COLOUR, VIBRANCY AND LUMINOSITY AND HIS OWN UNIQUE COLOUR GELS DEFINE JAKE HICKS PHOTOGRAPHY

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Hey Jake, tell us about yourself and your work as a photographer?

I'm a fashion and portrait photographer based in Reading just outside of London UK. My photographic style is known for its bold use of vibrant coloured lighting both in the studio and on location.


“Spectrum of Desire” - Photography, 2015

 

What first got you into photography and how has your work evolved throughout the years?

If I'm completely honest I kind of fell into photography. As I was about to leave school at age 16 I had failed all of my exams so I was unable to take the Geography, Art and Business Studies courses of higher education I had planned. There wasn't many options open to me at the time and it was either get a job or take a years art foundation course. Obviously I opted for the non-work option and took the art course. The course itself involved everything from graphic design, ceramics, fine art and of course photography. It turned out that I was either pretty good at photography or I had an truly awesome teacher who was incredibly supportive of my weird and wonderful ideas and adaptations of the photographic medium. In hindsight, failing all of my exams was the best thing I ever did. Geography and Business studies….really!?


“Obscurus” - Photography, 2016

 

Your use of colour is so expressive, its obviously something that interests you, but tell us more about why you think its so essential to your practise?

The use of colour in my work was something that has developed over the years but that present laser focused interest in colour does seem to have stemmed from the feedback of a digital generation. I was using coloured gels in my photography nearly 20 years ago but coloured gel images back then were still trying to shake off the visual trauma inflicted by the 1980's pop videos. Coloured gels were not seen as cool whatsoever back then.

Fast forward a decade or more and I tried using them again on a fashion shoot and my community of viewers went mad for it. Like I say it was kind of weird because I had dismissed them many years earlier but it seemed that people were finally ready to embrace the crazy, unrealistic colours once again.

You could argue that my current style is a byproduct of my audience and although that might appear odd I think it's also a sign of the current digital era of art. The feedback loop on sharing imagery now means that artists work can develop in new ways far more easily and quickly than ever before. It can also be argued that art simply can't exist without an audience so why not embrace them as part of that process.


“Lost Light” - Photography, 2016

 

You’ve even created a special series of colour gels, for those who are unfamiliar with what they are and how they work can you tell us a bit more about them?

The coloured gel packs that I sell are simply different coloured sheets of semi-transparent plastic that are placed in front of lights. This will of course change the colour of any light that passes through them and this is how I create the highly saturated coloured images you see in portfolio. The coloured gels were originally developed for the hot tungsten lights of the theatre but as time has gone on, photographers like myself have taken to using them in front of our flash lighting instead.

The different packs that I sell contain my favourite colours that I use day-to-day and they have predominantly been chosen to work well on a subjects skin but also to work well in conjunction with one another based on colour theory and my years of testing.


“Postcars from Sanctuary” - Photography, 2014

 

So when your on shoot do you have a specific process, tell us about how you work on shoot and which one to date has been your favourite? 

Firstly it depends on whether it's on location or in a studio. The biggest difference is that if I'm on location I treat the surroundings as a subject too and that needs to be lit just as carefully as the model. Whether it's an environment or a model I try and break them down into 'planes' or 'areas' and think about lighting them individually. When you're using gelled lighting you'll quickly find out that it's crushingly unforgiving, you can't simply turn up and start throwing colours wherever you like. For example I'll separate a model into top (key-light), bottom (fill-light) and then sides (edge-lights). This way I can keep the lighting and colours as clean and vibrant as possible. The same goes for a location, each wall might have its own light and even a rug on the floor or a sofa might have their own lights as well.

If you haven't noticed it by now, I'm a self confessed lighting nerd so the shoots I personally walk away feeling the most excited about are often the ones where I've successfully tackled the most lighting problems. A great example of this was a recent shoot of some incredibly shiny carbon fiber lingerie in quite possibly the darkest London club I've ever been into. The ceilings were stupidly low and everything inside was matt black and as anybody has tried to light something that is matt black will know, it's almost impossible, so achieving my coloured lighting within those parameters was tricky to say the least.


“Fire and Ice” - Photography, 2016

 

What about your plans for next year, any big shoots coming up?

This year has seen a huge shift for me as I have probably run more photographic workshops and training events than ever before and I have to say that I've loved it. The section of the photographic community that chooses to invest in its own education are incredibly keen to learn and are always so hungry for knowledge and new ideas so I've loved working with them. Going to work on a workshop day where everybody in attendance wants to be there and try new ideas is a fantastic day in my book. As a result I think I will be pushing that side of my business even further in the coming year. I recently came back from the US after shooting a 22 hour Gelled Lighting tutorial video which was fantastic so I'll certainly be keeping my eyes and ears out for more opportunities like that too.

If anybody is interested in attending one of my workshops then they can check out the availability and dates here jakehicksphotography.com/training/ And for those that can't make it to the UK for one of my workshops you can always check out my comprehensive Colour Gel Portraits and Retouching video tutorial jakehicksphotography.com/tutorial/  


“Vice” - Photography, 2015

 

FOR MORE OF JAKES WORK VISIT jakehicksphotography.com

INTERVIEW by HANNAH SMITH

 

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