I am sure some of you out there are looking this blog and you are saying to yourself who the hell am I and what do I know about photography? Well, my answer is I know absolutely nothing at all and each day I do a photo shoot I treat it like it’s the first photo shoot I have ever done. That way of thinking it keeps me fresh and young and still open to learning. I never feel or think like I have achieved anything in photography as each day I consider myself a student of photography and of life itself, so I will always stay fresh and keep learning.
However, If you are interested I will pretend that someone is actually reading this nonsense, and will tell you a little of my past. My name is Graham and I moved to Los Angeles from Manchester England in 1981. I arrived with no experience in anything, so I called and knocked on all the doors of every photographer in the yellow pages book…(“no Google back then” ) in Los Angeles and Hollywood. After many weeks of asking and getting nowhere, I eventually got a job assisting a celebrity photographer called Darryll schiff. I pretended I had previous experience in assisting other photographers in England and Daryll gave me a full-time job assisting him. Each day a different celebrity would knock his door and I would let them in, make them tea or coffee, set up the lights and camera and clean his camera gear. He taught me how to use Hasselblad, Mamiya, 4×5 film cameras and Nikon film cameras, he also taught me how to print and develop black and white film in the darkroom, then after the print was developed he taught me how to retouch prints the old fashions way before photoshop. I truly appreciated and respected Daryll for what he gave me and will always be thankful for the opportunity. After just over a year of learning all the tricks of the trade, another position opened up with much higher pay grade working for another photographer who was known for shooting fashion and advertising campaigns along with celebrities, called Charles bush now called Bush studios. The commercial jobs that Charles was shooting were on a bigger scale and much more commercialized and I learned a lot about commercial sets and lighting huge advertising campaigns. Each day was a huge job and we barely had time to prepare for the next day, it was from one job to another. After learning a lot from Charles I heard about this assistant photographers list at a company called PRS on Highland Blvd in Hollywood. It was the place to be for professional photographers from all over the world, It was where photographers who came into town to do a phot-shoot went to rent out their cameras and equipment. It was an ultra trendy and very busy place, all day long in the fascinating arena of the professional world of photography. I got to know one of the workers at PSR, so he put me on the freelance assistant’s list at the top. So when any celebrity shooter came into town or a fashion shooter for vogue, they would ask for this list at PRS and they would call me up. I was extremely busy for the next five years assisting all kinds of professional photographers from around the world, with someone new and different each day. I worked on everything from fashion to celebrities, rock bands, advertising campaigns, even car photography, and food photography, just about anything and everything I worked on in these years. I even got a call from Play Boy magazine and worked as a freelance assistant working mostly on location, and got to learn the specific lighting techniques and colors of gel’s they used over the lights to give the models a suntan look. I learned how they retouched the model’s skin to make them as glamorous as they did along with the best natural lighting technique to make them younger than they actually were. Some of the people you may know of that I assisted back in those days were photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Matthew Rolston, etc etc on and on…there were hundreds of photographers and I won’t mention them all, I will just bore you too much. So in these important years of my life, I learned a lot about style, angles, framing, lighting, cropping, how to direct people, models, celebrities and musician’s and how to achieve just about any kind of commercial photography you could think of. We traveled the world many times and had the best and busiest times of my life, especially shooting for advertising campaigns & International Fashion & Beauty and lifestyle stories for all the top Magazines on the shelf.
Eventually, I started to do my own thing and started doing fashion shoots and commercial shoots, working for magazines and advertising agencies and record companies like capital records. One day after doing my own photography for a few years, I was waiting for a friend to finish work, he was a movie poster designer called Dan. So as I was waiting for him he asked me if I wanted to play around in this new software called Adobe Photoshop. Back then, it was very much in its early stages, there were no layers like there is today, It was photoshop 1.0 I think. So I became fascinated and hooked on this software with this idea of being able to manipulate a photograph on the computer. The next day my friend told me the owners of the company really liked my poster I was playing with and I began to help them design posters part-time for a few weeks, so I learned the movie poster advertising business, without going to school. Three weeks later the word got out and I was offered a full-time position at Universal Studios in Hollywood as an Art Director for Motion Pictures Advertising…Yes, it really did happen just like that, no school, no resume, just contacts and word of mouth, I find this way always works the best.
I was there at Universal Studios for three years, learned a lot about creative design for marketing and promotion pertaining to the business tactics of the movie industry. Then I got offered a bigger position at 20th Century Fox, I stayed there for another three and a half years as a creative director of advertising for posters, billboards and various other forms of marketing for the movies. So after a Great and rewarding experience working for Fox, I frequently was asked by other movie studios to work for them on various blockbuster campaigns, so I started to freelance for many other movie studios like Walt Disney, Dream Works, Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures and MGM… I would still shoot fashion jobs on the side when I had time, but I was so wrapped up in the movie world I didn’t have a lot of time for photography. Until one day I fell in love with the Hawaii lifestyle after a vacation visit to Maui, I felt so relaxed and at home with its nature and its wonderful local people and I realized Maui was more suited for me than the busy streets on Los Angeles. So I moved here and dived into my photography skills that I missed so much. I shot my first wedding on Maui in 2004 at the Grand Wailea. I have since shot hundreds of weddings and family portraits on Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island. So now I own and help run 808 pictures in Hawaii and I like to think I have instilled into the company the same professional International standards of excellence that I learned over the years in the creative industry. 808 Pictures has a fantastic team of experienced professional photographers who are super nice to work with and extremely talented. So it’s a dream come true that I now live on the beautiful island in Hawaii called Maui, high up in the mountains with beautiful views of the ocean. I love my life and appreciate everything I have achieved over the years. Thank you for reading this, if you are still awake 🙂