Header photo: Image from cyberpunk photoshoot by photographer Graham McCowen and model Cristina Pectu
FEATURED interviews are a chance for us to put the limelight on fabulous creatives in the PurplePort community and share their unique journeys and creative processes.
In this episode of FEATURED, we interviewed the fabulous Graham McCowen, a PurplePort photographer based in London, UK.
Image by photographer Graham McCowen and Jamillah Joel
Image by photographer Graham McCowen and model Victoria Model
About PurplePort photographer, Graham McCowen
Graham is a professional photographer and photographic art director, specialising in bespoke imagery that's concept and story-driven. His qualifications in digital marketing and brand management are the basis for developing creative work that is audience-centric.
Working on projects both locally and globally, Graham works tirelessly from conceptualisation and planning to production and post-production to create high-impact work that best captivates a target audience.
Graham has a collection of beautiful, engaging and stunning videos on his YouTube channel, from reviews of photography gear to behind-the-scenes footage, insights and tips from his photoshoots.
He published an article in Digital Camera magazine (May 2022) discussing his work on a cyberpunk photoshoot.
Above video: Behind-the-scenes and edit-breakdown video Graham created from a one speedlight challenge cyberpunk photoshoot
Just months later, Graham appeared once again in Digital Camera magazine (August 2022), this time featuring a special behind-the-scenes piece from his stunning photoshoot using long-flowing fabric.
Above video: Behind-the-scenes video Graham created from a photoshoot using long flowing fabric that was featured in Digital Camera Magazine
FEATURED Interview with PurplePort photographer, Graham McCowen
It was a pleasure speaking with Graham to learn how he entered the model-photographer industry and immerse ourselves in his beautiful work.
Where are you from, and how did you get into photography?
I'm half Irish, half South African. I spent my working career here in the UK and South Africa.
My first shoot was a model shoot while working as a multimedia designer at a company in Surrey, creating images to be used in a company launch video.
It was exciting as it was a new experience, but honestly, I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing when it came to using flashes, camera settings etc., haha. The video was a commissioned project given to the company I was working for.
The project was mine as I was the only person that did video at this company. I shot it alone with one of the attractive girls at the office.
What did you do before becoming a photographer?
I graduated as a graphic designer and then moved on to doing video and filming as I started working.
Image by photographer Graham McCowen and model cadiens_
How do you prepare for photoshoots?
Coming up with an exciting idea is the first step, and then it's all down to getting the elements needed.
It's important to communicate with everyone involved fully, especially the model, so they understand what the concept is about. This way, everyone knows what they are doing on the day.
Planning the shots I want to take, allowing for some improvised shots here and there, is very important. Having a clear plan before I start is the most productive (and stress-free) way to shoot.
What style of photoshoot do you enjoy working on the most, and why?
Concept photography that involves some kind of set, props and outfits, etc. I really love shooting cinematically interesting shots with cool outfits, props and environments. I suppose this comes from my film side.
Image by photographer Graham McCowen and model theunofficialcharlimackie
What's the most interesting photoshoot you've ever worked on, and why?
My campaign shoot for Fujifilm. It was a lot of work, but I loved working with the Fujifilm team and the model.
It was just one of those shoots where everything gelled, and the shots worked out really well, I truly enjoyed that shoot.
It was a high-pressure shoot but really enjoyable as I was doing what I really wanted to do, and the small team with me were super fun to work with. On the shoot, it was just me, the model, Maxine Durham, and the camera guy, Tim Griesel (who helped me and did the behind-the-scenes filming).
I had connected with the national sales manager of Fujifilm, who showed real interest in photographers (something I wish more brands did!). I had previously worked on events and public talks for him.
Main shot from the campaign shoot for Fujifilm by photographer Graham McCowen and model Maxine Durham
What do you most enjoy about being a photographer?
I love art direction. Making, sourcing and thinking up interesting ways to use props and outfits while finding great locations that connect with the concept is the funnest part for me.
The more I can add to a shoot to make it unique and tell interesting stories, the better.
What would you describe as your main strengths as a photographer?
I'd say my strengths are creating very different looking cinematic shots. I tend to try not shoot shots that others have done, so I look for ideas and equipment that are different enough to make me stand out.
What's your absolute favourite photo and why?
There's a few shots that I'm super proud of, but if pressed, I'd have to go back to the main shot I took for Fujifilm's campaign. It was the whole experience, people involved, plus the final shot that makes me like that the most.
Is there anyone in particular who inspires you?
Honestly, I don't idolise one specific photographer, I've found it's best to take inspiration from a whole bunch of different sources. This way, you don't end up being a copy of any certain photographer.
Having your own style is the most important thing, and it's the only way to stand out in the horde of photographers out there.
Image from cyberpunk photoshoot by photographer Graham McCowen and model Cristina Pectu
What advice would you give to a photographer just starting out?
From a business point of view, I generally don't advise anyone doing this as a career. But anyone looking to get into this as a professional, just remember it's a business like all others: it's all about networking and marketing.
From a hobby point of view, this is where photography is really fun. My advice is to shoot the things that excite you and don't be afraid to put some funds into doing it.
Work with models, stylists, etc., that you genuinely like working with, shooting in locations that inspire you, and using gear that gives you the results you are looking for. Photography is an art, and you have to develop it by consistently doing it.
One final question. Pineapple on pizza, yes or no?
Oh, heck no! Ha ha.
Image by photographer Graham McCowen, model Hunter Chaus and designer Indiebride London Bridal Wear
Thanks again, Graham McCowen, for speaking with us about your creative journey and sharing your beautiful work.
We hope you all enjoyed this interview. Check out the links below to see more of Graham's stunning work!
Here's where you can find more of Graham's work
PurplePort: Graham McCowen
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