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FOCUS: Adam Shaw

2 March 2020

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© Adam Shaw


Have you ever wondered what people are really hoping for when voting for a Prime Minister? This is the inspiration behind Adam Shaw's recent personal project First Hundred Days. Read on to find out more.

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© Adam Shaw

Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a pro photographer?

Yes sure. So I grew up in Cumbria in the 80s/90s and I remember being given a small Boots 110 film camera by my parents, you know the sort that used the small cartridges. Well, I became captivated by making pictures. I'd stalk around the garden trying to get close to the wildlife and it would go on holidays with us to Scotland and I'd be doing the same sort of thing there.

When I started A levels I'd been using my Dad's Pentax SLR for a while and we had this darkroom as part of the art department and, oh it was amazing, suddenly this whole world opened up developing and printing and I just loved it. That space and peace was just so good.

I went from A levels straight to uni at Nottingham Trent and after graduating (and a year on and off Jobseekers) I found work with a games manufacturer in Notts, looking after their photography studio. I spent 5 years with them and then moved to a nearby design agency to be their in-house and spent another 5 years working there before going solo.

A lot of friends at Trent moved to London and assisted but I stuck around Notts and so I guess my route to becoming pro was slightly different to theirs. I learnt a lot from being within those two businesses. The work was a mixture of products and people – either for packaging, catalogues or other printed & digital material and I was fortunate to get to work on a wide variety of briefs. It also had the benefit of showing me the pressures that commissioners face and the internal tensions that come about when production and creativity are working side by side. So as I look back, that route has been really helpful.

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© Adam Shaw


What has been the most poignant image of your career so far and why?

This is tricky!

I'm a bit torn between a photograph I made as a child, that captures my parents holding hands on a walk in the Outer Hebrides – it was I think one of the first times I was really aware that an image could freeze a moment in time. And then theres an image from a personal project that documents the final year of a Leicestershire dairy farm as it closed down – its called One Year On and is a piece of work that I'm editing at the moment.

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© Adam Shaw


You are working on a new personal project we’d love to hear more about it…

Yes that’s right, its called First Hundred Days and is an exploration into the hopes of the people I come into contact with each day.

The idea had germinated during the election campaign last year. When Boris Johnson announced the list of things his government would do in their first hundred days in office if they were to win. Then Labour spoke in similar terms and I was just finding the noise of the oneupmanship too much – especially in that it was such a short time ago that a lot of these proposals were being dismissed as foolish.

So the idea grew, 'what about all these people around me?'; What are they actually hoping for? What are they struggling with? Are their cares really what we're being told they are hoping for?

So since the election I've been talking to a different person each day, wherever I am,  asking them the same question, 'what are you hoping for?' Recording their responses and making a quick portrait of them on a compact camera.

On the one hand it has been personal, about me wanting to understand the hopes of the people around me compared to the noise of the slogans. But then on the other hand it has become a space in which people have shared the things that are on their hearts with a stranger. And you know, I think the act of listening – which by publishing the captioned portraits I'm sharing (each person is aware they will be published) - can be a healing event both for the listener and the one speaking.

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© Adam Shaw


Can you talk about any technical challenges of being a photographer today?

For me at least, the challenge is not to become overwhelmed by the bombardment we get from tech companies and tech platforms. There are so many voices out there trying to sell you success, exposure or there’s the temptation to compare yourself too much, that I think a technical challenge we face is making the space around us to be comfortable with who we are and then to go from there.

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© Adam Shaw


What does being a member of the AOP do for you and your business?

It's given me confidence and support really. The community within the AOP has been so friendly and welcoming. In what can be an individual existence as an image maker being part of a group of fellow professionals, facing similar challenges and successes, is both encouraging and rewarding, as people are happy to help and encourage one-another.


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© Adam Shaw


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