Paul Smith is one of the senior members of the media team and has had a successful and varied career in photography. In order to gain a better understanding of working in the industry Paul talked to us about his life so far.
At 16 Paul joined the army, a keen diver he felt that they would help him pursue that path. However shortly after finishing training he was stationed in Germany during the cold war. The social and political times brought tensions from Ireland and pressure from Russia.
Paul became disillusioned with his role as an explosive expert and changed his direction to become a paramedic. It was here that he found his true calling. Life as a medic lacked action with people rarely becoming injured so he picked up a camera and began to document the events he had to attend. After a while this became an obsession and as his skill improved it eventually led to him becoming the fulltime photographer.
Ultimately Paul lost his passion for a military life and despite offers to stay on he left to pursue his own dreams. Following his photographic passion he chose to study fine art at university but Paul wanted to tailor his projects to images and printing and he wanted this focus to be within the aboriginal culture. After some negotiating with Perth University he headed out the Australian outback where he studied aboriginal culture and art and created a project around that culture.
Returning to the UK, Paul decided to look for work and took a job as the duke of Edinburgh awards official photographer. Here Paul learned to work through complicated briefs and the demands from magazines. This job took him around the world photography various cultures and their lives.
Paul eventually decided to finish his studies and returned to Coventry university to complete his degree before joining the london school of art to take a masters. One of Paul’s first projects took him back to his army days and he wanted to explore the reasons he first joined and the fantasy elements that draw people into that lifestyle. This was also the time that computers began to rise to prominence and Photoshop began to emerge as a powerful photographic tool. Paul spent time learning this and set about creating a series of self portraits, combing images of himself into single images. From here his work was exhibited and was picked up by Charles Saatchi who purchased a number of Paul’s images. This inspired Paul to take his work even further and he decided to explore further elements of male behaviour.
Paul began a project to look at the typical laddish behaviour and the antics and joviality that exists with drunken behaviour. This all linked back to the testosterone driven mentality that exists within the army. The latest set of work was equally well accepted and Saatchi continued to purchase the work and support Paul. Shortly after this work Paul was nominated for a prestigious award and began to exhibit in numerous galleries around the world where he was now earning a steady living selling his pictures through these galleries.
Paul was eventually approached by a film company but due to a mis-understanding Paul had to produce a short video based around the themes from his photographic images. This video became a success and sold as a piece of art in addition to making money for the studio who had originally commissioned the piece.
This led to Paul’s most famous work when he was approached to do an album cover for song writer and musician Robbie Williams. The job description and the expectations from this job brought a new reality and he went to get an agent to help him to arrange this shot. Hiring out Stamford Bridge stadium for the shoot Paul took a series of images of Robbie Williams using his multiple image style that he had been perfecting for the last few years. This album cover became well-known and Paul went on to make a series of works with Robbie Williams and all those images maintained the same themes and styles that had become Paul’s signature.
Moving on from Robbie Williams Paul began to consider future work, he wanted to move away from the multiple same person images and try new ideas. He took inspiration from fictional action heroes and created series of images around scenes from these people’s lives and this then progressed to an exploration of sexuality and eroticism but not to stimulate. Paul returned to commercial work as it was more lucrative and set about making numerous works for various commercial companies.
Moving back to artwork Paul began his most recent body of work called impact. This is a series of images taken of shrapnel and bullets that has been twisted and bent through explosion or usage in crimes.
Looking a Paul’s career it clearly shows the need for self-sufficiency and commitment that is required to became a top photographer. There is a great deal of investment required, both financial and personal and also a lot of self belief. Like my self, Paul followed a completely different career path before finding his way into photography and even though I am arriving at a similar conclusion later in life I can take some confidence that it is possible with the right amount of perseverance, hard work and dedication.