As is often the case with automotive photographers, an enthusiasm leads to a career, which then leads to a professional drive to create their own style. Much is the same with our latest interviewee, who spent his younger years sketching cars and taking the occasional snapshots based on his passion for the subject. What separates Andrew Thompson from so many in his position though is that his desire wasn’t to become a photographer: his was to get into the automotive industry with the photography following afterwards. Just part of Andrew’s time and valuable lessons learnt Behind the Lens.
Andrew, the photographer’s world is a constant competition with others in the field, possibly offering bigger and better products. Do you find it easy to produce your work under these circumstances or do you pay it little attention?
“I have a day-job, so mostly I do photography for my ‘zen moment’. That may sound strange but I really don’t feel competitive pressure from other photographers: in fact, if I see someone’s work that really impresses me, I try and share it with as many people as I can. I have enough people that approach me because of my personal style, and I’ve shot in so many places in so many different conditions, I’m confident I can produce the goods.”
How much is this ‘zen moment’ connected with the automotive industry? Did the love of photography come first or did it develop from an enthusiasm for cars?
“Well I grew up as part of a big car family: my dad, his brothers, and my brother are all gear-heads. I remember drawing cars in my school books at a very early age, dreaming that someday I’d own one that would inspire me every time I got behind the wheel. When I was younger I thought my love of cars was a bit overboard, but as I’ve grown up and seen the world’s car culture, I feel great about being part of it.”
A good segue at this moment would be to ask about your Lotus Exige…
“[Laughs] I’ve spent my whole life searching for the right car, having been lucky enough to own some really cool models along the way. The Lotus Exige offered the perfect combination of a reliable Japanese powertrain wrapped in a gorgeous light-weight British sportscar. I’ve tried to be very tasteful with my mods, and I treat her with a great deal of respect. Some say it’s a sin that I don’t take her to the track, but I’m quite happy with having her as my photography muse.”
You’re well known for not only your photography but also the equipment you carry, and in particular the Rig-Pro. Tell us a little about that. What was the reason behind its creation? What does it offer that other rigs do not?
“I’ve always loved the ‘wow factor’ of automotive motion shots, and felt that learning how to do them would take my photography to the next level. About five years ago I set about making myself a rig using all the information I had read on the Internet. It wasn’t easy. It actually took me a few months to come up with the right materials and configuration. In the end, I had a rig that was light, rigid, easy to use and safe, yet didn’t break the bank. I posted a couple of shots and almost immediately people started asking me to make them a rig.”
And thus Rig-Pro was born?
“Absolutely. Rig-Pro simply offers people a one-stop-shop rig solution with professional performance at an amateur price. But it’s more than that, and it’s more than a level up. It’s fun, and in photography that’s pretty hard to come by.”
Given the success of Rig-Pro then, where’s the balance then between ‘gear’ and ‘skill/experience’?
“I think skill is definitely more important, but gear can definitely make certain aspects easier. In my case, the 200/2 is essential to my style, so my gear is very important.”
That raises a good point. Photography has evolved from simple click-and-shoot principle and become much more complex with new equipment and editing programs. Do you think this is a positive step?
“It’s all part of it. You learn the skills you need to be competitive and they change the game. I don’t worry about this too much, it all comes back around. Even now there are some top auto manufacturers taking a more organic approach to their marketing photography, leaving CGI and its obvious perfection behind in favour of a more human, imperfect approach. There is room for both, and always will be.”
With that in mind, do you have any aspiring words for the next generation of photographers?
“Easton Chang once told me, what he liked most about my work was that I had my own style. It was a huge compliment, especially since I had never even thought about it. I’d just been doing the best work I could. But that compliment really meant something to me, and in retrospect I can see how it has opened many doors. So for anyone listening, that’s the advice I would give you. Find your own ‘voice’, use every new technique you learn to refine your personal style with each new photograph you make, and run with it.”
Your daughter Kristin has been producing some excellent work these days. How long before we see some of her wicked automotive shots going viral?
“[Laughs] Thank you! I’m very proud of her, but I don’t think you’ll see her do any automotive work. Cars don’t trip her trigger like they do mine. She is a very complex individual, focused more on fashion and Indy Rock. She enjoys being on the cutting edge, and as we all know, that can change at any given moment.”
Would you say that you have been a big influence on her work, as her father?
“I’m not sure how much influence I have had, but hopefully I’ve inspired her a little along the way. We are naturally very much alike, but she clearly has her own voice, and I very much respect the work she does.”