Zen of photography

IOD portrait sessions

I was recently commissioned to do a portrait of John at John Lobb’s boot makers (not the original John), one of the oldest cobblers in London, on St James St, W1.

Once we have introduced ourselves, John and the writer go off to do the interview. I have about the duration of the interview to set up for John’s portrait and grab some incidental images, then around 10 minutes to shoot the portrait.

I size up the options. The shop, the workshops, the little nook and crannies; anywhere where here may be something of interest - all the while conscious of time. I settle on doing a portrait in the main area of the shop to give a 'sense of place' and perhaps squeeze in a back up option near the workshop if I have the time.

In the end it’s just gut-instinct and some photographers are more adept at art directing than others. In some locations there can be so many options it’s difficult to decide on just one. You would do them all if you had time, but there isn’t, so you have to make a snap decision! Will it be the right one?

I used to always leave a job wondering whether I could have done something better, shot the model in a different spot, lit it differently, perhaps hired a better lens... Now I think, well my head and heart was driving me to do this so that’s what I did. If there was a better option then today I just didn't see it. Sometimes perhaps I do even conclude that there was a better option but I’m content to remember it for the next time and move on.

It’s no different to life. When we accept things the way they are, rather than how we would like them to be, it’s much more enjoyable. Perhaps even more creative!

I did manage to squeeze in another portrait in the workshop but on this occasion the first decision was the right one.



John Lobbs