Describe your photography in 3 words.
Celebration of heroes.
Have you always had an interest in film and photography?
I have, but not in a geeky way, I wouldn't consider myself a film buff or to know every photographer’s work, but I do love these mediums. I will never see enough.
"Celebration of heroes"
You were trained as trouser maker, when did you decide photography was what you wanted to do?
I got into photography through my other interests. Once I started to do it, it really got hold of me. I wanted to be a fashion designer to be honest; at school I developed a real passion for it. I particularly admired John Stephen and Pierre Cardin and Mary Quant of course. My school was not really set up for developing this sort of talent though, it was a tough school, I enjoyed it there. Anyway I stuck to it and when I left, I joined the Youth Training Scheme and eventually got some good skills and a City and Guilds in 'Clothing Craft'.
I also got to meet Tommy Nutter the famous Savile Row tailor. That was a real was a high point. I got into photography after doing some evening classes and then a part-time ‘A' Level course. I then gave up my job and did a degree at Blackpool and the Fylde College.
A lot of your work surrounds fashion in relation to music and culture, but how would you describe your own style?
It’s hard to describe really, I like a lot of areas and don't like to be static. I’d say visually there is often simplicity, an aesthetic hook and an underlying message.
"I wanted to be a fashion designer!"
Your work permits you to work with many famous names, who has been the most interesting to shoot and why?
I like dipping in and out of people’s lives. Photography and film enables you to do this in a creative and symbiotic way. You and your subject grow something. When you meet people you admire and have made a big impression on your life, it can be a bit daunting I suppose, but I can switch over and disconnect those adoring thoughts, concentrating on the shoot and what I want to achieve.
I went to see The Jam when they played their penultimate gig back in the 80's it was at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-On-Sea. This was a very big moment for me, it was actually the best gig I have ever been to and its significance was not restricted to just the music. It was like a summit- the gathering of the Clan. Wow! That was a night. About a year and half ago I was asked if I wanted to shoot Paul Weller for his ‘Wake Up the Nation’, album needless to say, I jumped at the chance. I really liked that shoot, it was a great day and a chance to work with a man that has had a profound effect on my life.
Do you have a preference when it comes to moving image and photography?
I am still primarily a photographer, I love the medium and I am by no means winding it down to step into film. However I think film is in a very pioneering period, technology has advanced enough to break down many of the boundaries that stopped us doing it in the past, so I think it is natural to want to do things in different mediums or bring the mediums together.
Depending on the subject and what I want to say about it, photography or film can take preference if it is a non-commissioned piece. So it’s dependent on that really. In both these disciplines I also get to work with good people so it becomes a team effort for film, you often need more people involved. On 'The New Faces: A Short Film', Ryan O’Toole was the camera man and the editor, Natalie Strachan. On my previous film 'Young Souls' I worked closely with Benoit Soler and James W Griffiths, I like working with new, and up for it people.
Do you have any advice for people that are trying to break into music photography?
Try to think past what is right in front of you. To think about more than just the initial aesthetic level of the image, try to bring a bit of depth to the image.
"Photography and film enables you to dip in and out of people's lives in a creative and symbiotic way"
Have you been through self-doubt?
I'm not an egomaniac so self-doubt is an important part of the process. It can be very destructive but conversely it can be constructive, making you realise problems or weakness in what you are doing. You have to work through it, it’s easier said than done at times but that’s what makes you stronger and drives you to go forward. It's just too easy to accept defeat.
You have photographed great singers as well as assisted some great photographers. How important was it for you to assist and how has that shaped your career and style?
I began assisting photographers whilst I was studying; it gave me a perspective that education cannot give you. After leaving the college I came to London and assisted two very notable photographers Malcolm Venville (now a film director) and Seamus Ryan. Working for them allowed me to see how work was, and how to conduct myself. It let me use equipment and to take responsibility, and stress. It wasn’t easy! In fact, it was really difficult but that was good. I admired their work as it had resonance with mine.
Describe the events leading up to the idea for your new film: 'The New Faces'
I thought it would be good to explore the minds of three young contemporary Mods living in a world radically different to that of the 1960’s when the culture first emerged. I wanted to allow them to explain their passion. It’s a testament a document (not documentary!) Not a talking heads TV programme style thing, not a crash-bang-wallop pop promo either, more like a hypnotic ‘long form short film’ (20 minutes) with an unusual pace. I think it is pioneering; some people won’t like it and I know within the Mod world it will create a bit of debate, but it is honest and I think vital.
I was really pleased when Nick Knight sent a message through welcoming it onto SHOWstudio.com (live from 9th March. The day after The Book Club premiere party) SHOWstudio is one of, if not the best collection of fashion films out there, so you can imagine how excited I was about its inclusion.
"I began assisting photographers whilst I was studying; it gave me a perspective that education cannot give you"
What do you hope viewers will take away with them after watching it?
I hope the audience enjoys it; I hope it creates a debate and that it explains that the culture is more than just a fashion.
Thanks to your job, you have travelled a lot around the world. what is your favorite city and why?
I have travelled to many countries I think Iceland is one of my favourites, the Icelandic people are so friendly and I just like hanging out there. Reykjavik it is pretty magical.
You are a photographer, film maker/videographer and DJ, what can we expect from you next?
I've got a few projects ready to go actually, a couple of 'clip films', and photographic projects too, some will be coming out soon, others will sit tight for a little bit as I am just waiting for the right moment to reveal them. Recently I’ve been doing quite a bit of stuff with New Street Adventure a great new band and there are lots of commissioned pieces being released. Recently, the NME ran some of the Blur shoot I did. There are lots of other things flying around too, some film and some photographic so watch this space!
The DJing is also busy with Black Cat a regular night I do at the Silver Bullet, London with Si Cheeba, Dom Cater, Sir Errol D and Eli's Deutsch and am doing many other guest spots at other clubs. I’m never far away from my record box.
"I would like to set up a gallery space at some stage"
What kind of music are you into?
I have got a really broad musical taste; it is discerning but carries across a very wide range of styles. It might appear from what I said before that I’m exclusively into 'Mod records', however you would define that... this is not the case. I do love soul music, especially what is commonly known as Northern soul, rhythm & blues, ska, Latin-boogaloo, rare groove and popcorn.
Rather than discarding musical styles as new ones take my interest, I tend to collect them. I’m a lover of, acid house, minimal electronica, modern jazz, some rockin’ stuff, folk, etc. My taste is not always retrospective though, I keep my ears open and welcome new and exciting sounds, tonight I'm going to see Alabama Shakes.
What would be your dream project?
My dream project? That’s a difficult one, I have lots of things I want to do and I will do them. So I don’t really think about things in dream terms. However I would like to set up a gallery space at some stage. A home for work I want to show to people, that would be very nice.
Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
In the gallery space showing you the new work that I’ve just made- just before jetting off to the Cannes film festival…
Name 3 things you cannot live without.
1. The need to do things (sometimes irrational)
2. A record player (records too of course)
3. The love of a good woman
Do you have any IDOLs?
Steve Marriott he was the lead singer of the Small Faces and a band called Humble Pie. He, I have to say, is the guy in the 60’s that had it all going on. I met him once and it was my absolute pleasure to talk to him for over an hour.
Dean Chalkley's new exhibiton: ‘The New Faces’
From the 8th March 2012 at The Book Club.
Click here to RSVP for the screening + party
Interview: Bianca Spada
Images: Dean Chalkley