by Mike McNamee Published 01/06/2011
The American Way
A member of The Societies for just over a year, George Fairbairn finally plucked up the courage to enter a panel of prints for his Licentiateship and found himself delighted with the response
Photography has been a way of life for George Fairbairn for as long as he can remember but, as with so many other people, other things got in the way and sidetracked him for a number of years until he came back to his first love. “I was born and brought up in America,” he says, “and when I was in High School I was awarded a scholarship to the Art Institute of Seattle on the back of my photography, but being young at the time I turned it down as I didn’t want to move away from home. Two years later I joined the US Air Force and found myself living in England, which must say something about seizing the moment!”
Needless to say photography found itself on the back burner for a while, but the desire to take pictures for a living resurfaced when George finally got out of the service and moved to England, out of choice this time. Living in Mildenhall close to the base where he had been stationed, he rekindled his interest in photography by heading into nearby Cambridge on regular missions to capture images of local bands. Fired up by the positive reaction to these he started to take on wedding and portrait work and his decision to take things more seriously was driven by the need to generate a regular income when his wife became pregnant.
“At this time we had to make a decision regarding who was going to stay at home,” he says, “and it made sense for me to try to make the photography business a full time venture while being a stay at home dad. Once we knew what we were going to do things really started to pick up, and that was probably due to me just having more time to focus not only on the photography, but also the business side of things, and I set out to get my name and business out there into the community.”
As a photographer his biggest passion definitely still lies with band photography, although fine art comes in a close second. “There is something about doing a promo shoot for a band or artist that just clicks with me,” he says, “and as a result I think these tend to be my best images. I love doing portraits of all types, but something that is going to be used to promote a band, actor or musician really gets my creative juices flowing and, for me, producing these pictures is the most fun that I have.
“Having said that, I get the same satisfaction from the fi ne art that I do. I have always thought of photography as an art form and when it comes to both the band photography and the fi ne art I defi nitely take liberties with the term art! My fi ne art photography is something that I really enjoy because it gives me the chance to see something beautiful in what otherwise might be considered ugly. I’m a great fan of Photoshop and fi nd myself using it a lot to get exactly the result that I’m looking for: it allows me to translate the image that I took into the image I had in my head. Sometimes this is something that is never going to actually happen in nature, so I make it happen!”
As part of his mission to build the profi le of his business and to ensure that he received good advice and guidance from fellow professionals, George joined the SWPP just over a year ago and he’s been a fully committed member ever since. “When I fi rst joined I was primarily focused on portraits and weddings and had the thought of trying to get into commercial work,” he says, “so I am also a member of the SICIP.
“When I fi rst made the decision to try my hand at professional photography I did quite a bit of research and one thing that repeatedly came up was the need to join reputable societies to attain qualifi cations. So, when I joined the SWPP it was with this goal in mind but it took me a full year to put together a panel for my Licentiateship and this was probably down to me being overly critical of my work. I was convinced that I wouldn’t be successful and that made it hard for me to choose images: in the end I decided on images that had either received a Gold or a Silver in the monthly competitions, my feeling being that if it wasn't good enough for a Silver then it wasn’t good enough full stop.”
George needn’t have worried: his pictures absolutely knocked out the panel of judges - one of whom declared that this was one of the most impressive panels he had ever viewed – and he’s now fi red up to move on from here and to apply for further qualifi cations.
“If I had to give one bit of advice to other photographers it is to utilise The Societies’ many benefi ts,” he says. “Use the forums fi rst and foremost, because there are a great number of photographers there who are more than willing to give you an honest critique on an image or just off er advice on any questions you might have, be it lighting, posing or even lens selection.
“I would also say that you should utilise the monthly competitions and such things as the mentor me program. It’s free and it gives you invaluable feedback on the areas where your images might need work. The thing to remember here is to not take it personally. If you are submitting images to a mentor you are looking for advice and critique, so when that comes back to you take it and run with it: don’t react negatively, because someone is giving up their time to try to help you.”
Looking back on his fi rst year as a member George can’t help but feel a certain sense of satisfaction, and the strength of his panel suggests that his is a name we’re going to be hearing a lot more of in the future.
See George's successful submission here
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