Specialising in still life photography, Josh Caudwell is a commercial photographer based in London. Originality, boundless creativity and precise execution are all trademarks of his work. He brings out the character of each product with a skilled use of technical knowledge and imaginative concepts. He talks being trained in graphic design and his creative process.
WHERE DID YOUR PASSION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY COME FROM?
I have always been interested in drawing and making things from a very young age. At various points I have wanted to be an architect, artist, product designer and graphic designer. I studied graphic design at university. It was only at the end of my degree that I picked up my first camera and found that photography was a great fit for me as an image making medium.
DO YOU FEEL BEING TRAINED IN GRAPHIC DESIGN HAS INFLUENCED YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC WORK AND IF SO IF SO HOW?
Absolutely, studying graphic design without doubt has influenced my photography. With a lot of graphic design work the emphasis is on refining the design and making it clean and clear for the best possible communication, while also trying to create something that is visually interesting. I have carried that mentality forwards. I like to make photos that are visually exciting, but not excessively cluttered. In my opinion it makes the most powerful and captivating imagery.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN PHOTOGRAPHING COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING IMAGERY?
When I got my fist camera I didn’t initially think it would become my career. I started taking pictures of landscapes, travel photos, portraits, the usual things that people do with a camera. It was only with time and lots of experimentation that I found creating advertising imagery really gripped me. It’s an area of photography that allows you to really push the technical boundaries of what’s possible with image making, while at the same time allowing you a brilliant freedom to explore concepts and use your imagination. I think a childlike free roaming imagination is something that I never want to lose. It’s the most important ingredient for originality.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT STILL LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY?
I do have a particular affinity for still life. I like a strong graphic edge to my work and still life over any other area of photography is well suited to that. I also think still life also allows you to be really playful with concepts more than many other types of photography. You can ask, what would happen if we make this handbag fly through the air? Or how would that watch look if it was thrown underwater?
COULD YOU EXPLAIN YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS, FROM IDEA TO FINAL IMAGE.
At the beginning every project starts with an idea. Sometimes it’s a collection of inspiration images, and sometimes its a sketch. The next step is to test out any techniques involved (like using water, fire, smoke etc.), to better understand working with those mediums. Next I get a team organised of assistants, stylists, and anyone else needed. Finally, the sets needed are built and all of the props are prepared. Photoshoots are a mixture of carefully getting all of the right things in place in the planning stage, and leaving a little flexibility to experiment and play on the actual shoot. But those moments of magic are certainly encouraged with the aid of lots of preparation beforehand. Lastly the images are retouched to arrive at the end result.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
I am always looking at the work of the top advertising photographers of the world. And I look at what’s going on in the general retail landscape, in stores, online and in magazines, because it’s important to remain relevant to your target audience. For advertising photography your audience is the brands and the clients you work for, and the consumer who engages with your work. Your pictures need to be tailored to these people. Also, I think all creatives draw from their pool of experience when forming ideas and so it’s really important to get out there and keep on experiencing fresh new things to broaden your perspective. For me that includes travel to exotic places, films, immersive theatre shows… I think these are all very important.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT?
I am continuously forming new ideas that I want to shoot, but right now I would really like to do a shoot with sparklers. I think that could be really explosive and exciting. I’ll probably shoot something with them soon and dream up a dozen more ideas.
WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
At the moment I’m working on a couple of different editorials. One is very luxurious, using lots of gold in the set design, equalling the luxurious nature of the products. And another shoot I’m doing uses a kaleidoscopic mirror box to make interesting patterns with men’s fragrance bottles. I remember being fascinated by a kaleidoscope toy as a kid, taking the end off it to see how it works. Moments like that are influential, and years later I’m playing in the studio with the same ideas. If you look past all the technical elements in the photography I do, at heart I don’t think I have ever grown up.
NAME THREE OF YOUR FAVOURITE PHOTOGRAPHERS.
Guy Bourdin was well ahead of his time. Many of his images still look contemporary today. I really like the playfulness in his work and the graphic edge that a lot of his compositions have. He’s been a huge inspiration to me. Erwin Blumenfeld is another photographer who totally broke the mould in his era. He was insatiably experimental with materials and techniques, and his work has a very strong graphic aesthetic. And lastly I love the work of Tim Walker. He dares to dream and to imagine a fantastical reality different to our own. His imagination knows no bounds.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING STILL LIFE PHOTOGRAPHERS?
Imagination is the root of originality, and to be successful as a still life photographer it is essential your work has originality. So keep an open mind to ideas and keep on the look out for inspiration from everywhere.
WHAT OTHER INTERESTS DO YOU HAVE?
I am really passionate about cooking. I love to experiment all the time with my cooking in the same way I like to experiment with my photography. It’s another avenue in which to be creative. I also love travelling, and I’m a keen cyclist.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE FUTURE?
Still playing with ideas and creating, always.
WHATS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
Whatever photography project you have just finished, start the next one tomorrow. You may be proud of it, want to sit back and take it easy, and think that success will just come knocking, but start the next project tomorrow. Photography is such a competitive field, that to really succeed and break away from the crowd, there are no short cuts, you really have to put the time in.