What’s your background? How did you move into what you do now?
As a career choice, photography came to me quite late in the day. Since I was a kid, I was as fascinated by cameras as I was by the Millenium Falcon, but I didn’t believe there was a future in either of them professionally. I thought that if I was going to make a name for myself at anything creative, it would be through music, and that’s a path I followed for a while. I did live sound and recording for bands, tried my hand at being a DJ; but I always thought being creative had to take second place to my 9 to 5 IT job.
— Paul Condron (@CondronPhoto) December 21, 2016
I ended up in London, working for a tech startup, spending a lot of my free time blagging my way into music venues, withy camera kit as an excuse to see free gigs. That was the turning point really. Marketing saw some of my work, and got me involved with some of their projects and events. After a few months, I was spending more time working with them, than with my own team, and as luck would have it, they offered me the opportunity to create a new role as their head of media production. It was super scary to leave a conventional career path in IT, but it was a life changing opportunity, and a no-brainer.
Tell us about your interest in how we live creative lives?
When I was a kid, success at school was measured by your prospects of becoming an accountant or a doctor – or a member of the rugby team. Despite my efforts, I was considered ‘too bright’ to study anything other than business or science, which I ended up doing, and it made an absolutely miserable teenager out of me.
As a society, we pay lip service to creativity – because it has been educated out of us. As a result, and I’m paraphrasing something Briana Wettlaufer (CEO Stocksy) said in a recent interview, old companies have been driven by finance and business development, with the creative part an optional extra dictated by executives. However, the most inspiring and innovative companies we see today allow creatives to dictate development, with finance and business departments supporting that creative vision. We’re realising more and more that decision making based on numbers is vanity matrix. Methodologies like Scrum, Agile or Design Thinking are not new, they’re not trends or initiatives, but prerequisites to reacquaint ourselves with our creative abilities and reeducate ourselves back to thinking in a way that is innately human.
— Paul Condron (@CondronPhoto) November 21, 2016
How do you help companies engage with being more creative? (If that’s the right interpretation of what you do?)
I help companies identify creative opportunities, anything from finding solutions to existing issues, to helping them develop or conceptualise new ideas. That usually takes the form of a creative audit, where you embed yourself in and learn the organisation, talking to as many people as possible, creating an environment where everyone feels safe, because invariably the best ideas come from those who might feel they don’t have a voice.
Moving forward, I’d like to try something different, working with an organisation that has a creative residency or an artist in residence project. I think there’s enormous value to sharing your process with people, not just to promote creativity, but as an educational resource. Obviously, the freedom to work on personal projects is great, but its also a great opportunity to collaborate with a company and help them drive their creative and company culture.
What tips would you give to startups? / Most common mistakes you see them making?
For me, the most obvious, and clichéd, is to believe in what you’re doing. Scratch your own itch. Don’t settle for anything less than remarkable, because nobody will believe in what you’re doing unless you do your own self. Then, read “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek. Find creative mentors who’ll look at what your doing from a design thinking perspective. Work on your presentation, not just your pitch deck, but your story and how you represent yourself visually… and stop using that cropped photo from new year’s eve with the lads in O’Donoghue’s.
— Paul Condron (@CondronPhoto) November 23, 2016
What did you find useful about Startup Island?
I’ve been to a lot of startup gigs over the past year especially, and this was the first time that strategy and process took centre stage. No ecosystems, no unicorns. Just a refreshing collaborative weekend that somehow got everyone involved. I was running around, documenting the event, so I didn’t get to take part in the sessions, but the two keynote speakers, Jan Rutherford and Chris Paton, both ex-military, were inspirational. Refreshing.
What camera(s) do you use? Which do you prefer for which occasions?
I’m a Fuji X shooter. I made the move from Canon a couple of years ago. I was doing a lot of travelling, my kit was heavy and cumbersome, and I eventually got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying my craft anymore – I only picked up my cameras for work.
Adopting the mirrorless system brought the fun back, and I love the external controls. I won’t say they’re better than DSLRs, they’re not as fast yet, but I’m arguably getting better results. I don’t need to chimp because I see my exposure in real-time in the EVF, and people feel less intimidated by the size of the cameras, as there’s less of a techno-barrier between us. The JPEGs are beautiful, so I only tend to shoot RAW on fine-art projects (Controversial I tell thee!).
In my bag, I have an X-T1 with a 35mm and 56mm primes that I use for low light and portrait work, and an X100s as my day to day and backup camera. The X-T1 is absolutely knackered though, so I’ll upgrade to the X-T2 as soon as possible, which I’ll also use for light video work.
What are your favourite shots, why?
I shot this during a Tom Baxter gig in Koko, London. It’s not a perfect shot by any means, but it was the defining moment that changed my attitude, and self-confidence, to my photography work.
One of the things that drew me back to Ireland, was the ease of access to nature. With most of my work being portrait or documentary, I wanted to try my hand at landscapes. I grew up in Bray, so the Wicklow mountains are just down the road. I love the whole experience of nature photography, but I try to keep the process as simple as possible – landscape pixel-peepers would be horrified – I shoot everything handheld. What I love about this pic is that there’s a whole ecosystem on this one leaf.
When I started doing double exposures and composite work, one of the things I tried to avoid was the typical ‘here’s a skyline/treeline sticking out the side of someone’s head’ vibe. At the same time, I noticed how the majority of boudoir photography is very private and personal. What if you could find a way to shoot something similar to boudoir, but at the same time produce a piece of work that the subject is happy to put on their wall of show to an audience?
Emerging tech, what are you excited about, and how could it help you?
If you’re into video, there’s some pretty cool stabilisation toys – the Movi Pro is an astounding piece of equipment. In terms of lighting, I’m a big fan of using natural and available light, and seeing LED lights becoming part of the pro studio setup, and I’m talking about still photography, is a gift that’s been too long coming.
There’s a lot of talk about VR, and there will definitely be some niche uses for it, but the interface isn’t right for most of us. I’m much more excited, and a bit scared, by AR. I think that will find its way into our lives much sooner.
Have you used drones yet to take pictures, is this an area you might do more of?
Not yet, but it is something I want to take time to look at properly. At the moment, I’m quite eager to get a drone for location spotting, but there are huge opportunities – if you can actually produce quality material – not just in video but still photography also. So, yes, the DJI Mavic is on my shopping list.
We take more pictures, we share more, do you feel sometimes we are over documenting and not being in the moment? What’s your take on this?
I do, but that’s always the case with new technology, and things have a habit of calming themselves down. When I’m working at an event, it does seem overkill, especially when you have a paid photographer there, to be watching the event through your phone. I think the onus is on us to not allow it to invade our social space, in the same way that its now considered impolite to have your phone on the table amongst friends. Don’t get me wrong, I do love Instagram and I think its a great thing to see people, who didn’t think they had creative abilities, take cool pics – and you can see their craft grow as you look through their feed. But life isn’t a PR campaign either – enjoy that crazy sky with your own eyes, let your friend have beautiful wedding pics (they pay enough for them) without having iPhone paparazzi bombing every shot. I suppose, as a photographer, I’m super conscious of getting in people’s faces and ruining the moment, which is why I use the cameras I use, yet I can still take hundreds of shots and be part of the furniture… perhaps it’s just how we behave when we’re documenting these moments that’s really the issue. We’re all techno adolescents, and we just need to grow up a bit.
Anything else we should have asked you / you’d like to add?
My earliest memories of photography are from the early days of the Sunday Times Magazine, before Rupert Murdoch decided photojournalism didn’t matter anymore. I remember looking at the work of combat photographers, people like Don McCullin, and as harrowing as some of the images were, being absolutely hypnotised by them and the story that a single image could tell. I think that’s why I’m so influenced by documentary and cinema – I like to think of my work as cinematic storytelling… I’d also like to think I could be a galactic bounty hunter one day too!
— Paul Condron (@CondronPhoto) December 6, 2016
For some festive cheer; I was taking self-portraits to test lighting, but getting bored with looking at my own face, I started using Lego miniatures as subjects, and obviously, it’s a lot of fun that gives me a chance to put some humour into my work. It’s great for social media output too; when I find an article that’s worth sharing, I can quickly produce an image that’s on topic, and although it initially was an alternative to coming up with something clever to say about the link, overtime I’ve started putting captions on the images.