go down a treat in that situation!

You went to New York on a job earlier this year, do you have any plans to go there again or to travel anywhere else with work?

‘I’d go anywhere that a job would take me. I’m used to living out of a suitcase and would love to be out on the road. Some friends and I have discussed a road trip down the West Coast of America. To photograph the people and places we’d encountered along the way is a dream of mine. But I’d only do it if I could do it purely for love, and not money. One day I’ll move to New York – I feel very at home there. For now, I want to base in London and establish myself in the UK a little more.

What do you find to be the best medium for getting your name and photos out there?

A competent website is crucial as it’s the core representation of you and your body of work. If your website looks poor, it’s not going to fill potential clients with confidence that you can do a good job.

Social media has been the most important to me in terms of exposure. I’ve landed many jobs and clients through Twitter, whilst Facebook remains the biggest platform for sharing my work. Facebook pages have a snowball effect whereby the more people that join and actively engage with your work (by ‘liking’ and commenting on your posts), the more people follow suite. Twitter has been great for engaging with fans of the actors and musicians I’ve worked with, who themselves obviously help to spread my work around. Social media is free promotion –use every platform you can.

Your photos of Charlotte Church are still being seen on front covers one year on from the shoot, and one of your photos recently went viral on Tumblr, even being shared by Kylie Jenner! Is there any one project or piece of work that you are particularly proud of to date?

My personal favourites change all the time. It’s usually the latest piece I shoot… I’m a perfectionist and get bored easily! I’ll over-analyse new work, pick out the flaws, and move on to the next shoot.  I’m at a point where I feel I’ve proven I can take a nice portrait. I want to get back to being as creative and resourceful as I used to be when I first started out, back when I had more ideas than I did time to actually shoot them. I think the upcoming personal projects I’m working on will be the work I am most proud of.

 You’ve got a short film coming out next year starring Dakota Blue Richards (The Golden Compass, Skins,) and Nico Mirallegro (Hollyoaks, The Village), can you give us any teasers about it?

I can’t give you too much right now. Not because it’s secret, it’s just in the early stages of planning. I don’t want to say anything just yet as there’s a fair chance what I’ve got planned may change, but I’m working on it over Christmas with the intention to shoot it in the new year. I’m so excited to have Dakota and Nico in it - I trust them completely.

Is there anyone you would really love to work with in the future?

There’s a whole host of musicians I’d love to shoot album covers for. But I mostly enjoy scouting people in the street to photograph. I love shooting with people who aren’t models, and have no intention of being, either. It’s how I started out, and is the most rewarding kind of shoot to me.

What would your advice be for anyone currently at university who is now thinking that maybe their career or passion lies somewhere completely unrelated to their degree?

Although it may feel like it now, it’s not the end of the world. You should try to stick it out - I’m really proud of myself for hanging in there and finishing my degree, even though I’ve no intention of ever using it. In relation to photography specifically, I’ve found experience is everything. Don’t worry if you enjoy photography but are studying a different subject entirely. If you’re passionate about something, teach it to yourself - that’s what I did.

See more of Jack Alexander Photography on his Facebook page or at jackalexanderphotography.co.uk.




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