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Member Spotlight: Love of People in Adam Shaw's Photography

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One would guess the pandemic is hurting extroverts way more than the other end of the spectrum, but freelance photographer Adam Shaw is the living proof that that is really not the case.

Though he declares himself an introvert by nature, Adam loves being around people and he gets most of his inspiration from them. People he works with, lives around, sees every day and not – people he personally cares about, even if he doesn't say it explicitly. In a way, Adam loves his art just as much as he loves keeping his hopes up for a better creative industry, one more inclusive, humble and encouraging.

"We all have a lot more in common than what we can be led to believe," Adam says. A striking passion for people and creativity, shining through his beautiful photography.

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How did you get into the industry?

I studied a Photography BA at Nottingham Trent University at the end of the 90s / start of the 00s and after a year searching for work I found employment as an in-house photographer for a manufacturing business in the city. I spent 5 years working in-house for them and then 5 more at a design agency after which I went freelance full time.

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I work out of my own studio in the middle of Melton Mowbray. It's a rural market town in Leicestershire, close to Nottingham and Leicester.

I work for a range of clients, from design agencies to marketing teams within larger businesses. It's a mixture of predominantly people-based lifestyle, which in the current C-19 pandemic has all but ceased, and also products. Having a studio allows for some of the work to continue.

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If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

Whilst I was at secondary school I was really keen to become a GP.

I grew up in a small Cumbrian village which had a surgery practice and I thought it would be a great thing to do when I was older. Choosing my A-Levels was the turning point, I could easily have gone towards that after GCSEs but I had some fantastic art, design and graphics teachers and my experience of learning from them swung me towards the creative industries.

Can you explain your creative process?

It really depends on the brief I’m working on, but the similarities between the different disciplines I work within are: good, clear communications, a sense of humour, tea & biscuits and an eclectic record collection!

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How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

Digital capture was in its infancy whilst I was studying and when I began working I was shooting 5x4 transparency.

When the digital format started to take over and after the explosion that occurred with Canon’s 5D DSLR, the pace and throwaway nature of tech and digital increased dramatically. Timescales, attention to detail and client expectations changed very quickly to a new normal, which we live with now.

Some aspects of which were helpful; it can be a lot more affordable to experiment and create new work, be that personal or for clients. But with that comes an increase in the noise that such amount of work produces. If everyone feels they need to shout to be noticed, it can be difficult to not get caught up. For clients as well as myself it is important to try and work starting from a deeper spot than that.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

When I have a brief in front of me and a client I’m working with I find that the bubbles and fizzes of creating work flow quite naturally. At the moment though I am missing working with people due to the C-19 pandemic.

All the lifestyle work involving people stopped almost instantly for me at the beginning of the pandemic and that has been tough, because despite being an introvert by nature, I really love the interaction you get on set with people

Though I'm an introvert by nature, I love the interaction you get on set with people.

Music, audiobooks and silence all have their space when I’m working and I alternate between them when I work on products in the studio. A little turn around the space to a particular tune always helps keep things flowing for me!

However on the flip side, if I look around too much at what others are doing, saying or posting, I find I can very quickly shrink back inside myself and start feeling that 'other people do things far better than I do.’ If I can stay away from that and allow my own thoughts and interests their own space to germinate and grow, I find ideas and projects come to the surface a lot more, so that's a great encouragement.

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What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I was really pleased with my last personal project, First Hundred Days, which focused on that timescale of the current UK government. I would approach a stranger each day and ask them the same question: ‘What are you hoping for?’ After that, I'd take a quick portrait of them. 

I was interested in finding out about the hopes of the people I live with and work around, what makes them tick, what they are concerned about. We’ve lived through such sloganised times since the EU referendum and the polarising of our political discourse has become intense. So the idea grew to match the 100 days promises that were being made during the 2019 election campaign and approach as wide a group of people as I could, wherever I was, and ask them about their hopes. The responses were personal and touching, and whilst individual to each person, proved that we all have a lot more in common than we can be led to believe.

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How do you recharge away from the office?

Walking, running and being outdoors; reading and making music I play guitar and sing; and cooking and being with my wife and daughters all help.

What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Try and be yourself, be polite and courteous and treat everyone the way you’d like to be treated.

Be a good human really.

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What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?

That it becomes kinder and more inclusive; that we'll see a greater diversity of people in positions of influence; and that we’ll actively work to attract talent from under-represented backgrounds. Finally, that some of the pomp would quieten down. 

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