Introducing local Bristol talent and award-winning photographer Jack Powley
In the latest in the series telling the stories behind some of our amazing Yuup hosts, small business journalist Dan Martin speaks to photographer Jack Powley.
How do you snap a brilliant selfie? Jack Powley is a man who knows. He’s a Bristol-based photographer who has worked with award winning film directors and BAFTA qualifying festivals. His work has been exhibited around the world, and it features in a new installation at Bristol’s We The Curious science museum.
Jack is one of Yuup’s newest hosts and you can pick up some top photography tips by signing up to one of his experiences. He’ll show you how to take a world class selfie in a stunning Bristol location and teach you how to take a professional studio portrait of a model.
Dan spoke to Jack about how his business got started, the inspiration behind his work and what you can look forward to during his Yuup experiences.
How did you become a photographer?
I used to work in film and TV in the camera department. I loved it but it just wasn't people or story focused enough. I thought about how I could change my career so that I was meeting more people and working closely with their stories. I thought I’d give photography a try as I had been working with cameras for such a long time. I used to watch the directors from afar and think ‘I want to do that’. Portrait photography is like directing because you’re in a studio looking for those powerful shots.
When I launched, I built my brand mainly through word of mouth. I’m lucky to have met lots of actors through my film and TV career. I reached out to people and asked them to sit for me and have portraits taken. I managed to get the word out using Instagram because it's such a visual medium. Before I knew it, I had actors like Jean-Luc Guizonne, who played Mufasa in The Lion King musical, contacting me and asking for portraits.
Your work features in a new exhibition at Bristol’s We The Curious science museum. How did that come about?
The lockdowns last year were a tough time for creatives and I was initially worried about what was going to happen. But then I got a call from We The Curious who enjoyed my portrait work. They commissioned me for the new Project What If exhibition. I travelled around the country meeting people with various illnesses. I worked with young blind people, people with Pfeiffer syndrome, amputees and those with mental illness.
The installation is focused around whether we will ever find a way to cure illnesses. The question was one of several sourced from the people of Bristol. The whole project has been designed around a survey of questions from the public. The people of Bristol have helped create the space which is really nice because it reflects the creativity and curiosity of the city.
"Yuup reflects the friendly, fun and creative nature of Bristol. There are so many creators who want to collaborate and Yuup captures that spirit."
How else did the coronavirus pandemic change the way you work?
I started shooting photography outside. It was something that I'd done before but it hadn’t been a big part of my work process. I shot in parks and other beautiful spots around Bristol. Doing that helped generate the idea for my Yuup selfie workshop.
What is it like running a business in Bristol?
Bristol is full of creative people who are up for helping out and contributing, even if it's not their own venture. It's scary putting yourself out there and offering a service but when I started, the response was great. There is almost an endless supply of people to collaborate with in Bristol which is exciting.
Why did you decide to work with Yuup?
Yuup reflects the friendly, fun and creative nature of Bristol. There are so many creators who want to collaborate and Yuup captures that spirit. From scanning through the website, I want to do most of the experiences! There are other photographers on it doing work that’s completely different to mine. I'd love to go to one of their experiences and see someone else's process. Our work is so different but we’re photographers brought together by Yuup and I’m sure there's a lot I could learn.
"It doesn't matter if you're a camera whizz or you don't know how to turn one on; it’s creative people having fun and working towards a result. "
What can people expect if they sign up to your Yuup experiences?
When I started out, I was shooting in a small cupboard with one cheap light but I was still getting good results. A lot of the photographs I took in the early days are still at the forefront of my website. Professional photography can seem quite inaccessible because of the need for expensive kit and understanding complex terminology, but there are some simple basics which give you good results.
Creativity, fun and a gentle learning environment are at the core of my Yuup experiences. It doesn't matter if you're a camera whizz or you don't know how to turn one on; it’s creative people having fun and working towards a result.
The selfie workshop is about learning simple techniques to take your own portraits. You’ll leave with some tips and tricks and a cool shot of yourself that stands out from the crowd. We’ll be shooting in some great spots in Bristol. I think it would be a waste to not capture the beauty of the city as a background.
The portrait photography experience is indoors and it’s an insight into the way a professional works in a studio. You’ll work with a professional model and I’ll teach three simple lighting techniques. You’ll move the lights around, experiment and see the results. You’ll learn what it's like to work with a model, how to talk to them and how to capture different emotions through the lens.
Again, you can be a camera whizz or you can know nothing and I’ll guide you through the process. You’ll go away with a professional portrait of a professional model.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to go down a more social documentary direction. Instead of taking photographs with the intention of making people look as good as possible, it's more about capturing the truth and the essence of the person.
When I was working on the installation for We The Curious, I found that I was directing people less and less. I’d let them walk into the studio and see how they posed if I said nothing. My thinking was the less I directed them, the more truth I would capture. It was really thrilling and different to how I've always worked, including in film which is all about staging and getting everything perfect. It was a profound moment and has redefined the way I’m looking forward.
You'll find more about Jack's work on his website.