by Stuart Wood Published 01/11/2012
Great perseverance plus a little bit of help from some big-name celebrities, got Stuart Wood started out on his photographic career and he's now a top portrait photographer working for a host of major clients.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how those photographers who get the top jobs to photograph big-name celebrities managed to reach their elevated positions? Is it all down to who you know and some high-powered networking or can someone with enough drive and passion find a different and more innovative way to catch the eye of those all-important picture editors?
Reassuringly top portrait photographer Stuart Wood is proof positive that the latter approach can work and, in his case, he took a leap of faith by turning his back on a different career entirely to fulfil his photographic ambitions.
"I was fascinated by photography from an early age," he says, "and to me it was a truly magical and glamorous craft. On my 14th birthday I was bought my first camera by my parents, and I still have it and it's absolutely priceless to me! I then became more and more consumed by photography as the years went by, and when I started work and had enough money to acquire my first 'serious' camera, the wonderful Olympus OM1, my interest moved from being a passion to a lifestyle.
"This eventually led to a major 'fork in the road' life choice, when I was about to move into management at Sainsbury's but chose instead to give up that opportunity to pursue my dream of being a professional photographer, heading to Salisbury College to study photography. My Sainsbury's manager at the time told me I was mad to do this, because I would go on to become a good manager. I told him that he might well be right, but I simply had to get it out of my system one way or another. Up to now the choice I made at that time seems to have worked out ok!"
While at college Stuart discovered that shooting people was what he was best at and he got round to thinking what he might do to build his profile and bring his work to the attention of people who might be in a position to give him work when he graduated. "In the end I decided to contact as many celebrities as I could to ask if I could photograph them," he says. "Over a two year period I contacted 250 famous people and eventually got to shoot 25 of them. This project literally changed my life, and as a result I not only won the top student award at the Photographers' Gallery in London, but I was also being commissioned by magazines, including a national, while still a student which, thinking back, is actually quite remarkable."Then, through The Prince's Trust, I turned pro in 1991 and had to work really hard to get my first commissions. By the mid nineties I was already trusted as a photographer who was known for getting the pictures and was regularly being 'thrown in at the deep end' on massive projects such as Pride and Prejudice, where I came away with the main image. While I managed to shoot covers for most of the main magazines out there, the one that eluded me (probably because it was the one that I most wanted) was my first Radio Times cover and I only achieved this in 2007. Once the issue with my cover picture featured appeared, I promptly went out and stripped my local newsagent of all their copies, one of which now hangs proudly on the kitchen wall that had waited for it for so long!"
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