Tell us how you got started and what is your motivation?
Reaching back into the furthest depths of my somewhat broken memories of childhood (a sad thought in itself to start with) I remember, around the age of 11, asking everyone in my class to change the way they faced because (a) the sun was in their eyes and (b) I preferred this new angle I’d created as a background. I think that one memory sums up me as a photographer nicely. I’ve always had an interest in both landscape and portraiture, but portraiture definitely first. After toiling with possible careers in golf and the health industry, not happy in either, I started an open university course in photography. I lasted about three weeks on the course. I have quite an addictive ‘type A’ personality and learning about the history of the camera didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to take photographs and at the same time had started researching, with a passion, about the work of photographers I was growing to love . To see how they started their careers; not one of them had a degree in photography. I’m not saying ‘don’t bother with a degree in photography’. It just wasn’t for me, and all I needed was this proof from the successful ‘togs’ I liked that I could skip the reading and go out with camera in hand; burn through film and fill memory cards. I advertised myself as a portrait photographer looking to build my portfolio, as many do, and photographed friends and family at any opportunity I could. I made mistake after mistake. I analysed my work against the greats. I got frustrated. I gave up. Yet I too carried on and amongst it all; enjoyed the process of learning. That was 15 years ago and I still enjoy that process today.
What advice do you have for young artists who want to learn more?
More so now than then, I use YouTube a lot. I follow so many accounts and spend a lot of time learning. I find I learn more and digest information more easily by watching, though I enjoy listening to podcasts whilst out running as well. YouTube wins though. I can save videos I like to playlists and have a growing library of lists some of which I may never need to watch but I save all sorts. Not usually so much reviews but more about the process and seeing if there’s anything I can try, learn, probably fail at and try again and then maybe see if it works for me and I can add it to my toolset. I think once you stop learning, however you choose to learn, you are pretty much done.
Spending over eight years travelling “on the road” with the band is a long time and it must get challenging to capture something new yet your images have grown stronger over the years. What do you contribute to this success? What has inspired you?
Just over eight years ago I was working on some projects with various bands at record labels and living in a tiny room in London with a band and their manager, Joe. I’d been working with some good bands. I’d had some really fun projects and my portfolio was growing in the industry but it was a struggle financially for sure. I was very lucky that the band I lived with were happy to sub photos and sometimes videos for rent. I was working hard, hardly sleeping and pushing out as much content as I could. Trying to get my name out there as often as possible, to get my work in front of people in the hope I’d get a break, and I did. Joe asked me if I’d like to go film a new band his management team had signed. I wouldn’t get paid but the bands potential was pretty clear and my travel / costs would be covered. I took the plunge, didn’t have anything to lose as long as it didn’t interfere with current paid projects I had. Six months later I was signed into their record deal and I’m still with them documenting their journey today. Along the way I think one of the key reasons my work has evolved with them so much is to do with their trust in me and our relationship as friends, to be honest they feel like my family now. Those interested in music will know, music style changes, as does fashion, the creative side of the band evolves and that means you need to be malleable as a creator, photographer, videographer etc. It’s easy to be inspired to produce work when each campaign begins with a new creative direction, so it’s always fun and it’s definitely always challenging.
Along with the ‘Work’ images there is a fantastic collection of personal projects including your street photography. You must have a very busy schedule; how do you manage to capture amazing street photographs? Do you have a camera attached to your hand at all times?
The nature of the job means I travel a lot and I feel very fortunate that I get to do that as part of my job. It’s always eye opening visiting new cultures and I try to get out as often as I can to capture some of what I see. Sometimes that’s for use in videos I make for the band or it might just be some free time I have and I want to practice and get lost in exploring and enjoy some street photography. There’s always a camera with me, especially when we travel. We’ve had occasions where we’ve done things like climb mountains in Japan and I’ve hauled a video camera, a photography camera and lenses etc on my back in my hands. I haven’t hated one second of how hard that can be. I get to create things whilst seeing the world and that’s a blessing even if it does mean I wake up the next morning feeling like a sack of beaten up potatoes 🙂
Your kit and choice of cameras has changed over the years. Why is that?
Kit wise I’ve never really settled, especially on camera systems. I’ve tried pretty much everything and I kind of enjoy that process. It’s great when you trust a system and my advice to anyone wanting to do what I do is probably don’t follow my lead. Over the years I’ve made mistakes by moving from one manufacturer to another, you sometimes need to change lenses and you need to learn the camera all over again. I think that’s the part of it I enjoy though, the learning part. However, I realised a few years ago that I needed to stick with my choice of glass. I needed to know what I could get in certain light situations and the ever-changing documentary environment I worked in. I still wanted to try new systems from different manufacturers though and this is when I turned to SIGMA lenses. I first used the SIGMA 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | ART and it blew my mind. I could use it with adapters and to be honest it worked great. I switch between AF and MF a lot and found focusing natural and pretty easy with it so I wanted to try more and now have been using SIGMA lenses for a few years. I trust the glass, I’m not a pixel peeper in any way whatsoever by the way. I’m definitely a ‘feel’ orientated photographer. If the camera is my super power then the lens is the fuel that keeps it going. It’s the bridge linking your mind and eye to the photo you see. I think I’ll always try new camera systems but my set of lenses are cherished pieces of craftsmanship that stay in my bag. They are my reliance amidst times of questioning my own skill, a comfort blanket to my creative soul.
Could you say that the SIGMA | Art range has remained your favourite?
See above answer! Over the years that SIGMA has developed their range of lenses, I’ve tried nearly everything. When my girlfriend and I travelled to America I took the new SIGMA 45mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary with me and it was a joy to use. It gave me a glimpse of what I would imagine there’s more to come in regards to developing products. It’s way more compact and I love the idea of having SIGMA quality but in a more compact and lighter body. I also use the lens for video work and have shot and Directed music videos with hired SIGMA Cine lenses in the past. It makes me feel at ease knowing I have that trust from years of use with a brand. SIGMA products have always fulfilled and it’s a very comforting feeling to have the brand on set with me. My profession doesn’t allow me to re-shoot something if I haven’t gotten it the first time. If the lenses failed me, I wouldn’t even think about adding them to my bag for a project as I’d be out of a job. The SIGMA | ART series is very exciting product line to me. I see SIGMA as a company that doesn’t feel rushed to produce lenses but concentrates on invention of products based on what their customers want and I’m putting all my eggs into that basket!
You have used both full frame and mirrorless cameras and have paired a SIGMA | Art lens on both. Have you had the same great Art glass on both? How has SIGMA glass has been able to join you on your journey ever since we launched our commitment to the Sigma Global Vision product line.
I’ve always been a fan of prime lenses but find myself wanting to use zooms more. I prefer prime lenses but I tend to spend too much valuable time switching lenses and trying to ‘zoom with my feet’ that sometimes it might mean I miss a shot I wanted to get. When SIGMA released the new mirrorless lenses, I jumped at the chance to test the SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art lens as the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens, is one of, if not, my favourite focal lengths lenses. Using this new lens meant that I could get the wide shots on stage of the band capturing the whole venue as well as get those up-close shots that I can get by having access to the band on stage with them at shows. I was blown away with the quality of the lens and considering it meant that I could take it on our recent European tour trip, it also saved me space in my bag (and weight off my back!). This was a massive win-win for me. In fact, switching between the SIGMA 14-24mm DG DN | Contemporary and my SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens ended up being my go to combination.
During the day I was also using the SIGMA 45mm DG DN | Contemporary a lot too, especially if we went out anywhere on foot and I wanted to travel light. It’s a lens that makes me want to hold my camera to my eye, it feels amazingly balanced on the camera body. To be honest, that had been the missing part of the jigsaw for me over the years which didn’t take SIGMA ART lenses to perfection, until now. I’m really enjoying using this little beauty of a lens. It can pretty much do everything that I want it to when I go out shooting for the day, especially for personal work.
However the ultimate lens in my collection is the new SIGMA 35mm F1.2 DG DN | Art . I absolutely adore using this lens, the bokeh is amazing, it feels amazing in your hand and it’s so well made. The focusing on my Sony cameras is insanely fast for a third party lens and it’s the focal length I really feel I can shoot anything with. I’ve gone from portraits for merchandise where I needed to highlight artwork on clothing. To street photography using manual focus sunny 16 rules. To shooting press photos of the full band inside in dim lighting and then to sit down interviews where I’ve filmed with the band in a day. Here I needed to separate them from a murky background and I did not take this lens off the camera. It’s got versatility with oodles of clinical quality and dreaminess, what more could you want!
My main job is ‘documenting’ and to me that means taking in the scene, showing the viewer both where we are and at the same time giving them, the fans, what they want as a photo of their idols. The SIGMA 35mm DG DN | Art lens allows me to do this easily and when I look down into my bag and see the SIGMA 14-24mm DG DN | Art and SIGMA 45mm DG DN | Contemporary lenses sat waiting to be used as well I’m once again filled with excitement that I get to use these ‘tools’ to create and keep evolving as a creato.
You can see more images by Dean Sherwood on one of the following links: