Jim's desire to explore buildings everyday mirrors my own - I used to think I wanted to be an architect. It's been great to connect with Jim and learn about how that itch gets scratched.
El: Which came first - your love of photography or architecture?
J: Architecture was definitely my first love. I mean, I took photos when I was a kid and I played around with my Dad’s Olympus Trip (and then his OM10 when I was old enough…), but I always wanted to be an architect. Or maybe not an architect, but at least someone who worked on the design of buildings.
I studied Architectural Technology at University and worked in a few different practices until being made redundant in the late 2000’s / early 2010’s. At that point, no architecture firms were hiring but they were having to work really hard to promote themselves to get new work in. The result was that I couldn’t get a job with my degree, but my hobby (photography) became something I could make money from. Not much money at first - the first year or two was just about making enough money for rent! At some point I realised that what I’d wanted since I was a kid wasn’t necessarily to be a designer of buildings, but to have a job that would allow me to explore buildings every day. The camera is the tool I use for that.
El: What styles or functions are you particularly drawn to? J: I like the variety that my job provides - I get to document all kinds of buildings - but I’m drawn to activity. I like documenting public spaces that are lively and busy - I like to try and show how people interact with the building. That said, I also like quiet spaces sometimes, ones that have an interesting way with natural light. So I guess I’m drawn to projects that are accessible to the public, well used and have good natural light! I think my work veers more to a documentary style, so anything that lets me exercise that.
El: What's your golden nugget piece of advice for maintaining client relationships? J: Don’t be a dick. Clients will always judge you on your work and your fees but they’ll also remember what you were like to work with. If you’re difficult to work with then you’re either going to have to be incredibly, incredibly good, or incredibly, incredibly cheap for them to come back to you.
El: What stand out projects stick in your mind, for good or bad? J: I’m not going to get into the ‘bad’ here! It’s ups and downs, but it’s been many more ups than downs in the last few years. Documenting the British Pavilion in Venice last year was a highlight. We did photos and a film for that and it was a lot of fun. Years ago I was in Seoul on a commission and on a day off I thought I’d visit Moon Hoon’s ‘Pino Familia’ - a museum to Pinnochio, where the buildings are loosely shaped like the characters from the story. That was a lot of fun! The staff were really friendly and welcoming as were the teachers and children who were visiting from a nearby school. Everyone was really happy and I got some great photos as a result. I guess the highlights are the ones where something surprising happens; the ones that feel like an adventure.