For our first Photographer 101 we're introducing you to Danny Cheetham. We're going to explore how he brings his own style when working with brands.
What do you enjoy most about shooting for brands?
Collaborating with the art director or design team who are really passionate about what they do has to be the most enjoyable part of working with a Brand / Agency. It really pushes me to better my work every time I shoot. It's the photographer's role to bring the multiple layers of the idea to life but that can only happen well if you're working with a great team of creatives, and that's when the best work happens.
Which project has been your most informative to date?
Probably the Marcus Rashford mural we did last year in Withington, which was part of a larger project by Withington Walls and painted by super talented artist Akse. I think the piece really resonated with the local community and is celebrated by everyone that goes to see it. It was a simple and pure idea that had a huge impact.
Being able to spread the word and pay homage to the great work Marcus Rashford has on that scale and across so many platforms was an opportunity that very rarely comes up so I feel privileged to have been a part of it.
How do you push a brief to exceed client expectations?
Firstly its important to really understand and be on board with a concept.
Then from there you can introduce your own ideas and style on how to best deliver the brief. You're given a lot of trust when you receive a commission to produce the best work possible it's important to not forget that so the pre-production details for me are really important to get right. I find a lot of key decisions can be made on the day of the production so being prepared to make creative decisions on the day I find is a crucial factor to help to push a brief to be the best it can be.
Which clients have been a dream to work with?
It's hard to single one out to be honest, everyone I've had the privilege to work with over the years are in their own way really special to me. The projects I worked on with Adidas have been really great and helped shape my commercial practice and they were always on my list of clients I wanted to work with. Plus having the chance to travel while working with some exceptional creatives and agencies has been an amazing experience, I hope we can get back to traveling soon!
Have you had to work in any challenging locations? How did you handle it?
I wouldn't say challenging location wise, I would like to think I am always really prepared when shooting on location if I felt it might create a problem when shooting while scouting I probably wouldn't put it forward or suggest a different approach that best suits the surroundings.
Saying that I did do one shoot a few years back where it had rained really hard the night before and the ground was a mud bath so we built platforms for the cast which was a great team effort from everyone involved and worked really well, changing the initial aesthetic created something even better in my opinion. The ability to change something last minute and make decisions on the spot comes from having a good amount of experience and surrounding yourself with talented team members.
Who is the most important and or influential person for you in the world of photography right now?
Mark Power, although we shoot in a very different way Mark's project '26 different endings' was the first photo book I ever picked up in College and to this day his work inspires me to go out and make work, that to me is important and influential. More recently Tom Woods archive has been a pretty big influence too.
What concept, idea or technique do you think is most underused? Which is overhyped?
There is a time and place for every kind of technique in photography that's the beauty of the medium and industry. With social media you see a very vast array of techniques and concepts everyday. For me it's more about producing work that best fits your idea and conveys the story you're trying to tell the viewer, whatever technique that is and knowing what works best for your own practice is important.
I studied Fine Art Photography at University where everything was 5x4 and medium format and the methodology was pretty strict I would like to bring a bit more of this back to my practice. I have been shooting 35mm for the past 10 years which for me is a really liberating way to shoot, but it would be nice to slow things down a bit.
What recent technological innovation has had the biggest impact on your work?
Capture One and 35mm Digital cameras have come a long way and definitely have had a huge impact on my commercial work. My personal work is still very much film based purely because that's how I started making projects in College and University and feels the most natural to me. Also I like how it's not going to change. It's the best version of itself and there is something really nice about that.
Do you think photographers have a responsibility to make challenging, socially conscious work?
I would say so, Photographers have a responsibility to create work that's explanatory and respectful to the subject matter.
When inspiration is waning, when creativity is sapped, how do you stay inspired?
Photographic books for me are the best way to keep inspired the tactile nature of a book is inspiring in itself. Photography documentary's or interviews really help too Everybody's Street by Director / Photographer Cheryl Dunn is an excellent full length documentary full of amazing photographers. Also a lot of my friends make really good work this inspires me too.
What non-photography medium inspires your work?
Most recently I have been looking at graphic designers like Build & Stefan Sagmeister it really helps me to understand layout and format when producing an Around Here title which has been an ongoing project creating books and zines for the past 6 years.
Is the evolution of your style a conscious or subconscious process?
I have always took the approach to let things develop naturally I try not to put too many constraints on my work but I keep it in a realm where I can still recognise my personality and style in the work.
How do you balance meeting commercial objectives without sacrificing your art?
I would like to think one informs the other. How you shoot a commercial project will have some elements of your personal style within it, a composition or grade you have been working on are all useful on commercial projects. The fundamentals of both for me are the same, you're trying to tell a story or portray a message with your imagery it's finding the best way to approach it that matters. It definitely works both ways too.
What's going on in your world when you're not looking through a lens?
I am pretty lucky to have an office space near to my house so I spend most days there working on personal work or preparing for a commission. It's really beneficial to have a place to go and focus on photography and at the minute not much else is going on.
What's your advice for emerging photographers wanting to make their stamp in the industry?
I don't think there is a path to follow to become a photographer or work in photography, I think you have to find your own feet. It really helps to shoot as much as you can till you find a style, then use that to produce a body of work you're really proud of and send it out. Don't be disheartened if you don't get a reply just keep working at it.
What are you most looking forward to with your adventure with The Gate?
The chance to develop and grow as photographer while working along side creatives and producers who create great work that I respect.
Check out Danny's recent projects here and if you have a photography project that you think Danny would be great for then get in touch below!