Jody Kingzett is a London based commercial and PR photographer whose personal and commissioned work combine to make a varied and creative body of work. Working with a number of social and environmentally-themed organizations, as well covering celebrity assignments, Jody has photographed a wide segment of English society.

A keen amateur shooter while studying biology and neuroscience at Edinburgh University, he worked briefly for a start-up company before realizing that life in an office was not for him. Leaving his formal training behind, he paid his dues the old fashioned way - as an assistant to wedding, music and fashion photographers. He soon started to take on freelance work of his own. His big break into PR photography came about when a friend had organized a press shoot, and was let down by the photographer. Jody stepped in to cover the job, and more work soon followed.

 James Nesbitt and Peggy  Jenny Eclair

Complementing his commercial work, Jody's more abstract-oriented fine art work has been exhibited in London. He was part of the “24” Photography Exhibition organized by St Martins College, whereby photographers took 24 shots over 24 hours on the last day of the year (the project is to continue for 24 years). The Royal Geographic magazine has published his work on tobacco farming in Cuba, and he is currently working on a book documenting gem mining and pilgrimage in Sri Lanka. A loyal Canon 5D user and a big fan of digital imaging technology, Jody took time out to talk to us.

 An image for a charity campaign

Why did you decide to become a photographer?

I had always liked photography and practiced it (like a lot of people) as a hobby. When I went to university I was torn between studying a science or going to art school, and in the end I did Biology and Neuroscience at Edinburgh. After this I worked in a start-up company and remember being incredibly frustrated at seeing the same people and the same four walls every day. I sat down and tried to come up with a life-changing plan! I thought why not try doing photography - be creative, meet different people, see different things, it seemed to solve my dilemma. So I blagged my way through; the adage “fake it until you make it” definitely applied to me. I found that I really liked the work and people liked my pictures, so in a way it was an experiment that worked. For a long time I kept thinking it was all going to come crumbling down and if it did, my back up plan was to become a doctor. But I’ve been a working photographer for 10 years now.

What cameras do you use?

I have 2 Canon 5D MkIIs – brilliant cameras - I’ve thrashed mine and they are still reliable. They do have some quirks that are annoying; I find the reds tend to be too saturated in the skin tones for example. Apart from this they produce the best colors. I’m constantly amazed at the technology behind it all. 

How do you come up with ideas, and what do you use as inspiration for your images?

A lot of the paid stuff I do is commercial / PR photography. I suppose it is like many other creative processes - you assimilate pictures and images that are around you, see what other people are doing, get a feel for what is on trend, mix it up with your own input, and produce images that are unique to you. In terms of more creative or personal work, I find riding the bus or just walking to be a really creative time, Ideas just pop in my head, I’m not sure why - maybe because the surface thinking is distracted. I think it is really important to see other people’s work, analyze it, get input from the environment around you, keep your eyes open all the time and keep looking at the world, and then it’s hard not to come up with ideas. The difficult thing is finding the time and facilities to do anything with them.

What equipment is vital to you in the making of your images (lighting, camera accessories etc)?

I would say I’m quite low-tech in my production, so I will usually use reflectors or two Bowens monoblocs, rarely more than this. Sometimes I may not even carry my Bowens lights at all but will always take the reflector. Sometimes people get too tied up with complicated bits of kit (I do it myself) but a reflector is very powerful, and honestly sometimes keeping it natural light and low-tech produces the pics that people like the best. I have recently bought an Elinchrom ranger kit and am very impressed with this; I can see it becoming part of my regular day-to-day kit.

What do you enjoy about the digital process, and do you think digital has changed the way you shoot?

The digital process has fundamentally changed photography, no two ways about it; it has made it faster, cheaper, more versatile, less elitist (open to more people), and more reliable. I know when I’ve got a shot and don’t have to wonder if I managed to capture it or not (e.g. did she blink?), I’m not worrying about changing film or how much I’m shooting, I just shoot away (in some ways this does makes you lazy though). But digital has also increased expectations put on commercial photographers. Clients want more pictures, quicker and better than ever before. They also think that Photoshop can somehow perform amazing surgery on an individual. I’m constantly explaining that a “slim” or “not-so-ugly” button doesn’t exist in Photoshop. Retouching takes more time than they think.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I’m really privileged to see so many different sides of life. A few months ago I was photographing scientists in the morning who made a break-through on malaria, then went to the House of Lords to photograph leaders in the field of cancer, and in the afternoon I was snapping teenagers in a rough estate in Deptford. Neither of these groups would ever interact with each other but I managed to get fairly close to all three in one day and see things that shape our society. This is a great bonus for me. There is also the amazing feeling when you feel you’ve taken a great picture, almost like it is bigger and better than yourself, with a life of its own. But I’m assuming everyone does photography for this reason.

How do you see your career developing over the next few years?

Who knows? I would like to do more photo documentary work and portraiture of people who change society - writers, thinkers, scientists, politicians and the like. At the moment I’m working on a project of the UK’s leading psychiatrists and psychologists, and hopefully it will come to fruition and have a prominent exhibition. But really you never know which way the wind blows and where you will end up… I never envisaged that I would have been a photographer… but here I am and loving it. I’m just enjoying the journey and trying to keep striving forwards.

Photographer Jody Kingzett - you can see more of
his work at his website.

Jo Plumridge is a British photographer and writer. She specializes in portrait photography, and writes photographic, travel and comedy articles and books. View her work at: www.joplumridge.co.uk