Meet Marcus and Sam

Aug 24, 2023 | Creativity

“Show Notes”

Sam and Marcus are in the same room together and took this rare opportunity to
quiz each other about their past! This episode is a little like being present as they
chat about their past in the pub, pint in hand.

Sam started design websites n the 90’s working with HTML and hand coding in
Notepad. And even though he had various jobs he was always designing websites
in the background. As a keen Whitewater_kayaker he did a lot of traveling, visiting exotic places for his sport.

Designing websites with photographs had its problems early on as it meant relying
on scanning negatives and transparencies. Then compressing files significantly so
they could load quickly.

His dad was a wedding photographer and Sam built up a lot of knowledge
assisting him on weddings. A valuable experience that helped him direct his focus
on designing websites for photographers as well as an understanding what makes
a great image.

Marcus found photography in his mid 30’s after a successful career as a session
bass player. Prompted because he was looking for a new creative outlet and after
purchasing a decent camera was drawn into the way he could “contain” the world
through a viewfinder.

quickly immersing himself into studying the subject at college and university he
‘moved from his home in London to Brighton to partake in a BA in Editorial Photography. Then onto a role assisting a top advertising photographer for a few
years helping out creating the image with flash lighting!

After branching out on his own shooting fashion he eventually starting working for
the Hair and Beauty industry in his own studio in London as well as LA, NY and
Paris. He also ran workshops for hairdressers on how to photograph their own
work for magazines.

After 10 years Marcus was offered a post as a Senior Lecturer in Fashion and
Advertising Photography at the University of South Wales moved to Bristol and after another eight years set up his current practice as a Brand

“Show Transcription”

Sam: Hi, Marcus. How you doing?

Marcus: I’m very well, Sam. How are you?

Sam: Very good. And it’s very exciting because we are actually here in the same room, in the same country, recording together for the first time ever.

Marcus: That is very true. That is very true. And very nice. Very nice to have you in the UK, Sam.

Sam: No, it’s great to be a pity. You couldn’t organize without rain, but  

Marcus: the weather is bad. So I think it’s a high time in the series of podcasts that we’ve done to tell our listeners a little bit more about ourselves and what makes us experts in our field. So, Sam, maybe I can start with you and you could tell me how you became how you became an expert marketeer.

Sam: Probably start with web design, because it kind of started from there. So web design I’ve been doing for a long time. So back at university, which was back in the was in the Canoe Club and, yeah, I was doing electronic engineering, so somebody said, well, you can take on the website. So somebody showed me what to do. And back then, we were literally writing it, HTML in notepad, so there wasn’t any fancies operating. We were literally hand coding it in notepad to get it to work. And I kind of started from there and then always have helped people with websites. So while I was teaching, while I was doing other jobs, I’d always end up doing bits and pieces, websites. So I did a job for Hewlett Packard Support and actually I built a little website where we listed all the devices and all the features so you could quickly find it if a customer had a query. And I’d keep track of all the common faults on there. And if I joined the local choir or something like that, I’d end up building the website, running the website. So it kind of started from there.

Marcus: Well, first of all, Sam, there’s a lot to unpack in what you read it. First of all, what’s? The Canoe Club.

Sam: So, as in kayaking. So we used to do whitewater kayaking and go all over the country and eventually all over the world.

Marcus: Oh, wow.

Sam: Doing whitewater trips. So, yeah, been out to Russia, been out to the States, and been out to Nepal, Turkey, all over the world.

Marcus: What a great thing to do. And so, from what you’re telling me, Sammy, you were almost working on websites at the very beginning of the internet, what, back in the early 2000?

Sam: Yeah, but what? Beginning of the World Wide Web. The internet’s been now a lot longer. But, yeah, HTML and websites and stuff. Not right at the beginning, but, yeah, not far off. Certainly not that many people were using home computers and the internet and stuff back then and yes, it was in the early days of websites and they were very simple. They were just bits of text and the OD picture.

Marcus: Yes. Okay. How did you bring in photography into this, then?

Sam: Well, back then not a lot, because that was quite a challenge back then because it was pictures were on film pictures. You had to scan them in. And so we used to yeah, because we used to do trips with the Canoe club and we used to have film cameras where they used to take a penny case, which is a big plastic waterproof case, then put that in your car, which kind of trapped you in, which wasn’t ideal, and hop out and watch and take pictures and things and yeah, you’d get them processed and then go and find a scanner and scan them in and then reduce the quality as low as you possibly could because everyone was on a dial up modem. And then put them on there. So it was quite a process back in those days.

Marcus: But it was your dad who got you into photography, though, wasn’t it?

Sam: Yeah, so he was professional and he started me out. So I started with film cameras from a young age. I got him from cartridge, like a cartridge type one initially.

Marcus: Oh, yes.

Sam: And then he got me onto one APS. No, before they’re like a big cartridge. Okay, well, that was really old. And then he got me onto one. You could kind of change the settings a bit and then by the time I was eleven or twelve yeah. He handed me a Canon AE one and a lens.

Marcus:  right.

Sam: And showed me how it all worked. And I was off with that.

Marcus: Yeah. And I remember you telling me a story that your dad was a wedding photographer and you started off by assisting your dad.

Sam: Yeah, no, that’s it. So, yeah, once I was old enough to work back then 1314, I can’t remember. Yeah. Had to put on my jacket and tie and carryall his bags and unpacking those big round reflectors up to learn to pack them and learn what he wanted. And then soon afterwards, I was then taking my A one and doing the casual shots in the background. So once I knew he had what he needed, I was doing the casual shots and he gave me a bit of commission if they got sold. So I was doing like black and white casual shots while he was doing the much more with the big square format film, the big formal shot,

Marcus:  right? Like the medium format. You were doing that, the setup shots, and you were going around and photographing and documenting the crown.

Sam: That’s it, basically trying to keep an eye on which the key guests were, make sure I’ve got them, but also just general guests enjoying themselves.

Marcus:  That strikes me as being quite ahead of the game because the sort of time period you’re talking about. Weddings were seen as being very formal and your dad obviously wanted to get away from that and offer more.

Marcus: Is that

Sam: I guess he very much stopped to those formal shops. But, yes, there was real value in the casual ones and that’s what I was doing. And then some of them would have a videographer, too, and there’d be video.

Marcus: But was there any time that you thought about going into photography?

Sam: On and off. So I did so at university. I had the camera then and I did after university, I was travelling and I did send some slides off to various magazines back in the day. So it’s literally I read a few we were living in Scotland, so I had quite a few mountain shots and stuff. So found a few relevant magazines and it was back in those days, send a letter with some slides and a stamped address envelope for their safe return. I didn’t get anywhere. But yeah, so I sort of looked into it a little bit. When I first started my website business, I thought about adding photography as an extra service to that. And I’m trying to know if I did, like, one or two. I can’t remember now. I did do a couple, actually. There was a cleaning company that I ended up doing some photographs for and they actually ended up cleaning my house and I suppose photographing them there. So, yeah, even when I started the business I did to start with, do a little bit of photography for that too.

Marcus: So super cool. I can see now how the story has developed that you’re working exclusively, or not exclusive, but specializing in websites for photographers. You had a background in photography, you had a very strong background in websites. When was it you started to really marry those two together?

Sam: Like I said, when I first started the website business, I thought at that stage it might involve me doing photography much more. And then I was making websites generally from sorts of people, and then as time went on, I thought it would be nice to specialize in a particular area. And yet it didn’t take long to come up with photographers, partly, like you said, because of this history, it was kind of a logical thing to do. And when I thought about it, and some of the photographers I’d worked with and looking at photographer’s website, it was an area I felt I could add some value. Quite a lot of people needed help. A lot of people were trying to sell just using their pictures, which doesn’t work for a lot of people. They needed help with that text and that story behind it, rather than just look at the picture.

Marcus: That’s absolutely brilliant. It’s just great how organically those two have come together. And obviously nowadays you can really help photographers out. You’ve helped me out with my website, looking at it, not just from a software point of view, but also from an aesthetic point of view.

Sam: Yeah. So Marcus, we ought to talk to you a little bit as well about your history, so let’s go right back. When did you get your first camera?

Marcus: I got my first, well my first official camera; I would say in my mid thirty s I was doing music. Before that I was a session player, a bass player, so I was playing on people’s records, they bring me in as a freelancer and then in the mid nineties, ninety seven, I got myself a really nice camera.

Sam: So what prompted you for suddenly go from bass player to get a nice camera?

Marcus: Well that’s a very good question and it was basically at that time I was playing on people’s records and I wanted to stop. I felt I wanted more creative control and I thought I can may be learn to write songs and sing but I didn’t have really skills in that department. So when I was running through that I bought myself this camera and I remember picking up and looking through it and thinking wow, this is exactly what I want to do next. There was something about that, looking through that viewfinder and the way I could contain the world, I didn’t know that at the time but looking back on it, how I could sort of contain the world really turned me on and I thought, wow, this is exactly what I want to do next. So what I did was I was up in London and I enrolled on an evening course in photography, those old City and Guilds course I’m sure you know about and I’ll listen to, know about and my teacher said to me I had an aptitude towards that and I should really think about taking it further. So I went off and studied at university in Brighton, down in the South England. I did that for about three or four years, graduated. I studied editorial photography, which is very much about photography, for books and magazines at that time. This is all in film. And then basically did my BA in photography, editorial photography, and then moved back up to London. And then I started assisting. So I assisted. Very lucky I’ve gotten with a really successful advertising photographer. And we were doing some amazing Sam.

Sam: When you say assisting, does that mean you’re lifting and carrying or you’re also taking photos, too? I wasn’t taking the photos, no. But what I was doing, I started off as  a second assistant, which is lifting and carrying, and then gradually worked my way up to being a lighting assistant.

Sam: Okay. Because I’m much more involved in what’s going on.

Marcus: Exactly. I always used flash lighting at university, studying it, and I was very at home with it, and I was teaching my fellow students how to use it. So it was something I was very comfortable with. And that was great because the way it worked with the advertising photographer, basically, he’d show me the brief or an illustration of how the finished image was meant to look, and I would set the lights up

Sam: at that stage, to match that look

Marcus: to match that look. Exactly. Okay. Yeah. So it’s quite a skilled job. And so, yeah, we had a lot of very big clients, and it was really good time. And that infused me and helped me understand more the business side of things and how to work with advertising agencies, how to work with the brief. And so I got a studio in London, in northeast London, and started doing my own work.

Sam: Then you were suddenly the photographer then?

Marcus: Exactly, I was the photographer. It was a bit of a sort of blend from one to the other. It didn’t happen overnight, but, yeah, I blended in to do all my own work. And so I was working in magazines, working model agencies, doing shooting fashion, which was my passion at that time. And it was still going very well, but I was still looking for more, so more work, more money, better clients, that kind of thing. So I went over to show my sister, who was a hairdresser over in New York, and she gave me some connections of hairdressers that I could work with. So I went over with my portfolio, my book, they call it, and started to show that around. And, yeah, they really liked my work. They thought my work was a bit more edgier than the hair photographers they’d been working with, and they really liked that. So I gradually built up a practice over in America and, yeah, started shooting New York LA. Coming back here, shooting in Paris and around the world and the air all started to really take off.

Sam: So did you have your own studio over in New York?

Marcus: No, we would always rent studios and even all my equipment I’d rent, I think I took my camera with me, but yeah, it was all renting stuff.

Sam: How many years you were over in the US?

Marcus: Roughly about a ten year period.

Sam: Just sort of different places. New York, La.

Marcus: Yes, I remember doing also workshops. I did a tour of America for Weller, they sponsored it at Weller or a hair color manufacturer, and I would go around to do shows in different cities for hairdressers, teaching them how to do their own photography.

Sam: Okay, really interesting. And so what drew you back to the UK?

Marcus: Basically I got offered this was about 15 years after I started doing Fascimatography I got offered a job as a senior lecturer at university in South Wales. At the University of South Wales and I was at that time looking to settle down a bit more, get a house, get a dog and all that kind of time. It came at the right time for me, Sam, and I really enjoyed that. So I became a senior lecturer in fashion and advertising photography and did that for eight years and loved it.

Sam: And then were you doing commercial work too or you just lecturing? It was just lecturing,

Marcus:  just lecturing and of know, typical me, I did that and I wanted to do after about eight years I was going to do something else, so I was setting up, I wanted to go back and do my own photography. So that brings me to why I am now working as a branding photographer in Bristol.

Sam: Okay, and so why branding and why?

Marcus:  Right, yes. Okay, well, Bristol because I was living here and you have my lecturing and didn’t really want to go back to London at that stage. And branding, when I started off branding photography about three years ago, I didn’t even know what it was, Sam, and it was only a photography mentor I had at that time suggested it to me and he said, well, look, you’ve done fashion, you’ve done advertising. Branding is really those two things coming together, it’s making people look good and it’s selling a service or a product. So yeah, I thought, yeah, that just would be perfect for me. And I work in very much in the same way to how I worked before. I have an assistant, I do lighting, we plan it all out just like a fashion suit. And I have that same idea. Yeah.

Sam: Excellent, amazing. Well, hopefully for our listeners and that gives you a bit of an idea of our background, a bit of a starter, little bit of a taster. I hope that is interesting to you and don’t forget, if you want to hear more, get extra information than you get on the podcast, you get little extra snippets each week, then sign up to the newsletter. To sign up to the newsletter, you just need to go to websiteforphotographers.Co.UK/ podcast. So that’s website4photographers with the number 4.Co.UK forward slash podcast sign up, get lots of extras there and get the podcast delivered straight to your inbox. And I will speak to you next time, Marcus.

Marcus: Yeah, and I look forward to speaking with you, Sam. Thanks very much.

Sam: All right, bye.