JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you want to be growing up?
AL OVERDRIVE: A scientist, it appealed to my sense of wonder and curiosity. I always loved finding out the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ things are the way they are. So at school when they made us pick our subjects for advanced study, I had to drop my arts and textiles classes to focus on history and the sciences. Our biology teacher was a keen photographer and in our final year he took our portraits and taught us how to develop and print black and white film. I had never considered taking photography ‘seriously’ until after I left university, but this all changed when I began a job in forensics where I had to photograph evidence and crime scenes for court. Eventually I had to choose between working in science, or working as a creative photographer.
JC: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
AO: Pretty much everything and everyone ! Sometimes I see an image or a moment in a film I’m watching and I love the mood that the lighting or pose evokes. ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ has a really nice gritty, art house inspired feel to it. Lighting wise I’d consider my approach and style much more inspired by cinema than by photography. A couple of years ago I was drawn to the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi (primarily concerned with the acceptance of impermanence and imperfection), which is really inspiring my personal work. After years of shooting images with strong and even lighting, it took me a while to unlearn all this and embrace more conceptual approaches. Last year I came across David Lynch’s book ‘catching the big fish’ where he talks a lot about his meditations and how he approaches his films. That’s really inspired me, and changed how I view his films.
JC: What are you up to right now?
AO: Wrapping up an edit for some recent work Secret Cinema commissioned me for (which I can’t tell you about just yet). For those that don’t know, they put on events where you are immersed in a world created around world of the movie/album, where the guests and actors interact freely. Last year Laura Marling and Secret Cinema created a world based around her album ‘Once I was an Eagle’ which I was brought in to create a permanent record of. It was a fun collaboration and I’m glad to say she liked my interpretation and was really cooperative with helping me achieve the vision I had.
We are also in the planning stages for a collaboration with ‘head artist’ Philip Levine and designer Annike Flo to re-interpret the tale of the snails and Buddah. There are some great idea’s being discussed and I’m looking forward to shooting it.
JC: Have you had mentors along the way?
AO: Not really, I have no formal education in photography apart form the training I undertook when I worked in forensics, so I’ve not really had a chance to meet a photographer in a position to be a mentor to me. I’m lucky and have a few friends whom I’ve worked with that are really supportive of my efforts who’s opinions I really respect. I think the drive has to come from within, and you have to learn to balance the self-doubt every creative has with faith in the value of your vision. Although I have no regrets about the decisions and experiences that led to me becoming a working photographer (I loath to use the term ‘professional’) I have sometimes been curious and wondered what I would have been like to have studied photography at university and had access to tutors and mentors of that ilk.
JC: Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you?
AO: East London, UK. People say if you tire of London you are tired of life itself, and after returning to the UK after living in California I now understand what they mean. It’s an expensive, overcrowded city with a fluid population, so it can be hard for people to develop a stable identity, but this is part of what makes it worth living in! There are so many exhibitions on at any given moments, it is a gift to anyone who is seeking inspiration. It’s musical history and role in the fashion world means that you are spoilt for choice when it comes to events and experiences, as well as bars and dining. If I didn’t live in London I doubt I would have become involved in fashion week, or even in fashion photography. The competition here is fierce, so it is also shaping me by never letting me rest on my laurels or become complacent.
JC: One piece of advice to photography graduates?
AO: Professionally, treat others as you would like to be treated - I’ve seen a lot of people who are talented but are in such a rush to become a ‘brand’ or ‘big name’ that they trample all over the people who are around them. That approach may have worked in the old days, but most people I’ve met would rather work with someone they can trust than people whos only interest in the project is “what’s in it for me?”. If you work hard, have talent and are easy to work with, you’ll get a lot further than on talent alone.
JC: If all else fails - what is your plan B?
AO: This is plan B ;) Almost five years after leaving my ‘proper job’ as a forensic scientist to become a freelance photographer, I can hardly remember what it was like to work regular hours or to use a mass-spectrometer. The industry is in flux right now and I would like to think that in 5 years time there will still be people hiring photographers to create for them.
JC: Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community?
AO: Yes, most of my friends are involved in the ‘creative industries’ as everything from curators and art-lovers, through to costume-makers and producers. I’m constantly exposed to new ideas and seeing new things, it is really inspiring to be around people who are ‘doing’ rather than just ‘day dreaming’. Most of my personal work would not have been possible if I was not part of a community of people who are hungry to experiment and explore new ideas. I am also aware that I am very lucky to be where I am and doing what I do.