An interview with Lee Searle
What got you interested in Photography ?
I actually managed to stumble across Photography purely by chance. At the age of 17 I was struck by the illness Crohns Disease. Not something I would want anyone to experience but it was through this that I became interested in photography. The illness wiped out about 2 years of my life and it was during my recovery process I was handed a camera by my Uncle.
During my recovery I filled my time with taking pictures, using my time to study and see how light had the ability to transform something normal into something truely spectacular. Technology wasn't that advanced then, so no digital SLRs or camera phones were available so my Canon AE-1 and a roll of black and white film did the job perfectly. Of course the downside of this was having to wait a week to see my results.
The majority of my images were pretty rubbish but its what I expected............Its all about understanding the camera and its settings so I didn't care if my pictures were any good or not.
How old were you when you started taking photography seriously ?
I guess it was around the age of 21. By this time in my life I was working in a camera shop in St Ives full time and still managing to fit in my photography before and after work. It was handy working in a camera shop as you can process your images very quickly, which I loved. I used to shoot a roll of film on the way to work and process it when I got there.
I was on my way to work one morning when i captured a silhouette of some fishermen pulling in a boat . I didn't know this would be the picture that would turn my photography from a hobby into a profession. I got my first sale from this image in a local store as a greetings card. I earned about £5 but it was something.
From that moment on I guess I looked at things in a different way.
Do you prefer taking Landscapes or Figurative images ?
I enjoy all forms of photography, each one brings something different to the table. A challenge so to speak. With landscapes, it's the solitude of being out there experiencing something and capturing it on camera. I have actually hooted ( Woooooo Hoooooooo ) whilst being out shooting landscapes as the clouds part creating a shaft of light onto the ground below. Click !!!
With figurative images I guess you have to create and draw the image you see in your head out of the subject through directing them and making them feel at ease. Its more about refining your vision and ensuring you get the right emotion from the image. Totally different to landscapes in the fact that you witness a landscape but you can manipulate a portrait a figurative happen if that makes sense.
I love working with people and bringing out different elements of their personalities as well as using lighting to create a perfectly balanced image.
Did you take part in any courses to widen your knowledge of photography ?
I embarked on an A level in photography but I didn't finish it. I enrolled in the course to really answer my question, was photography what I wanted to do with my life? After about a month into the course, my photography was growing into a passion. I soon realised this and decided to leave the course and pursue photography in my own way.
College was great but it wasn't really teaching me what I wanted to learn. I mean, we were learning how to make a pin hole camera out of a coke can. I didn't want to know how to do that, I wanted to learn about cameras and taking pictures and being able to sustain a living from photography.
So, I threw myself into the deep end and quit the course.
What type of camera do you use ?
My Uncle gave me a Canon AE - 1 and that set up my path for me. I trusted in the brand and stuck with it ever since I started photography.
I still use Canon Cameras and currently have x2 1 D MK III's which have never let me down. I guess you just stick to what you know and what you are used to. I often have debates with my friends about what it the best brand of camera manufacturer but really, it doesn't matter what you use. You only need one camera and one lens to rock the world. When I look at an image I dont see a brand or ask, "What did you shoot that with?" I either get inspired or I don't.
Was photography always your chosen career ?
No it wasn't. Before I became ill I was studying at Camborne College to be a Merchant Engineer which is fixing engines on boats. My illness cut my course short as I was in hospital for two months. No one on the course knew where I had gone.
It was funny as I saw a friend from the course about 5 years later in a club and he came up to me and said "Leee! I thought you were dead". To which I replied, "Well I was, but only temporarily."
Why do you think you make a good photographer ?
Thats a tricky question. I dont look at it in that way. I just enjoy taking photographs and if people like what I do then they generally let me know. I always appreciate feedback and connecting to my followers. I just concentrate on doing what I love and if anything comes out of it then its a bonus.
Which lighting effects do you use mostly and why ?
I dont particularly use a set piece of kit for lighting. Every situation throws something different at you. You just need to look around and use what you think will give you the best result. Natural light or flash lights. Assess the environment and make your choice. I currently use a selection of Elinchrom equipment for my studio work.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers who want to make this a career ?
As long a you have the passion for the subject you will always succeed. Never give up and just enjoy doing it.