Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Interview: Pat Pope - Music Photographer

Pat Pope has been a freelance photographer for the past 20 years, photographing the likes of David Bowie, Radiohead, Rod Stewart, Katie Melua and much more for a broad spectrum of clients including The Times Magazine, The Observer Magazine, Elle, Q and NME. Specializing in music, reportage and more recently, fashion photography, Pat spills the beans below on how he got to where he is now and gives advice for those who want to follow in his footsteps.

How did you get into professional photography - what path did you take to making a full-time living out of taking photographs?

I went to college in '89 at LCP [London College of Printing - now LCC] in Elephant & Castle, where I did a degree in Art Photography. It was a good excuse to have access to studios and darkrooms for 3 years. While there I answered an ad asking for writers and photographers for the ULU (University of London) newspaper that came out bi-weekly. I started photographing all the rising Brit Pop stars (Brett Anderson, Jarvis Cocker etc.) so when I left I had a portfolio ready to go.

You've photographed some high-profile people. How do you get to the stage where you're commissioned for this kind of work?

Well, as I said, I was already photographing some soon-to-be big stars. I kinda rose with them. Then I got a job, freelancing at Melody Maker (like NME but older and cooler in its day). There I got commissioned to photograph all sorts of people…..and travel the world!

Is it more about who you know or what you know?

It's definitely a bit of both. Being at the right place at the right time is more the case. But you also have to have a certain something about your work.

You must have some interesting stories from your time as a photographer - any highlights or lowlights?

I have MANY stories that I often tell when giving talks at colleges. Riding with the band in Metallica's private jet... being at Sting's house in Tuscany on 9/11…

"Some people make a good living still. I make a living (just), but I don't envy youngsters starting out."

Do you have any regrets? If you were to do it all again would you do anything differently?

Taking the experiences, travel and parties too seriously and not holding on to my career carefully enough. It's very easy to leave the 'loop'.

How realistic is it in todays market to make a sustainable living out of photography?

Hmmm… Some people make a good living still. I make a living (just), but I don't envy youngsters starting out. There's very little print media left. Websites often don't want to pay and there are hundreds of new photographers leaving college every week. The landscape has radically changed. Everybody thinks they're a photographer these days.

Talent, hard work and equipment - which is most important? 

Talent and hard work………you can use a box brownie (google it) and get great results

How do you manage the work/life balance - do you get any free time?

In the 'glory' days I didn't get a lot of free time, but I loved my work so it really didn't matter. I was mostly working in music so I was in an environment I loved. These days I have too much free time!

Anything you wish you'd known before you started?

Not really. I learned on the job. It was a great time of my life.

What one piece of advice would you give to people today considering turning their hobby into a career?

Keep your day job until you know for sure it is enough work to make a living. Photography is a great way to make a living and a great way of life, but it's not an easy option (though it often seems that way).

Thanks so much for your time, Pat! Great to have you on the blog. You can read more about Pat here, or keep up with him on Twitter. You can even get him to Photograph your wedding!

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