Pixelheads: Nicola Jones

Pixelheads is a new and occasional feature for this blog. When the mood takes me and circumstances allow, I will interview a random person about their photography. The interviews will not be with professional photographers – those can be read in abundance elsewhere. I’m interested to find out what makes a non-professional photographer tick.

Here is the first Pixelheads interview:

Nicola Jones, aged 34, of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, is a keen photographer, budding graphic designer, and founder of the Bradford on Avon Photography Group.

I asked her about her life, photography, influences and tastes.

Graphic Designer Nicola Jones of Bath

Nicola Jones likes to shoot grime and decay.

What do you do for a living? 

I’m an office manager and designer and to progress my designing career I’m interning at a Bath design agency.

When did you get into photography? 

When I moved to Bradford on Avon in 2009, the place inspired me to start taking pictures.

What cameras do you use? 

I have a Nikon D3000 with 18-55mm and 55-200mm kit lenses, and a 50mm f1.8, which is my favourite lens, a Canon Powershot S90 and a Polaroid 500.

The S90 is my main carry-around camera, with the D3000 being for more complicated stuff. I love using the Polaroid camera, but the new film doesn’t work well through my camera because it’s a bit volatile in daylight, so I need to find packs of old stock.

What kind of pictures do you like to take? 

I’m a bit of a mixed bag really. I went through a big macro phase when I had a macro-enabled bridge camera – shooting things like Lego minifigs (Minifigures), but I’ve got into shooting derelict buildings because I like grime and decay. Street photography too, though not so much of that now.

Lego minifigure with Free Hugs sign.

Nicola's minifig phase...

Tell me more about the minifigs shots. 

I started with standard figures, then they brought out series of figures (Star Wars, Batman) and I’d buy a handful of those. I’d set up film themes like Psycho, Forrest Gump sitting on a bench, that sort of thing.

Titanic? 

No, the arms don’t go out the right way for that, but I did The Shining. But I stopped doing those pics and sold most of the minifigs. I go through phases really.

Why not the street photography so much now? 

I enjoyed it, I used to snap away and not care, but had some run-ins with people complaining and I sort of lost confidence. It doesn’t float my boat as much now.

And the derelict building photography; what draws you to that? 

I’ve been to a few places; hotels old factories, that sort of thing. Obviously you have to be very careful, but it’s so interesting to capture the essence of a place. Getting a sense of what was there before, the life that was there and what used to happen. One hotel I visited still has a website as if it still takes bookings, which is quite funny.

Interior view of derelict building

Vanished lives haunt Nicola's derelict building photos.

Which photographers do you admire? 

Martin Parr; I understand his approach. I just think his photos are amazing. The New Brighton series especially.

Don McCullin also, his conflict work. The landscapes don’t do it for me, but I understand why he had to do them – to get his brain back together again. Then if we’re talking portraits, it’s got to be Jane Bown.

What’s next photography-wise for you? 

At the moment I’m devoting more time to my design work, but looking forward to seeing Martin Parr’s exhibition at the Bristol M shed when I go with the Bradford on Avon Photography Group soon.

Case Study: Studio & PR shots

Here’s a slightly unusual scenario; A client requires one set of pictures for their website, and a couple more for press release. They only have one slot in which to get everything done, so who they gonna call?

Hilton Vending is a local business owned by Martin and Sarah Killian, set up in 1992 installing drinks and snacks machines. They recently ventured onto the internet and got their first website built, but they needed a few images to personalise it. After all, their clients know them and they’ve got a friendly approach so hiding behind stock images of anonymous people was leaving their website looking a little sterile.

At the same time, they needed images to go with a press release regarding the change that is coming to, er, change. To be precise, 5p and 10p coins will be changed to coins with a different alloy content and makeup (you can find out more here) and this will result in a cost implication for any business operating coin-based services – drink and snack machines, auto tolls like the new Severn Bridge crossing, parking machines. All these systems will need to be re-calibrated. Martin wanted to publicise this change with a press release, so needed a photo to go out with the story.

Martin and Sarah Killian of Hilton Vending, Wiltshire

This cutout was destined for the home page.

Luckily for Martin and Sarah, I was able not only to create a set of studio pictures for the website, but also illustrate the PR story with a suitable shot.

We spent a couple of hours trying different set-ups for the web photos, and in the end we got them some options which were suitable for use on various pages of the site. Originally Martin and Sarah thought they only needed a home page photo, but having got them to try various ideas we ended up with pictures they could use to spruce up the whole site.

Sarah and Martin Killian of Hilton Vending with snacks

This "bonus" shot made a fun picture for the Snacks page.

Having got the studio shots done, I took Martin outside and worked on the idea of money being poured away as a result of the forthcoming coin change. I came up with the idea of Martin pouring coins out of a coffee cup to illustrate the waste, and the kind of industry that would be affected all in one shot. Oh, and I may have snuck the company name in the background too.

Martin Killian pours money away

An eye-catching press shot, and of course there's an upright shot too.

By combining the two shoots, Hilton Vending saved time and money, and got a few extra shots they hadn’t realised they needed. We were all ready for a coffee by the end.