Visiting photographer Tony Cobley came to tell us about his work. He was extremely friendly and gave some great advice to us about photography as he was also a student from PCA, starting a career within the commercial world.
A bit of background information – he has been photographing since he was 12 as a hobby photographer, and decided when he was in his 30’s to go back to college to pursue a career within the genre. He started up his business in April 2005 whilst studying at PCA.
Some of his student projects included landscapes and structures which were criticised as being too “safe and pretty”, so he tried a new style photographing the seaside and euro travel to make things look horrible and expose the ugliness of the scenes instead. He told us how photography is about “learning to see” which is useful in a sense of being able to find things that no one has found before. There was also a technique he called “stealthy people shots” which consisted of the subject not being able to tell you are photographing them by hiding or moving the camera around after the shot – another clever technique to avoid model release forms and capturing natural shots.
He took part in some work based learning while studying which included assisting Trevor Berrows for commercial photography, Venture for portraits, South West Screen for location and property, freelance work for PCA and his freelance work to start his business.
When starting his business, Cobley specialised in family portraits and weddings, however he gave up the weddings as it was too many hours with his weekday commercial work as well. His plan was to go into commercial and marketing photography and to get a BIPP associateship, which he did successfully. He described commercial photography as “understanding the brand, promoting the organisation or establishing the brand”.
In the present day, Cobley photographs many different things: portraits, events, lifestyle, interiors, healthcare, tourism, medical and scientific things, and products on location. My favourite pieces of his work were his beds on location as it was such a unique and different idea, and the outcomes were really successful. He said it was important to know things about your clients to make it easier to interact with them and make sure that you get the right shots – for example, he photographed a famous chef who has a prosthetic hand. The chef doesn’t like his prosthetic hand being shown in photographs so this was something Cobley had to consider when shooting. He also explained that he tries to keep his photos real – which is essential in commercial photography to make sure you are exploiting the truth to the audience.
Alongside his professional work, Cobley still partakes in personal shoots which include buildings, documentary, seaside landscapes, structures, silhouettes and general landscapes. He also offers assisting opportunities which I am interested in looking into further to try and get experience of the commercial world and a standard working day for photographers such as Cobley. He was really energetic and fun which made him a desirable person to work with.
Over all, Cobley’s talk was very interesting and opened me up to many tricks I could use in my own work to get some great results. it was great to hear something from someone who is working in the commercial genre to see how it works when you get past studying. As a former student of this college it was interesting to see his progress from student to business and this inspired me to look into where I want to be in the future.