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How I became a photographer... Part 1

Recently I did a podcast with an old photography friend (I will link at the bottom) and it got me thinking. He asked me something along the lines of 'How did you make your start in photography?' I gave a very vague answer about always loving art and pictures and gave a brief idea about what I studied at college. So I thought I would tell the full story. Are you ready to hear about how I went from school to owning and single-handedly running an award-winning business?

When I was around 15 years old, as most teenagers are, I was at a turning point in my life. At the time going through my GCSE exams, I was determined I wanted to be a hairdresser. I even studied NVQ level one at college during year 10 and 11! It was what I wanted to do, or at least I thought it was. I had this one teacher at school, Mr Smith and he always pushed me to be better academically, I studied geography with him and managed to get my best marks in the subject, so I ended up going towards A levels at college to study geography rather than go into NVQ level 2 hair and beauty.

Going to view Barnsley college was an amazing experience, I never thought I would end up studying at a higher level nevermind A-Level! I ended up choosing geography and French (a huge mistake in hindsight) but I had two other subjects to choose! It was whilst touring the media department with my older Brothers who were already studying there that I discovered the darkroom. Outside along the corridor, I saw the most spectacular black and white landscape photograph on the wall. I was intrigued, how was it done? you could tell it wasn't a printer that had created such a piece of artwork! It was at that moment I decided I was going to pursue photography. But there was a problem, the Government had reduced the funding and the 2nd year of the course I was to enrol in wasn't able to happen and the darkroom part of the course, that I had fallen in love with, was the 2nd year. At this point, I approached the tutors and the administration board and pleaded with them... I needed to study both years in one. because I hadn't already enrolled in a 4th subject they thankfully allowed me to do this. So I studied AS and A-Level simultaneously.

The first year was all based on digital photography, I didn't own a digital camera so I had to borrow one from the college, It took a floppy disk! nothing at all like I use today. The first year syllabus I struggled with, there was no clear advice, you were given an assignment but weren't taught how to create a beautiful photograph as I had seen on the college tour. The 2nd year syllabus was more me. I studied the inner workings of an SLR camera. I learned all about light, how to manipulate it and capture it on film. I focused more on landscape work like I had seen the very first day. My Dad bought me my very own film SLR camera for my birthday, I still have it to this day! Most of my work was done alone in the darkroom, working with chemicals and the enlargers, that suited me as I could transport myself into a different world. All of my classmates were older and had already studied the first year previously.

I worked so hard.

I loved it.


But as you can probably tell... That didn't stop me. I carried on taking photographs, I took my portfolio everywhere and to anyone that would look. I eventually found someone that took me seriously and I managed to get my foot in the door in 2008 at Visual Image Studios on Wombwell high street. Ian gave me a chance that no one else would and for that, I am extremely grateful. Over the space of 5-6 years I learned, I grew and when Ian moved to a large commercial unit I, of course, followed. The Unit Studios on Aldham industrial estate Wombwell became my home. I did everything from making cups of tea, editing photos and assisting with commercial hires. I learned lighting techniques, hosted birthday parties and even shot weddings! The list of what I did there goes on!

Life got in the way, as I grew up I could spend less time at the studio and I needed to find myself a 'proper' job. Photography was always there. I spent evenings and weekends, but I couldn't do as much as I wanted. As time went on, the camera started to gather dust. in 2013 I got the opportunity to work from another studio, this time in Barnsley town centre on Doncaster Road. That re-lit the fire for photography that is still burning strong today.

Since then I have worked from several studios around Barnsley and I can't thank the owners of them enough! I've also had 2 of my own and I am happy to say that my current studio is here to stay! Even after 2 kids and a turbulent couple of years off in between studios I can safely say I'm more determined than ever to show you the love of my art that I bring in every single photo shoot.

I have met hundreds of families over the past 15 years and I remember each and every one and I hope they remember me. Even if it is just looking at the images I have created for them.

I can't wait for you to be a part of my story! Book Now!

Part 2 coming next week and will be about how I decided on the names Bumblebugs and Olive James Photography!

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