Interview with Guy Hills-a member of our Photography Award panel

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

In this blog I would like to share with you a transcript of an interview with Guy Hills @guyhills - an accomplished photographer and member of our panel of judges for the #AnnaSteinhouseAward Photography Competition, which we are running until the 19th of August (incl.)

In this interview Guy tells us about his background as a photographer, shares his views about the Award and tells us what he will be looking for in the submitted works.

A: Hello! I am Anna Steinhouse. There are still a few days left until the deadline of the photography competition, which ends at midnight of the 19th of August. If you would like to have a look how to apply, there is a link in my Bio with the details. Today I am interviewing one of the judges on our photography competition panel, Guy Hills. I would not exaggerate when I say that Guy is a man of multiple talents. But I would like to focus today on a couple of them, especially on his photography background. Guy is an accomplished photographer. Having worked with the magazines like Elle, Country Life, You, Tatler, just to name a few. I am sure he will tell us more later on. But these days guy dedicates most of his professional time to his company Dashing Tweeds, his clothing brand that he is a founder and an owner of. Today we will be talking about Guy’s photography background and his involvement as a judge on the panel. Please welcome Guy.

Hello Guy! How are you?

G: Hello! Good. Thank you. Yes, yes. It’s nice to see you.

A: It’s nice to see you too. Wow! You are in the countryside! It’s lovely.

G: Ahh.. I am just at the corner of my father’s house. We are staying in the stables for a week. We have got a little cottage in it. I’ve just built a darkroom as well in the stables. It will be good fun.

A: That’s great!

G: Yeh, yeh… Doing some photography there as well.

A: Thank you for joining. I would like to ask you a few questions, Guy, if that’s alright?

G: Yes

A: So, the first question is: If you could tell us about your background as a photographer. I know that you are doing lots of things, including Dashing Tweeds, which I kind of mentioned about in the introduction. But the question today is about your photography background.

G: Yes, absolutely. Yes, yes. It all started at school as all these things often do. There was a dark room at school, and I was totally fascinated. I remember developing my first roll of film. Actually, my mother was a journalist and she was given a camera, because she was always having a photographer going on assignments with her. So, she could take her own pictures. So, I went to a camera shop to help her buy a camera. I had been absolutely fascinated by the camera. Then, in the school there was a dark room and I developed my first roll of film and I remember watching the images come out of the darkroom. I was totally hooked. So, then I started buying rolls of black and white film in bulk and then just loading them up on my camera myself and just shooting non-stop at school. That was the beginning. Yeh… anyway, I did portraits of all of my friends at school. They really liked them. Then I took a year off before going to school and university and I then I started working professionally as a photographer, I think when I was about seventeen, sixteen in school holidays. Because, there were lots of PR companies that my mother knew and they said they needed a photographer. So, they sent me on assignments. I started as a professional photographer at sixteen, really.

A: Wow! How early!

G: Yeah (laughing). In the beginning it was more of a fascination, in fact. There are images now all over the place. But In those days to be able to create an image through photography was something really magical. That was what got me started.

A: Great! Then, I understand that you have worked for a number of magazines…

G: Yes, yes. I started out when I was about sixteen. I was working for these PR companies, just friends of my mother’s, really. Photographing little stories. They would send me along to press courts and I remember photographing… Actually, I remember the first jobs that I had was when Sam Wannamaker was building the Globe Theatre on the South Bank and I set along and there was a sort of a photo shoot and he was picked up in the scoop of a big JCB digger and all the press photographers of all of the magazines were there and I joined them. They were quite friendly, because they saw a young photographer. They said: ’This is the best shot’, so I got the best shot there. But I got a real taste for it. So, when I, later on, after school and university… then I became obsessed. I wanted to become a professional photographer, so I started working as an assistant with lots of fashion photographers and the portrait photographers and, actually, all sorts of photographers. I joined the Association of Photographers, which was a great organisation, which is still a great organisation. And I got on the list of assistants. Then it was fantastic as I started working with all different photographers. You would get a call last minute and you would have to go and load their films up and you could observe how they did their lighting and everything. So, I have learnt all that and then started at the real bottom of the pile being a proper photographer in teenage magazines doing fashion shoots. It was really good fun. You know, it is really difficult when you are a photographic assistant, because you are getting to photograph movie starts with the photographers, so you are a part of this really great scene. And then you have to start on your own and you are not going to suddenly photograph movie stars for big magazines on your own. You have got to start somewhere. It’s quite tricky. I remember there were some professional assistants who never sort of had the guts to really go and start out on their own. So, they stayed all their time assisting. But I was always keen to be a photographer in my own right. So, you just have to go and knock on the doors of all the magazines and see who would start. You start knocking at the very top and then, as they say, ‘come when you get more experience’, you go lower… lower …lower… lower. You take a portfolio of photos, which were test shots of your friends done in black and white for the magazines until you find one that says that they would like to give you a job. In this case it was IPC magazines shooting a… actually, the first thing that I shot was Problem Pages. That was really… really funny. I met this girl. Her father was a… He was fantastic, actually. He was the photo editor of Woman’s Own magazine. It was very hard to get a job as a… everyone wanted to be a photographer in… when I started in the 80s and the 90s. and that was the golden era of photography. When all the supermodels and… it was the coolest thing to say to someone that you are a photographer.

A: Have you worked with ELLE? With other magazines?

G: Yes, Yes. Then I started out with teenage magazines at the bottom and then I got into IPC Magazines, which was a huge tower full of magazines. It was really hard to get past. There were security guards in the front because there were so many young photographers wanting to start. But once you got into one magazine, there were something like twenty floors of magazines. So ,then I would pretend that I was lost and I would have my portfolio with me and I had my fashion shots of teenage girls I have been doing for the teenage magazines. They were nice shots. I wanted to move up a ladder. Then I would see other magazines. There was… ELLE was there, Country Life was there. So many magazines! I can’t remember all their names. Some car magazines…

A: Tatler? Did you work for Tatler?

G: Oh yes, yes! Tatler was obviously a Conde Nast. That was kind of a top of the tree to work for. When I worked there, IPC had lots of consumer magazines that I worked for and the Country Life and then I worked for Nat Mags, which had ELLE magazine and Esquire magazine, which I use to work for regularly photographing portraits for. Again, it was quite good fun. Once you were in the building, there were lots of magazines on different floors. And then you would go and see the picture editors. They were always too busy if you were to ring them up and said would you see my portfolio and give me a job. Once you were in the building, you would just walk past, and you would sort of drop your portfolio and it fell open by their desks (laughing) and they would say: ‘That’s a nice photo’ and then you would say: ‘I am a photographer. Here is my card. I am just working for some other magazines.’ That was how I started my career, really. It was great fun. Then it grew from there.

A: Lovely! Thank you very much for sharing that. Can I ask you the second question? First of all, thank you very much for being on the panel and for taking time. I know that you are very busy with other things.

G: I am on holiday. It’s not very busy. I just had a lunch party (laughing).

A: How lovely! Sounds great! (laughing). So… Could you tell us why people should apply? Submit their work for this competition?

G: Absolutely. When I was going back to my personal point of view, when you believe in yourself as a photographer and you have got something to say and you have got some images, then the most important thing is getting out of your dark room and getting away from your platform and trying to share your pictures. That’s what I was doing when I was starting out my career, desperately going to see magazines. Then entering competitions is a fantastic way to catapult yourself into another level and also to get an audience. Because I find that’s the hardest thing. So, yes, it’s a great opportunity entering the competition.

A: Thank you so much. And, finally, what would you be looking for amongst the submissions? Is there anything that…

G: Again… when I was staring my career. I used to get Italian Vogue when I was beginning and some of the pictures, they would make my heart literally jump a bit. I remember seeing the pictures by Vincent Peters, Koto Belofo, Steven Meisel, all those great photographers. You would just literally get butterflies. You would see an image, and ‘oh my god! It’s just so, so fantastic!’. I am in the country. I still have got piles of these old Italian Vogues. And they really inspired me trying different techniques and better myself. I think that same passion is something you are looking for. An image that actually really gets you physically and has an emotional impact. Also, I mean, I like technique when I was a photographer and I had my own dark room, I would end up shooting in a very colour saturated way and I used to do all my colour printing. I thought it was quite interesting. I had lots of medium format cameras, 5x4 cameras etc. quite a lot of technical aspects. Obviously, it’s all done digitally now but, yes… the emotion comes first, I think, and then technical ability comes afterwards, in my view. Sometimes, I think, you could be too technical and you could miss the decisive moment until you look at the pictures, until you look at brilliant Cartier-Bresson pictures and it was taken on a little Leica, but it was just that moment and you see the other things and they are beautifully produced and beautifully printed, but then, they don’t have the soul. So, you look out for the soul first and then the technique afterwards.

A: How beautifully said! (smiling). Thank you for your time again and we look forward to the submissions!

Read more about the Photography Award or on Instagram Photography Award

Find out more about Guy Hills and his brand Dashing tweeds @dashingtweeds here

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