Student Spotlight: Nick Buckley
Student Spotlight chats with former Mango Lab students. This month we catch up with Nick Buckley from our Intermediate Photography course. He talks about how he got into photography, chasing light in winter evenings in London and how he uses Instagram to test reactions to his photography.
What initiated your interest in photography?
It started quite a long time ago. 16 years ago to be exact when I was 20 I modelled for about three years and within that world I obviously spent a lot of time with photographers. That definitely ignited this passion.
What do you do now?
I work in advertising/marketing now. I always intended to end up in a creative world of some sorts.
How did you come across The Mango Lab?
My girlfriend discovered The Mango Lab. Her parents bought me a course as a Christmas present. I always said that I wanted to do a course but I never got around to it.
Is that because they saw potential in your photography?
They probably thought that if I’m going to be taking pictures of their daughter I need to know what I’m doing!
What courses have you done?
I did the Adult’s Intermediate course.
What were the most enjoyable elements of it?
Karl helped me look at things differently. Previously I would take photographs knowing exactly what I was going to do; it was often very architectural and ‘perfect’ – maybe not a perfect photograph but perfect in terms of the structure to the image. Thus my shots were a little cold, they lacked an emotional pull. Karl pushed me to be more experimental – bring people into things, look for emotions, interesting lighting and work a little freer.
Is your photography methodical or spontaneous?
A mixture. I do like it being methodical and knowing what I’m going to shoot. But street photography is where I get my buzz and that is extremely spontaneous – it’s often very hit and miss too. I walk around with my camera and see what happens in front of me – if I like it I’ll try and get it. Nine out of ten times I miss it. But that one time I get it I usually get a gem of a shot and that makes the nine misses worth it.
How often are you using your camera?
I probably have my camera on me every day, but only once or twice a week will I do something with it…it’s when the moment takes me and I feel inspired.
Is there anywhere in the world you would like to photograph?
Japan. Partly because I am keen to go on holiday there. The colour and the culture attracts me. It would be hugely fascinating to document both from a street photography point of view and architecturally.
What originally attracted you to pick up a camera?
I think it was to have my own creative channel or outlet, which could just be free with no one judging it. I work in a creative industry anyway – it’s always got eyes on, it’s always being judged, and rightly or wrongly everyone has an opinion. So for me it became a channel where I could express my creativity without any external pressure, purely for my own enjoyment and entertainment.
What’s going through your mind or what are you feeling when you’re holding a camera?
I don’t really think about the camera too much apart from praying that I’ve got it all set up correctly. I like spending less and less time thinking about the camera and more and more time thinking about what’s going on in front of me and how best to capture it.
Other than the technical skills what have you gained from photography?
I think building themes. The Mango Lab taught me to build stories and themes and how a series of pictures can become a lot more powerful than just one on its own or how two photos can complement each other in different ways. I never really thought about that before. …Escapism – a chance to switch off completely from my life and look at life going on around me. It’s usually far more interesting.
Where can we find your pictures?
I’ve just started an Instagram account. Karl mentioned it is a good test to see what resonates with people. I can tell you how many days ago I started it because I’ve posted one picture a day for the last 40 days. That’s @buckleynicholas.
Would you like to have your photography on a website?
Yes, I would. I have friends telling me that I should. It’s funny because I can’t critique myself very well. So a friend might think my work is brilliant and I should sell it but then I think there’s so many people trying to do that, it just looks like one of a million other pictures out there. I can’t work out what’s special with my pictures.
Do you call yourself a photographer?
No, I don’t. I’ve never said that but I suppose because I do take pictures I am. No one’s every really asked me so I’ve never had reason to say it.
What type of responses do you get from people about your photographs?
I’ve never had any bad responses. Silence is the worst thing you can get. My friends and my family love my photography. So does my girlfriend. One print that she loves is on our wall – it’s a silhouette of her taken at the Taj Mahal. The Instagram comments are interesting because they are people you don’t know – I judge that better than my friends. They have no reason to be nice. Most pictures I’ve put up have been commented on – people are saying some positive things.
How long have you been photographing?
Properly for the last two years. I used to have a really big Nikon which I would take on holidays but then I realised it was too big. Two years ago I downgraded the size of my camera and got this small yet absolutely awesome Fuji X-E2; ever since I got that I photograph so much more than I used to.
Can you talk us through some of your photos?
This is one of the pictures I took with Karl and it’s now one of my favourites. Karl challenged me to look for ‘light pools’ – he said “don’t shoot into the light source but look at how light falls on a subject”. There’s a big light shinning down at the exit of the station and in stark contrast, everything outside was so very dark – she looks vulnerable coming out of the light and into the dark night of London.
Is there a particular genre of photography you associate with?
Not really, if you go on my Instagram it’s a bit of a mess because there’s no obvious genre. There are people, there’s architecture, sport, and the odd dog. I just wait until I see something in front of me and if I like it I will try and take a picture of it.
If you talk us through this picture – was it quite a methodical approach?
No. I didn’t know what I was doing but I knew what I wanted to achieve. I loved this sign but I’d seen countless other pictures of the sign that other people had taken, all of which were identical. I wanted to set it against the stunning sunset and used a filter to get some movement in the sky. However, I had no idea how many seconds I needed to open the shutter for, I took just the one shot with my shutter open for 58 seconds, this is the result. And a minute later the sun had set.
Do you use a lot of Photoshop?
A little bit. Make it the best it can be, but not to the point that it becomes unreal. I definitely will shoot in raw and then try and bring the colours out where I can. I do like to use Photoshop but only to highlight things. I like the clarity switch a lot for some reason!
Where do you see your photography going now?
What I find interesting is taking pictures of everyday people and placing them in an interesting light. I have a fixation with taking pictures of people on the Tube – I like the constant light that is always there, which changes the lighting perspective. You’ve got to catch the audience; there are loads of people there and everyone is going on their random journey whether it is to work or school. You’ve also got the movement of trains – there’s always something going on with all the advertising. It’s a ‘hustley-bustley’ place and I find myself bringing out my camera and taking pictures of people. A snapshot of people’s lives is what I find most fascinating.
But, to answer your question. I don’t know where I see it going. I just want to continue to enjoy it.
Do you think in the future you will go professional?
I worry that that will take the enjoyment out of it. I have my job, my career and that’s my focus. This is the thing I can switch off with and not worry about. I think as soon as someone says “go out and take a picture and I’ll pay for it” I would probably be rubbish. I like having to not stress over it.
Are there any photographers you try to emulate?
Funnily enough the only photographers I know are fashion photographers because I’ve met them or worked with them. I do love David Bailey’s work, his portraiture is, and always has been, second to none.
What does photography give you that nothing else does?
I quite like having something that I can do on my own and just enjoy it. I don’t really have to share it in the moment to appreciate it; I like that ‘me time’ – maybe that’s the ‘only child’ in me. For me it’s just a creative outlet and a bit of escapism that I enjoy. I wouldn’t want to change that by making it my job. I say it now but who knows.
Are there any other courses that you will do?
I think what’s nice about the courses is being set a challenge I might not have thought to do myself. That’s what I took away from the course – having a theme, focusing on it and coming back with whatever you’ve got. I like that and I like that there was the ability to wander off and interpret the theme how you wanted to. Sometimes you walk out and there’s so much going on around you; I get confused with having so much to photograph rather than being single minded and looking for x, y, z. A little direction can have a huge impact on your work. That’s what I took away from the course that I did with The Mango Lab and that’s what I liked most about it. That’s why I will probably do another one.
Don’t forget to check out Nick’s photography on Instagram! You can follow him @buckleynicholas