"Whenever people ask me how I’d describe my work I always say contemporary London through my perspective [...] The upper class lawyer or banker who lives in Golders Green is going to have a completely different perspective of London to what I do, but if he/she were to look at my work it would open up an entirely different side of London to them, a side they may not have even realised existed."
There are many ways to document a culture. At DONTFCKABOUT we usually focus on music artists and the tracks they produce, but today we’ve decided to mix things up a bit by speaking to someone who sees London’s music scene and culture in a different manner – through a lens.
Steven M. Wiggins is a London based photographer who has worked his way up to being heavyweight UK music channel SBTV‘s ‘go-to’ photographer for events and interviews. His photographs offer an often a hyper-gritty and intense experience, offering a democratically unique and interesting perception of London and its music scene.
Above are some of our favourite of Wiggins’ photos, but be sure to check out his tumblr and Instagram page for the full collection. Watch out for his name on the SBTV website aswell, as he pops up on there regularly!
Check out our exclusive interview with Steven M. Wiggins below to learn more about his work!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your name and where do you come from?
My name is Steven M. Wiggins and I come from Acton, West London.
2. What kind of gear do you use?
- Camera body – Canon 5D Mark iii
- Lens – Currently two lenses, a Canon 50mm 1.2 & a Cannon 24mm 1.4
- Tripod – I mainly use a Joby Gorrillapod but I also have a Manfrotto tripod
- Filters – Currently not using any camera filters
- Flash – No flash either!
- Camera bag – No camera bag atm, I just pack everything into my rucksack and I’m good to go
- Mention others, if any. (etc etc) – Macbook pro, Adobe Lightroom 5, My Passport External Hard Drive
3. How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
Just by looking at other peoples work. Theres a lot of talented people involved in this niche photography scene that I’m apart of and one thing that I admire about this social media community is how everyone draws influence and inspiration from each others work. I’m always looking at other peoples work, not just because I admire and appreciate their creativity but It enables me to learn and improve my own work. Also, watching the odd youtube video and reading material online every so often can help too.
4. Among your works and series’ so far, which one is your favorite? Why?
Honestly it’s hard to narrow it down. I’d say my one of my favourite individual images I’ve produced would be a portrait I took of my friend Ren Phillips on the Central Line (even though he doesn’t like the picture ha) for the reason that it’s just an accurate glimpse into my perspective. Him sitting in a central line train carriage is an image I’ve seen countless amounts of times when we’ve gone into central London for a night out, so it’s just giving viewers a glimpse into my perspective. My favourite series of photos would probably be some recent pics I took during the Wireless festival in Finsbury Park for SBTV. I took a mixture of crowd portraits, candid pictures and performance pics of artists such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Stormzy etc. When I get sent to these events I always make a conscious decision to document the whole event/day instead of just documenting things that I’m required to. I just find it more interesting to give people a perspective and the Wireless pics were just how I saw things over the two days I was there.
5. Whose work has influenced you most?
Theres three people that come to mind – Vincent Chapters, Emmanuel Cole and Holly Marie-Cato. These three people were the first London based Instagram photographers that I came across back when I was just taking pics with my iPhone. I just feel like their work was and is really innovative, for the reason that they were documenting London in a way that I’d never seen before. Most images of London that you’ll find online or on social media are usually of obvious places and landmarks such as Big Ben, The London Eye, Buckingham Palace etc. but the people I mentioned above were documenting areas/places that you don’t really get to see and at the same time being really creative with it. The originality, creativity and the fact that they were giving a perspective that I was instantly able to relate to was what drew me to their work. I also wanna give some mentions to Tobishinobi, Greg Coleman and Isaac J. Cambridge as I’ve also been influenced by their work at some point.
6. What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
Probably just how to use my camera better. I’m still relatively new to everything, I’ve only been shooting with a manual DSLR camera for around 3 and a half months so I’m still learning. Early on when I first started I got some really good images but I didn’t really know how to work my camera that well. I think if i had a better understanding of ISO, aperture, shutter speed and light, those early images would have come out a lot better.
7. What do you think makes a memorable photograph?
For me, I’d say images that create a mood or atmosphere – which can be quite difficult to do. The actual image itself doesn’t even have to be too intricate, it could be as simple as someone walking down a road in broad day light. But things like lighting, facial expressions, eye contact, backdrop and general composition can all work together to give the image a distinct and unique mood. You’ll always remember the photos that made you feel a certain way when you first saw them.
8. What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
Whenever people ask me how I’d describe my work I always say contemporary London through my perspective, I want people to see London and the people that live here through my perspective. I’m just one of around 8 million people that live in this city so I’m offering a unique glimpse into how I see things. The upper class lawyer or banker who lives in Golders Green is going to have a completely different perspective of London to what I do, but if he/she were to look at my work it would open up an entirely different side of London to them, a side they may not have even realised existed.
9. What do you think are some clichés in photography you steer away from yourself?
I just try not to take generic pictures of things that have been documented over and over again. I see a lot of photography trends on social media but I just feel if you’re not gonna do it in a way that hasn’t been done before it’s pretty pointless. For example I don’t really take pictures in Central London as I feel it’s been overdone and doesn’t have as much character as areas outside of Central, but every so often I might venture up and take a few snaps of things like The Shard etc. But I’ll only share the images if I feel I’ve done them in a way that’s original.
9. When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
Honestly it depends. Most of my night time/long exposure/landmark shots are pre planned. But if I’m doing street photography it’s always spontaneous as you never know what you’re gonna see. There might even be times when I’m just with someone socialising and we’ll randomly start taking pics if I have my camera on me.
10. How has social media played a role in your photography?
A very big role, to the extent that I probably wouldn’t be doing this interview if I never went down the social media route. Sharing my work on Instagram and Tumblr has definitely helped me get to where I am now, although I still feel that I’m only just starting out and have a long way to go. Consistently uploading work has certainly got me a fair bit of recognition from some of London’s leading Instagram photographers and given me opportunities such as working with SBTV.
11. Any tips for aspiring photographers?
Just do what comes true to you, make your work as original as can be and don’t feel like your work has to be of a certain style because you think it will get you followers. Reach out to people, network and take any opportunities you get given. Also, don’t think that you need to have an expensive set up to produce quality work. Do a lot of Research on photography techniques, equipment and always pay attention to other peoples work as it will help you better your own body of work.