James Mullinger - Photo Editor, GQ Magazine
The right advice and inside track on how to get commissioned
Could you give me some background as to how you started out and how your career progressed?
I am lucky enough to say that GQ was my first job out of university. I came it to do a two-week work placement and I rose up through the ranks. Every task I was given I grabbed with both hands and if I was asked to give 100%, then I gave 1000%.
Which is why it amazes me when we have people in for work experience who don't take it seriously. It is a real bona fide opportunity. I am living proof of that. If you make yourself so invaluable that they cannot manage without you, you may get a job for life.
At what point did you truly become involved in photography and in what context?
This job. I started off as work experience and excelled at all tasks I was given whether it be writing, researching, subbing and then picture researching.
I have always been interested in photography as my father is a keen
Photographer and a book of his work was published two years ago. It was a collection of his work from folk festival titled Festival Folk. I have also collected original movie stills and original photographs since I was nine years old so when I got this job at 22 I have to say, it was a dream come true.
What are the most common mistakes photographers make when approaching you to show their work?
They don't look at the magazine so come to see us with grossly inappropriate work. Do what I did before I came in for experience. Study every issue from the last 12 months from cover to cover and only show us work that you can actually see appearing on the pages of GQ. Otherwise, don't bother.
Where do you stand on the importance of creativity?
It's absolutely imperative. Too many photographers just snap what they see. True auteurs are imaging situations and concepts all the time and make them happen. The best photographers are those that have the sharpest minds and are smarter than you or I. Look at the work of Tony Kelly and Simon Emmett. They are modern geniuses who work at an incredible pace. I will try and art direct them but they are ten steps ahead the entire time. There are only a handful of photographers in the world I can say that about.
Where do you stand on the importance of technical competence?
Equally as imperative. Emmett's famous for his lighting. The reason he is such a master at digital photography is his mastered shooting film first. Photographers that only know digital will never reach such technical heights.
Do you have any tips for photographers that want to work for you?
Generally we don't encourage unsolicited portfolios but the fact is that once in a blue moon a new photographer will wow us with their unique style. My best advice would be, look at the magazine and if you can seriously see your work on the pages then get in touch. Otherwise wait until you are ready. If we see it and aren't impressed, it's unlikely we'll see you again for a long time.
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