LIFE THROUGH MY LENS
IN CONVERSATION WITH JASON SHIPLEY
Jason Shipley is a passionate British documentary photographer from Kingston upon Hull. He finds inspiration in the people he meets and their struggles, which he often documents in long-term series. Jason shared a story with us in the Magazine about British miners and how the miner strikes of the 1980s have affected their lives. His photographs have been featured in such renowned places as the British Museum. Jason's life is filled with photography - full time. We took this opportunity to ask him about it.
“Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”
Tell us a bit about yourself. When and how did you start getting interested in photography?
I was born in Kingston upon Hull. I grew up here and I’m still living here. It's a working class city built from the deep sea fishing industry. I have been interested in it since I was 17 (that was in 1987). We had an old 35mm camera that nobody used, I used it the most. My mother had a lot of photos, family portraits mainly. It just appealed to me, catching and saving a moment forever.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find it on the street with the people I meet and the struggles people have, it sends me in different directions.
Who are your favorite artists/photographers?
Who do you think has most inspired your style?
I’m totally self taught, but I am inspired by Don McCullin. The man is a genius.
Do you have a favorite genre of photography, and if so, what about it appeals to you?
My favourite genre of photography is documentary, mostly social. It’s the gritty essence, but street is my sidekick.
Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
My style has changed a lot, I started in portraiture and flash photography, studio and street.
Do you have a favorite place to shoot?
My favourite place to shoot has to be anywhere outdoors. As long as it has humans involved.
How did you think of your long-term documentary project about the miners?
I’ve always backed the underdog. I feel the miners deserve recognition for the work and struggles they endured down the mines. Pit life was extremely difficult, as a boy I remember the strikes, on TV, I always would cheer the miners on. After 30 years the miners still check up regularly on each other for health and social related issues, I have never seen such comradeship from any bunch of workers. During the UK lockdown they even called me to see if I was in good health! I'm totally amazed and proud that they thought of me in some ways as part of the team. Read the story 'Comrades Forever'.
Do you have a preferred camera/lens/focal length?
My preference in cameras is Nikon for portraits, street photography Fuji xt3 and 35 mm Nikon F5, for landscape Hasselblad 500cm 120mm.
What characteristics do you think you need to become a good photographer? Any tips or advice for someone just starting out?
My honest answer: In photography if you are willing to learn and are a little crazy, and you have an artistic eye, you can learn as much as you want. I believe you constantly learn new techniques throughout your career. I experiment a lot.
Are there any special projects, other than the long-term documentary on British miners, that you are currently working on?
I am currently working on a vulnerable youth project, it’s a commission from the youth service. I´m also working on the council estate project in Hull, also a commission.
“When I am not out photographing, I…
When I’m not out doing documentary work I’m usually doing street photography. I’m prolific - I’m out shooting now, I shoot every day, when I’m not out shooting I’m sleeping or in my dark room."