Interview #15 - Ollie Ma'

Ollie Ma’ is a portrait photographer from High Wycombe, England. He first found photography through his love for music and has progressed into doing commissions for bands and portraits. He now studies in Nottingham Trent University

You can check out his portfolio here, on Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook

In case you missed his Favourite Five, you can check his picks here

Give us a little bit of introduction about yourself

I’m 21 years old and I’m studying photography at Nottingham Trent University.

How did you get interested in photography?

I first became interested in photography when my friends started a band and needed some press shots.

What fascinates you in shooting portraits?

For me, the most fascinating thing is that a photograph can preserve the image of someone.

How did your first ever shoot go?

It’s difficult to know what would count as my first shoot, so I’m going to consider my first commissioned shoot. I was photographing a band called The Running Guns, and we snuck into some landscape gardens to take some press shots. It was a lot of fun and I remember it being this shoot that made me want to be a photographer professionally.

How does living in the your area affect you as a photographer? 

Currently, I’m living between my university flat in Nottingham and my home in Great Kingshill. Both areas provide loads of interesting locations to shoot in. Great Kingshill is a small village though, which can be limiting when it comes to photography.

How is the photography scene like in England?

There are so many inspiring photographers from London at the moment. I find the most interesting work comes from editorials, and I see loads of that on Instagram.

You have also done shoots for musicians or bands. How is it different from doing, I guess, your personal work?

When I’m photographing a musician or a band, I’m still influenced by the themes and conventions that I use in my personal work. The only difference is that they might have a specific vision that I would have to consider alongside my own.

Is it challenging being a photographer over there?

I don’t think there’s anything stopping someone from being a photographer in England. The only challenges I can think of would be individual to the photographer.

Let’s talk about how you approach your work. How do you prepare before doing a shoot?

I use Google Street View a lot to find locations. I look at previous shoots to remember what went well, and what didn’t. I make sure my batteries are charged and that I have enough storage.

Do you have preferences for subjects or models?

I prefer to photograph people who have some kind of unique style and who are confident and open to trying different things.

What goes through during the actual shoot?

Usually I’ll meet whoever I’m photographing, and we will spend most of the time walking between different places that I found on street view.

If you don’t mind sharing your workflow for post-processing?

I use Adobe Lightroom mostly and I have a few custom presets that I like to use. I tend to look at my images collectively as well as individually.

Are there any photographers that inspire you?

At the moment I’m really enjoying what Laurie Bartley is doing. And then there are the big names like Gregory Crewdson, Hannah Starkey and Fred Herzog 

I assume you have shot in film before. Is it satisfying? Do you approach your work differently than in digital?

I used to shoot a lot of film, and I really appreciate the extra time that you spend planning on each exposure. At the moment I find it more convenient to shoot digital and apply those skills that I learnt when shooting film.

Do you feel that camera gear or apps matter to you in helping you to achieve what you want?

In my own work the gear doesn’t matter too much to me as long as the sensor size is 35mm. I think the only important thing to consider is how the camera you are using is going to affect the story you are trying to tell.

Do you feel you are earning enough as a photographer?

I’m not earning enough at the moment, but that’s because I’m only able to shoot part time whilst I’m at university.

How much you think people will value your work?

It’s hard to know, the people in the photographs are generally happy with them.

As a photographer, what do you think of using Instagram or Facebook in sharing your work? 

I think it’s vital. I get most of my commissions from Instagram and Facebook.

Those Instagram/Facebook likes - to what extent it’s a measure of people appreciating your work?

It’s hard to tell because there are so many fake accounts on Instagram, and it’s also really easy just like a photograph without thinking about it.

Do you feel okay with the attention you get?

I’m okay with it, I feel like any attention isn’t personal as I don’t post many pictures of myself on there.

Any music that you listen to lately or movies that you watch and books that you read?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Flying Lotus recently, mostly because I think their music videos are incredible. A couple of nights ago, I re-watched ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ because I love how it was shot. I don’t read often, but I do find the work of Henry David Thoreau interesting.

What do you want out of photography? What’s your ultimate goal?

I guess ideally I’d like to make a body of work that people will still talk about in 100 years.

Anything that keeps you excited in the future?

I’m looking forward to shooting more, and to visiting Los Angeles next summer.

Any last words?

Nothing comes to mind.