March 31, 2020
Photography by Stephen Simmonds
Interview by John St.
The power of photography to tell stories is undeniable; the ability to capture a moment and make it last, to evoke strong emotions, and to convey powerful messages is unique to this art form. Such an example of photography is the work of British photographer Stephen Simmonds. His work is strikingly minimalistic, with strong shapes and lots of negative space, and it is all the more remarkable considering he only started taking photography seriously two years ago. To capture his shots, Stephen spends his days walking to and from work on the streets of London, allowing the light to guide him as he searches for interesting compositions created by how light interacts with people and their surroundings. It is clear that Stephen has a natural eye for his craft, and he has created beautiful images that tell stories and evoke strong emotions.
It is clear that for Stephen, photography is more than just a hobby – it is an art form that he is passionate about and one that he is rapidly mastering. For anyone interested in understanding the power of photography, learning more about Stephen Simmonds’ work is an excellent place to start.
This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realise it is play. – Alan Watts
“I keep telling myself this…and I keep forgetting to do it.”
IN CONVERSATION WITH STEPHEN SIMMONDS
THE PICTORIAL LIST: Stephen, do you remember when you first became interested in photography?
STEPHEN SIMMONDS: I guess my first experience of photography when I was around 10 years old, and my dad used to play around with a Canon SLR. He was pretty into it for a while and I remember how much he enjoyed it. In my adult life I've always been involved in image creation. Working as a motion designer for the last 17 years and art directing animated pieces for major global brands has meant that without realising, a lot of ground work in terms of lighting and composition, had already done before I'd even picked up a camera. However I finally picked up that camera, a Fuji XT20 with a true intent to take photography seriously, around 2 years ago.
TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?
SS: The regular hang outs - Instagram, YouTube etc. However recently my photography has taken on quite a graphic style and that can only come from my day job as a designer.
TPL: Do you have a different style of photographing today than when you first started?
SS: Massively, and partly because I have been discovering that style. I've been trying loads of stuff out. Landscape, macro, street. I've given it all ago. Recently I've discovered the joy of street photography but not in a classic sense. I guess I'm less interested by the people but more interested in what happens when people, interesting light and their surroundings interact. Simplicity is what I look for in my images. I like to use a lot of negative space to frame a subject or draw attention to something in the shot.
TPL: Where is your favourite place to photograph?
SS: Where I shoot is usually dictated by where my busy life puts me. I work in London and use my walk from train station to studio to take photos. This usually is from London Bridge to Farringdon. There are multiple routes you can take and you pass through some interesting places. I live out of town on the cusp of the countryside and find myself looking at more organic lines and less people at the weekends.
TPL: Do you think equipment is important in achieving your vision in your photography? What would you say to someone just starting out?
SS: Yes and no. It's important in that you need something to take photos with. And obviously it's nice to have the best gear you can afford. It's not entirely necessary thou and great photos can be taken with any camera. However gear is fun and I'm not scared to say it. I love it when technology has a positive effect on creativity. For me these two things go hand in hand. It's all part of the enjoyment of photography. I primarily shoot my Fuji XT3 - I love Fuji’s approach to making cameras. Everything is so tactile and visual - you hardly have to touch the menus. I also use the Ricoh GR3 its so tiny and the image quality is outstanding, it makes having a camera on you at all times so so easy.
Shoot as much as you can. I was told this when I started, so I did. Like most things the more you practise the better you get. It's really that simple. I feel like I have a long way to go yet and loads to learn. We all just need to keep shooting.
Always have your camera on you. Be patient and let the light tell you where to point your lens.
TPL: What characteristics do you think you need to become a good photographer? What’s your tips or advice for someone in your genre?
SS: Nothing more than a desire to create. Anyone could become a photographer if they wanted too but those with a desire to shoot, and a true enthusiasm to freeze time will become great photographers. (Oh and a tonne of patience).
TPL: Have you ever been involved or part of the arts?
SS: I'm the co-founder and creative director of a motion design studio called weareseventeen and have been for 14 years. Before that I studied motion design at university in London. Luckily I've only ever been involved in creative endeavours.
TPL: Do you have any favourite artists or photographers you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?
SS: Favourites would include Jonas Rask, Sean Tucker, Rachael Talibart, Joshua K Jackson and Craig Whitehead. There is also a guy in the states who goes by the name of @professorhines, he's awesome. I take influence from all of these and more. Rachel Talibarts approach to photography resonates with me and despite our subjects and styles being completely different, I like the way she lets the photos she's taken sit for a while before she decides whether they are portfolio worthy. This makes a lot of sense to me...because my photos always seem to look different when I look at them a second time.
TPL: Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
SS: Not really but the thought of being more focused with my photography is appealing. I set myself micro projects all the time…for example “today is all about diagonal lines” So some kind of more long term project is something I'd like to focus on. Printing photos is my number one goal at the moment. A printed photo feels so special. It feels finished. I recently attended the ;My London' exhibition and seeing the printed photos on the walls really inspired me to print more.
TPL: "If I wasn't photographing what would I be doing?...
SS: Running around after my kids and dog and begging my wife to let me go out and take some photos. 😉"
In conclusion, Stephen's approach to photography is inspirational. His eye for detail and ability to capture the beauty of negative spaces and the shapes of London city is remarkable. We can all learn from Stephen's art and use it to better appreciate the world around us. If you want to follow Stephen and see more of his work, you can use the links below to stay up to date on his creative journey. Let his light guide you as you explore the beauty of his world.