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A Magazine for Sheffield

Andy Brown:

Andy has been documenting Sheffield for as long as I've been looking at pictures here, part of the Go 'alumni' responsible for a considerable amount of good shit. Way back in the early annals of Now Then we did a poster of his work '8 Seconds' - an immaculate quick succession of photos of the Tinsley Towers coming down, and it seems only fitting he's back again. What always grabs me about Andy's work is the amount each image generally has to say. If you can take a portrait and have it capture some of the character of your subject, or a desolate seaside and steal some of its nature perfectly, then that's a good photo. Another great example of a working Sheffield maker - not too proud to turn down commercial work that will pay for the multitude of worthwhile work that fills the rest of his time - but consistent and clever enough to retain his characteristic stamp of class throughout. BASICS, PLEASE - WHAT STARTED YOU TAKING PHOTOS? I lived in London for a couple of years about ten years ago. I got given an old SLR and started shooting stuff on the streets - protests, portraits of people and the occasional live band. I just got hooked. When I moved back to Sheffield, Sandman magazine had just started, so I started doing stuff for them. Then GO Sheffo started, and because there were places to put my work and that sort of motivation, I started taking it more and more seriously. CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF STARTING A NEW PIECE? In terms of long projects, it's definitely a case of being a bit flexible, taking your time and seeing what emerges. For example, I'm now doing a project on the residents of Park Hill, and from straight portraits of current residents its broadened to include people who used to be there and left when the blocks started to be emptied, people I only met after the project started. Shooting portraits tends to be about having ideas in mind beforehand. WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM? It's often from seeing the work of amazing photographers and being moved by how they see the world, and can show you their world, which looks different to yours. People like William Eggleston, Alec Soth, Mary Ellen-Mark, Joel Sternfeld... the way they can tell a story and make things look beautiful at the same time. TOOLS. WHAT DO YOU USE REGULARLY AND WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE? It's all digital for me, out of necessity rather than anything else. In corporate work, you need to be able to turn things round very quickly. I would love to use medium format as well, but on top of the equipment you're talking about a pound every time you press the shutter. I'm happy with digital quality too - the newest cameras are getting close to medium format quality in my opinion, and they're much more flexible. WHAT OTHER ARTISTIC MEDIA HAVE HAD AN EFFECT ON YOUR WORK? No other visual art moves me like photography. I love good graphic design, but aside from that I would say music. I often feel that I want my pictures to suit certain music - usually bleak, miserable music, to be honest. HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS? Like all freelancers, trying to juggle the stuff that pays the bills with ongoing projects and portraits that are the reason I do what I do. Panicking about what the next paying job is. I do a lot of corporate work and weddings. Some photographers are sniffy about them, but I genuinely enjoy the work, so there is a lot of Photoshopping and meeting deadlines, mixed in with actually taking pictures. OUT OF YOUR RECENT WORK, WHICH PIECE HAVE YOU ENJOYED MAKING THE MOST? The project I'm working on now, up at Park Hill. There are so many stories mixed in together and it's amazing to get to meet the residents and realise some of them have been there for 40 or 50 years. It's easy to go up there and take pictures of brutalist architecture, but I'm trying to avoid that and tell personal stories. Clive Egginton, a photographer and a friend of mine, is setting up a website called Archive Sheffield, to collect photographic work documenting the city, and I'm looking forward to getting my current project in there. HOW HAS YOUR WORK EVOLVED OVER TIME? Another Sheffield photographer, Theo Simpson, once told me that you have to spend years taking bad photos before you start taking good photos, and I agree. Most people have to work through all the clichés at the same time as learning the technical side of it, and then you hopefully start producing stuff you're happy with. I've pretty much stopped doing live music stuff. There's only so many shots of a guy with a guitar I wanted to take. I realised how much taking good pictures of people relies on your relationship with them. It doesn't necessarily have to be a comfortable relationship - lots of great images have tension in them - but it's the most important thing, I think. I'm still learning. HOW HAS ART IN GENERAL CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED? I'm not sure, but I do know how much competition there is. There are so many photographers out there - lots of great ones and hundreds of bad ones. You need to keep moving, keep shooting, keep plugging away. [imagebrowser id=5] WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON? As well as Park Hill, I've got a thing about out of season coastal towns, so I will be cracking on with some more of that this winter, and I've got an exciting documentary project based in Sheffield coming up in the New Year too. ANY TIPS ON HOW TO SURVIVE MAKING MONEY FROM YOUR WORK? It's about being professional, being willing to do all sorts of different work and keeping up with personal projects, keeping people informed of new work. WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE IN ART? I suppose photos that don't move me - work without a good point or theory behind it, or technically bad work. And people who tell you how great they are! WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE IN ART? Great ideas. Being creative on no money. People who plug away at stuff because they care about it. GOOD ADVICE YOU WISH YOU'D BEEN TOLD EARLIER? Look at as much good photography as you can. The Magnum website and a blog called Conscientious are good places to start. Don't expect everyone to get what you're trying to do. Try and learn from photographers whose work you admire. )

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