Dazeley went to school at Holland Park Comprehensive, now known as the socialist Eton. In the 1960s at the age of 15, Dazeley started his working life as a photographer. Being dyslexic is an asset because it gives him the ability to look at problems and objectives from a different point of view; he is also a meticulous planner and imaginative problem solver. ďMaking the ordinary look extraordinary is Dazeley's giftĒ says Sarah Ryder Richardson, who represents Dazeley in the UK. Through sheer hard work, passion and dedication to his art, after 50 years as a photographer, he has reached the very top of his profession. At the age of 66 he can now look back with great satisfaction on what he has achieved both personally, and professionally, as a mentor and role model to younger photographers.
He is a member of AOP, The Association of Photographers, and became a life member in 1984, working as Chairman of the Education and Training Committee for several years, supporting links between colleges and young aspiring photographers. At the AOP he was one of the many photographers involved in creating the 1988 Copyright Act in the UK.
He has written many articles for magazines to help guide young assistant photographers and photographic students to achieve their potential. He has recently been working on the Creatorís Council at DACS (Design and Artistsí copyright Society) helping to develop the very successful photographersí payback scheme. In 2014 Dazeleyís highly successful book Unseen London was published, his photographs show areas of hidden London as they stand in the 21st Century. Follow the success of Unseen London, Dazeley has given many talks about his four year journey photographing the locations for the book.
Dazeleyís exhibition in November 2011 at the Royal Photographic Society was a mini retrospective of a lifetime of photography. This exhibition has proved to be a great favourite, has been continually touring since leaving the RPS. At present he has an exhibition of his book Unseen London up at the OXO Tower restaurant on Londonís South Bank.
In 2013 Dazeley was awarded a Fellowship from The Royal Photographic Society; a fellowship is the highest distinction of the RPS and recognises original work and outstanding ability.
How did you get your first assisting job?
Wildly dyslexic, I went to the first purpose-built comprehensive in London called Holland Park which is now known as the ĎSocialist Etoní. It was the comprehensive to die for, it had a swimming pool, 3 gymnasiums, woodwork, domestic science, technical drawing office, metalwork, language laboratories and also had a studio and darkroom and thatís how I got in to photography. I had a wonderful tutor called Ron Smith who was teaching into his 90ís but heís now been diagnosed as blind which is very sad. I still keep in touch with him.
During the Easter holidays when I was 15 I saw an advert in the London Evening Standard, I went to an interview with my mum for a job at an advertising studio at the bottom of Fleet Street and much to my amazement they took me on as an assistant. I left all my books behind and never went back to school. I have no qualifications until the RPS gave me a fellowship in 2013 so now I have initials after my name. It was a multipurpose studio and in this day and age wouldnít make sense but it had litho letterpress, an art studio, hand-lettering artists, retouchers, illustrators and in the middle of the studio it had three guys doing hot metal.
What made you decide to move on from assisting to becoming the commercial photographer?
After a few years the photographer moved on so they let me loose with the clients to become the photographer.
How did you make the leap to becoming your own photographer?
The directors pissed the place apart, it went bust and I was made redundant so I bought the equipment from the receiver and set up on my own at a studio in Smithfield. The studioís existing clients were a gift so we did a lot of small copy for artwork for them. I started with staff immediately. From there youíre on your own.
You are now a highly successful art and commercial photographer, how have you stayed ahead of the game for so long?
You should see my books to really know that or whether itís just a myth. Iím 66 now, Iím sort of being slowed back a bit but Iíve a young family with a 14 year old and 3 year old with school fees to pay. Staffing-wise from the hay-day of having 6 members of staff working for me I work with freelances now and I donít have any full-time staff.
I used to spend quite a lot of money on things like Creative Handbook and Contact Book. We advertised and used direct mailing quite a lot but these became less and less successful. Now, my agent is out seeing clients with my books today and thatís kind of what we do. We use social media, for instance we have a database of clients and weíre very careful of keeping tabs on birthdays and football teams and letting them know we care about them. We use Facebook Twitter and Linkedin too. Linkedin is a wonderful tool for rediscovering creatives because people move agencies all the time and nobody tells you when theyíve been fired or let go or gone to some other job so something like Linkedin is brilliant for tracking down people. There isnít any kind of science as to how it works. The difficulty for young photographers is that thereís work out there, someone is going to do it so howís it going to be you and not the next guy? How is it going to be you and not the student next to you?
You have to stand out and try and be different. You donít need a huge number of pictures in your book. You have to do something thatís different or creative, or unusual. Experiment, make a mistake. I think experimenting in photography is incredibly important. There are tons of art directors and designers and art buyers who are desperate to win awards with their work and are looking for something different that stands out.
Where does the inspiration for your unique techniques come from?
Iím always looking around me for inspiration, people or places that have kind of got my imagination that are interesting and I see what happens. In a lot of my personal work, I start with a clean sheet of paper and a model and see what happens.
You have worked on many long-term projects such as your latest 'Unseen London' what drives you to do these?
Maybe Iíll find a location. One of the things Iíve done for the last 4 years is to publish a book recording Hidden London as it stands in the 21st Century. This took up an enormous amount of time, more time in negotiating access to the Bank of England, Downing Street and Battersea Power Station. This project was great for PR as it was picked up by the BBC Worldwide broadcasting to 200 countries, ITV Evening News BBC lunchtime News, Huffington Post, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Beast, Mail Online, it just went on and on. Projects like this are another way of people noticing you. People see things like this and it sits in their memory. Just being remembered by somebody is what we try and achieve.
The Unseen London book started as a non commissioned project. Iím a born-and-bred Londoner and places like the Masons building in Covent Garden I must have walked past a thousand times and I had no idea what was inside. When you get let loose in some of these places itís really exciting. To be in Downing Street was a real hoot. Publishing a book is not a way of making money I promise you. I get 5% of the retail price. I spent much more time on assistants, retouching and an enormous amount of time on the phone negotiating access. Unseen London is published by Frances Lincoln £30, www.franceslincoln.com/unseen-london
Is there one that stands out for you?
Itís all a bit of fun as jobs with clients become demanding, what with the change in client logistics, the power has changed. Clients want things researched and signed off so by the time it reaches my desk we know what it can look like and what it canít look like. The freedom to embellish an idea with a creative is disappearing slowly because thereís so much money involved. The book has been tremendous fun because itís recorded my London to share with the rest of the World and some of it will not exist for much longer in the state that I photographed it. As a project that was a lot of fun.
What was the best bit of photography advice you were ever given?
Iíve not had that much to be honest. Iíve got lots of friends but professional photographers work in isolation and donít communicate with each other.
What advice would you give to a people who want to work in the photography industry?
My advice to young people is itís not about being in the right place at the right time its more about being in the right place for a long time. Experiment and do something different. Make mistakes, just donít make the same mistake twice. X-ray photography set the market alight, just be the first person to do X-ray and not the last sad person. There are so many things too like eye-contact and firm handshake. Itís simple stuff. Look at your CV quality and what you put in to it. They need to think about what if they were receiving that CV. Iím wildly dyslexic so it doesnít trouble me if people are misspelling, but it does show lack of attention to detail. I donít need to know if youíve spent 6 months working in a burger bar. The reality is itís about personality. I will spend a lot of time with an assistant so you have to find someone who is on the same wavelength. One of the most creative things people do is their CV. They should sex up what theyíve done. Be creative about it. Put a picture of themselves on it.
If youíre going in to an advertising agency see the standard of work they do. Do research on the people you are going to meet, Use Google, Wikipedia or Linkedin to find out about people. Find out what you have in common with the art director and go in with that information. Thatís how you stand out. If you are going to work in a fashion magazine you can be different you can dress in some wacky fashion outfit that makes you stand out and be remembered. It's the kind of thing your Mum and Dad should teach you. We live a world now where you can find out so much about people. I donít want to know what kind of photographer you are I want to know what kind of experience youíve had. They should bullshit and flannel. They should pick a piece of work the photographer has done and comment on it.
Youíve got to be different and stand out. Youíve got to think why would they give you the job and not the next guy? Not becoming a stalker and harassing people youíve got to do it in a gentle way that means they donít stop taking your phone calls. Itís very difficult to get appointments. It may take you months and months to get to see people.
Itís so difficult to get on the first rung and we find these kids that fall off the first rung. To get to work as an assistant you have to be proactive. If you want to get work as the first assistant and youíre the second assistant, work hard and be noticed, you canít stand in the corner with your hands in your pockets youíve got to impress, youíve got to make the tea before they ask for a cup of tea. Weíve had people in here who canít make a cup of tea. Where is the world going?
Let me give it you between the eyes, there are 20,000 students in photography courses from low-level night-classes up to 3-year degree full-time courses and there are only about 43,000 photography jobs in the uk. There are over 170 courses in photography and because of the desire to be in sexy media studies these courses continue to expand. Meanwhile weíre short of about 40,000 engineers.
For the young photographer of the future itís going to be very difficult to afford to create, with image looting and no punitive damages. If someone steals your great picture and it becomes their great picture what are you going to do? Take them to court? The cost of taking someone to court is prohibitive.
You donít have to be a photographer there are other professions within the photographic industry where you skills could work for you ie: set builder, stylist, home economist, hair and make up, picture researcher or model maker. There are so many different areas that people are unaware of that need a photographic skill. CGI is going to be huge in the future. Retouching and cgi are something weíll need for a long time.
What do you see in the future for photographers who make a living with their camera?
Very difficult, I see it becoming a part-time occupation. A lot of it will become moving and stop-motion imagery. We hire people in to do that. Clients want online moving imagery. They want moving imagery and still imagery shot at the same time. Cameras will change. The camera industry is not looking very good and the next generation of youngsters isnít going to have a phone in one pocket and a camera in the other.
The way that Apple is moving with their camera technology itís not going to be very long before the camera will be as good as a dedicated camera. Currently you canít just focus on the foreground and let the background go out of focus. However as I said earlier a Ďgood enoughí picture will do very well. Copyright abuse in USA 2010 cost the economy I think it was $58 BILLION. Itís not just copyright abuse itís income, jobs and taxed income from government thatís lost. The idea that your wonderful picture can become someone elseís wonderful picture is truly worrying.
The ineptitude of whatís happening with young people defies belief. We get letters that start ĎDear photo maní or ĎDear sir or madamí. Students ring up and talk to my agent saying they really love what I do but then Sarah asks which piece of work they like and thereís silence on the other end because theyíve never looked. Do research before making contact.
For a while I was the chairmen of the education committee at the AOP and I used to have students all the time for a week but that came to an end when we had one student who upset the whole staff. He knew everything, but when you asked him anything he couldnít answer the question. I asked that student for his book to see what he was doing at college but he said that he hadnít bought it in because he didnít want to intimidate me. In order to help someone you have to spend time to explain but that one guy put an end to that. I thought this is not what I need. So itís rare for me to take interns or mentor anybody now.
Iíve just given talk to students in Plymouth and Liverpool who are wide-eyed and bushy-tailed who I donít think realise what a difficult profession advertising photography is.
Also we have the influence of stock photography, when I was young we used to fight to get it right, now people are using a Ďgood enoughí picture. Itís quite fascinating to see. The business reality is changing very fast. Businesses are asking Ďdo we use a stock image or do we hire a photographer?í Financially a stock image is cheaper, it might not be as good, it may not be original but these are decisions that businesses are making all the time.
Digital cameras have removed some of the magic of photography as you donít have to worry about focus, colour temperature or exposure. Someone with a half-decent camera or even a phone with a little bit of Photoshop skill can make very creative imagery.
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