Interview: Craig Clayton

Craig aspires to be a creator, whilst involving himself in photography and film-making. I was lucky enough to have a little interview with him about his handmade books, career plans and photography. 

Hello Craig! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

No problem at all, I’m good thank you! Excited for the start of University again!

Tell us a little bit about your background.

My background isn’t very arty to be quite honest, I started out doing engineering at school, because everyone in my family did. I decided I didn’t enjoy it so I chose to do a Media course at College. After that finished I took some time out from education and worked, but came back because I realised this is the work I want to do for the rest of my life so I came to University to start my career.

Describe your style in three words.

This is difficult but .. Minimalistic – Post-Modern – Observational

I adore your work. What inspired you to start taking photographs and go into film-making?

Thank You! I’ve always loved film and cinema, photography came later, but as I said before I got bored of other work and jobs I was doing and thought why would I want to spend my life doing something I hate? So I took the leap and tried to get somewhere in this vast media world.

Have you always been into photography?

Honestly, no. I didn’t even do any stills work until I started at University, I was completely moving image before. There were assignments that required stills so I did it then and the love just grew out from there and I would identify as a photographer over a film maker now.

How has your creative process changed since the start?

Definitely, I mainly shoot film now from 35mm, Medium Format and I’m going to be shooting some Large Format soon. I would credit shooting film entirely to me being able to go from never shooting a still to getting paid photography work now. The fact you have to stop and think about an image more and more because you are a lot more limited than digital, you’re learning process is halved. I still shoot digital images because it still has its place and is essential in today’s market but recreational and University projects are almost always film for me.

What equipment do you use for your work?

We have a fantastic Media Loans store at University of Lincoln, I do get a lot of equipment from there for sound work because I haven’t got that quality of equipment but I do grab some camera’s and lens’ now and again. Digitally I use Canon 5D’s (Mk ii & iii) but I have been using a 6D recently which is great and I love combining that with a Sigma Art lens, having an aperture of 1.2 can create some amazing bokeh! When it comes to Film I’m starting my own collection across 35mm, Medium Format and Instant which I’ve been buying from eBay. My main go to camera would be my Canon A1, it’s beautiful and has never failed me and I can definitely attribute it to confirming my love for photography after seeing the first roll I shot through it.

What equipment would you recommend for someone who wants to get into photography and film-making?

I don’t think the equipment is super important at the start, but we all wanted the most amazing piece of equipment at the start, just having a love and passion is the vital part. Now a days, almost every person has a smart phone with a decent camera, editing software and a place to post the work, start taking images on your phone and move on from there. I love iPhoneography and Instagram, it gives everyone a platform and everyone a decent camera, instead of pricing people out of the market, we all have a shared and creative space.

Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

It’s important to get your name out there and stand out from the crowd, I’ve used it to research and find work I love and start applying it to my own but then also to make people aware of your own work. It is fantastic but you need to use it correctly, we’re in a world where we’re constantly being bombarded with information and content, you need to use it wisely and not be left behind.

Who inspires your work?

That’s difficult, I couldn’t narrow down anyone in particular. I like to take elements from so many people and mold and shape it into something I want to make or create, that’s why I would describe my work as slightly post-modern because I like to adapt different genres and ideas.

Why is photography and film-making important to you?

In a simple way, it’s important to me because it’s what makes me happy. I love seeing work, I love talking to people about it, how it makes me feel and I love creating it hoping for at least one person to have a connection to my work like I do.

What makes a good photograph?

Something that evokes an emotion, whether you like it or not, it needs to be thought provoking. We live in a very disposable world now, media especially, we see thousands of images a day and have forgotten about them instantly, a good photograph would impact you and make you think about it long after your first interaction.

What are you currently working on?

Currently I’m working with a barber based in Lincoln doing his stills work and also collaborating and creating a handmade photo/look book. I’ve also got various little projects for different clients but they’re very small, one/two day jobs. I’m also trying to research and nail down some ideas for my final year University projects.

What's your typical working day?

I couldn’t ever say my working day is typical, as a photographer and film makermevery working day is different to the next, it adds to the fun and craziness of the job!

As well as your photography, you create your own books. What is the reason behind this?

It was just an interest I had, I saw some photo zines and I thought “I want to do that” so I did. Seeing your work further than a screen is fantastic, makes you feel more professional and the process of printing/mounting/publishing is great fun as well.

What do you include in your handmade books?

At the moment it’s just photos and small text because it’s just my own work so far but I want to collaborate with other people because words aren’t my strong point so it would be great to create a more established and stronger body of work with text articles and essays as well.

Where do you get inspiration from to create your photo books?

Other creators, there are various accounts on Instagram that show zines such as Doomed Gallery Dalston but I also take inspiration from smaller magazines, brochures and even high end fashion magazines, I like to cast my net wide and see what takes my eye and bring it together for me.

Do you have any new ideas for your handmade books?

More text, I’ve loved the photo books at the moment and helping with a magazine or something or somewhere in publishing might be great fun. I want to improve the quality more and more and see where I can get to.

Do you have plans to sell these in the future?

Hopefully, that would be cool, I wouldn’t mind working for a company creating magazines and then have my zines as side project, at the moment it’s just a project for fun to be dead honest, I like to collaborate with people so a collaborative book idea would be great fun!

What are your career plans?

I couldn’t even say, I don’t know myself! My ideas for where to go after University has changed almost every 6 months, as I’ve said before, I like to cast my net wide, I’m still finding what I like and what genre’s I love but I know that I’m going to work in photography and film making because it’s what I love to do and I’m not going to give myself an option to do anything but that, I want to work hard to establish myself and do this for the rest of my life.

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

It comes from two people and it is the same idea, first one is one of my experimental tutors and the other is Shia Labeouf, Just Do It. It sounds silly so it might need some explanation, I find that a lot of people come to University to mess around and slack, that’s not me. I came here to work hard and get somewhere that’s why I’ve been trying so many different techniques and just indulged in every creative process thrown at me but I’ve gone out of my way to find it as well. I understand that the work I produce at University alone won’t get me a job, I need to constantly be learning and creating to get somewhere so instead of just saying “I like photography and I like to take pictures” I just do it.

You were lucky enough to visit China, what did you get up to there?

I was very lucky, it was a project run by Beijing Normal University and they asked 4 students from Lincoln to participate and I applied and luckily got that chance to go! We had to create a 10 minute documentary about Chinese culture, we spent our time in the city of Guiyang in the southern province of Guizhou. We spent 4 days in some local villages and towns also and really got see the real China which was a fantastic experience. Being able to stay away from the tourist central cities such as Beijing and Shanghai was good because we got to see an honest side to China and how the normal Chinese person would live. Definitely one of the best experiences of my life that I’ll be thankful for forever.

Did you learn any new skills?

I learned a lot about communication and the barriers that can get in the way! I didn’t learn any new skills apart from how to work with people of other cultures, I was learning more about the culture and country which was so overwhelming at times but I loved it!

Has this trip helped your creative process?

Yes and no, it was helpful to see how I can work under pressure far .. far away from my comfort zone but then it was a universal process of creating a documentary, but in a slightly hotter environment!

If you would like to follow his progress on his work, take a look at 'https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO9xFX2f_wQ' and his wonderful Instagram page 'craig_clayton_'.