When Dunstan McLeish attended Focus on Imaging at the NEC, Birmingham this year to receive his Portrait Photographer of the Year Award on The Society stand, I took the opportunity to find out more about Dunstan.
Dunstan’s winning portrait was of singer Duke Bassey who had a No. 1 hit in 1994. Dunstan’s winning portrait was featured in the February 2000 edition of The Society magazine.
Dunstan is not new to photography, having started to learn the job under B arry John in 1987 before moving on to Andy Creaville in 1989. Dunstan started in this profession as he felt there was more money to be earned and he felt it was a respectable job. He enjoys the satisfaction of the smile he sees on his customers’ faces when they see his work and that, not only will those customers’ smile for years to come, but their grand children will admire his artistry. In 1991 he s et out on his own covering weddings and portraits.
Dunstan prefers to photograph portraits.
In deed in 1999 he turned down a number of wedding commissions in order to concentrate on his portrait work.
His portfolio, which is mainly black and white, displays a unique empathy with his subjects by using dramatic lighting and posing. When asked about why he leaned more towards portraiture, he expressed the view that it was less of a headache than weddings and was more profitable. He also expressed his frustration and problems with nonpaying customers (Here! Here! NDS) That said, he would like to return to covering weddings, but he would also like to explore other areas of photography e . g . product photography and possibly digital photography. However, he did say that pushing a mouse around does not appeal to him. He felt that the sense of achievement is in the studio, where he can push the lights around instead.
Dunstan is reluctant to take on board clients’ ideas as he prefers his own artistry. He has a great self-belief so will not turn down any work offered to him. One example of this was a wedding where the bride was 6 months pregnant. He said that the secret was to disguise this and he felt really pleased that he was able to give her the pictures that she thought she could never have.
When asked what advice he would give to someone coming into the profession, he was quick to make the point about self-belief. You will make mistakes, but you should learn from this. Have a strong self-belief that you can do it. He cautioned against going to a photographer who purports to show you the ropes but in reality you just end up continually acting as his/her ’bagman’ and are not allowed to do anything. Dunstan felt that way with one particular, unnamed photographer and the only way Dunstan was able to learn something was to ask. Dunstan was very dismissive of another unnamed photographer he had gone to for advice, but in reality all this photographer wanted to do was to put Dunstan down most of the time. The photographer, in question, belonged to a professional body but was unqualified.
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