Simon Scott sitting in Africa

Interview with Photographer Simon Scott

The team at Creative New England is creating a range of exciting competitions for one and all to get involved in over our lockdown period.  We were lucky enough to spend some time chatting with the legend Simon from Simon Scott Photo.

Tell us a little bit about your job as a photographer and how you got to where you are today.

My work is mainly shooting for commercial entities within the education, health, and agriculture industries. I also spend a lot of time shooting photos for our local MP Adam Marshall. There are also times I shoot editorial work for magazines and national newspapers such as The Australian newspaper and its Weekend magazine.

A recent photo job I was commissioned for was to shoot stills for the show Restoration Australia. I really enjoy these kinds of jobs because you get to work closely with camera operators and TV producers. I have even shot stills on My Kitchen Rules which has given me an awesome insight into how live TV is made.

Part of my work also takes me overseas to Africa. For almost a decade I have been travelling to East Arica to spend time working with a range of NGOs. Quite often this work has been on a volunteer basis but one NGO – Farm Radio International has been able to finance my travel and time which has been a bonus. A highlight was a trip to Ethiopia last year.

Simon Scott on a photo shoot in Africa

To put it bluntly, hard work is how I got to where I am today. There have been sacrifices made and often I have probably worked too much which I have tried to learn from. Most people in small businesses or who own their own companies work damn hard and make all the decisions apart from the day to day of the work they do.

With photography not only do you have to allocate time to work there is the editing after. You have to manage deadlines, but this is tricky if you have a busy personal life. But there are rewards if you work hard, my job has allowed me to travel a lot which I cherish.

Do you think your career has been influenced by your upbringing or personal life?

Yeah, I’d say it has. Having travelled a lot, I’ve got quite an open perspective on things. I remember watching my dad take a lot of photos on slide film using a film SLR camera.

More recent travel has allowed me to work overseas in Africa which definitely opens your eyes to a world of culture, colour, and life. Another local photographer whom I sometimes work with has inspired me a little especially with and his approach to his work.

What would you say is the best thing about your job?

I love working on my own, but also being part of a creative team – which includes the clients, sometimes designers and other creatives.

But the best part I’d say has been my experience in Africa. Seeing raw humanity is humbling putting it bluntly. Other good parts are seeing your work in a magazine, on a website, or a print on someone’s wall.

How did you become interested in becoming a photographer?

I kind of fell into it – it started as a hobby. I realised I could make money from my hobby so just pursued it. No real business plan, I just did it.  It’s a big part of my life now and like anyone I need to adapt and change. I have some further things I’d like to pursue within the photography realm. #WatchThisSpace

Do you feel that you’re influenced by any other creatives/photographers in particular?

I spent a couple of years at an Art Photography class in the UK and my lecturer lent me books on some of the great American photographers. This indirectly made me want to travel around the back yards of the USA. Looking at the work of Robert Frank really made aware of photographic thinking. My lecturer was a guy called Chris Matthews who was from New Zealand. He really was a great influence on printing well in the darkroom ad photographing for a project and exhibition.

Also, a good friend of mine David Waugh who set up his own brand strategy business with his partner Beth. They are both talented creatives and I have always loved David’s approach to his work. They both push you to get a better image or try another angle.

People often say creatives are sensitive people, we are I guess but it’s great when you work with others and it clicks.

Do you have any other hobbies, outside of work, that influence you creatively?

Not creatively, but I run a lot to keep fit and healthy plus try and eat a healthy Mediterranean diet.  There is no sick leave in my job. Being on your feet for most of the day requires you to be fit but also healthy. Getting good sleep is important to be able to think and make decisions. It also helps to keep you focused – which is something needed when editing and when on a demanding shoot.  Marathon training certainly helps with mental training!

When setting out on a new project where do you “find” your ideas and inspiration?

It depends on the job – most commercial projects have a brief so you’re led by what the team or designers want. realistically, sometimes what a client wants isn’t always what’s possible, but I try my best.

The work I shoot in Africa is self-guided. The best way I found is to just photograph how I see things. I try not to copy others. They give the best results.

How do you decide if an idea is worth it? Do you act on all your creative ideas?

It’s best to try and photograph it and see the result. It can be in-camera or later when I edit. Making split-second decisions is often key in photography. When life is happening around you have to decide the angle, motion, composition you will shoot with the intention you are trying to capture. It happens naturally but takes time to develop this skill.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?

Having my own business – I always have to be motivated. I have always enjoyed working and at the end of the day what you earn pays the bills.

Fortunately, I combine travel with my photography. There are some jobs I have photographed that others have said: “isn’t that boring?” But, having a goal or something to aim for. Creatively, financially or mindfully – this is generally what keeps me motivated

I also keep abreast of exhibitions and follow photographers on social media. One of my friends in Melbourne is a photographer and I enjoy seeing her ideas and great portraits she shoots. It’s nice to chat with other photographers about what work they are shooting.

Are you working on a specific project at the moment? Can you tell us a bit about it?

I am – Porch Portraits it’s something that photographers around the world are doing at the moment. It involves photographing families, people, or even pets at the front of their homes. It’s a good way of keeping engaged with the community and just doing something nice for others. There is no payment, it’s just a way of keeping busy while work is very quiet at the moment. There are often good stories behind people.

Next year I will have an exhibition at the New England Regional Art Museum, I was supposed to have one this year, but their schedule has been compromised by the COVID – 19 situations.

The creative industry isn’t always the easiest – can you tell us about a challenge you’ve faced in your work?

Yeah – having the work you’ve shot questioned by other creatives or design people, and you are at the mercy of others too. You just suck eggs take a deep breath and shoot again. Ethically there have been a couple of occasions I have been asked to shoot for something, but I have chosen not too because of the background behind a story. I don’t like to sensationalise the misfortune of others. Sometimes you have to be prepared to stand your ground on the caliber of your work. It’s learning to be confident in your work.

Like any job, you have to take criticism but fortunately, it hasn’t happened that often 😉

Do you think that creativity involves putting your heart and soul into your work? Or is it more like letting your mind flow freely to witness the surprising results of your actions?

It is both. If there is a brief you cannot deviate from that. I have been fortunate that most client’s like how I shoot so it’s more free reign. Working on a personal project you put your soul into something. Because you feel what is around you, you live and breathe it. I comment a lot on Africa but for me, I feel at home there. I hope to return to shoot there again.

As a creative, what is the best advice that you’ve ever been given?

Be yourself. You may have to take the boring jobs to pay the bills. You will often feel like hanging up the camera straps and packing it all in.

AS a photographer I would say to anyone wanting to be a professional, invest in the best kit you can. Especially lenses. They hold their value. You may have to volunteer or work for free but it’s a good way of cutting experience.

What’s your favourite thing about being a part of the New England community?

Having a sense of community but also seeing people you know but also having the space to be yourself when need be. I love some of the new businesses that have set up in Armidale. Having a good café (won’t mention names – they make good croissants and the best long black) is a luxury.

Thank you so much for your time Simon, as always it’s a pleasure to work with you! 

If you’d like to follow Simon on his journey you can find him on his website or connect with him on Facebook,  or Instagram#SimonScottPhoto

The competition is over now – but you can check out the awesome videos Simon helped us with here

If you’re looking for something to keep you inspired why not check out Creative New England or join their Facebook group to keep in the loop with up and coming competitions!

There’s something for everyone! #CreativeNewEngland