Stephen Dowling is a professional photojournalist based in London. He has photographed the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Ash, Calexico, and the mighty Bon Iver. In between shooting cool bands backstage, he also writes for the BBC. We couldn’t resist finding out more so we gave Stephen an LC-A+ and made him our LomoAmigo of the month. Read on to find out more.
What is life like for a professional journalist?
Hectic. The way in which news reaches the people who read it has changed incredibly over the last 10 years. I did my journalism training back in New Zealand in the early 1990s. The paper I worked for had only just introduced computerised printing and colour photos. It seems like the Dark Ages now.
When I started, you covered the story – an interview or an event – and came back to the paper to write it up. Now, you have to be tweeting what you’re doing and the likelihood is you’re penning something for a website before you write it up for the paper. And if you’re freelance – which I am – a great deal of people are expecting you to do things for free. Writing might be worthless now in our digital age, but it should never be worth nothing.
What’s been your favourite assignment/piece?
In 2001, I went to Cuba to write a piece on the Manic Street Preachers for the Independent. I’ve been a music journalist for a lot of my career, and the Manics were one of the bands which inspired me to become a music writer. Sitting in the garden of the Hotel Nacional interviewing James Dean Bradfield a few hours after the show was a fantastic moment.
What do you hate most about your job?
I’m freelance, so I’m sometimes waiting around for money. I do most of my work for the BBC which is a great place to work. I’d never pretend that getting up at 5 in the morning for an early morning shift is a pleasurable experience, however!
You recently wrote a piece for the BBC about Instagram, and mentioned the Lomo LC-A as a creative alternative. Is it your favourite camera?
It’s one of them, for sure. I bought my LC-A in 2000 in a great little camera shop – now sadly long-gone – called The Clock and Camera Shop in central London. I’d seriously got into photography a few years before, but had just started shooting on an old manual camera (a Praktica MTL 5B).
Seeing as I have about 40-odd old cameras, however, picking a favourite can be difficult. I shoot a lot on screw-mount cameras – Pentax ESII, Voigtlander Bessaflex, Zenits of various marques, Chinon Memotrons – so I always make sure I’ve got one of them to hand if I’m out and about.
But I still have my Lomo and its younger brother the Lomo LC-A+, and love them both.
Which is your favourite LC-A+ photo from your archive?
There’s a picture I took at Latitude Festival in the UK last year, outside a tent selling bubble makers. I used some Precisa film and cross-processed it. The resulting picture looks really weird thanks to the trails made by the bubbles.
If you could cover any event in history or the future, with your camera and your notebook, what would it be and why?
When John Lennon and Paul McCartney played together for the first time as The Quarrymen. Right down the front!
Where can we read your work and see your photography?
I have a LomoHome (stephen73) but the vast majority of my pictures can be seen on my Flickr. I’ve embarked on a project which I’m hoping to turn into a book called 36×36; sets of 36 pics on 36 different cameras, which has got me shooting on all sorts of old cameras, expired film, different film stocks. It’s a good way to try new things.
What’s coming up next in your world?
I’m taking a bit of time off in the summer after doing some work for the BBC; some photography and travel writing in Montenegro, and a comedy blog I’ve created with a friend from New York. When I’m not bashing away on a keyboard or taking photos I also write songs with a mate who’s a songwriter based in Nashville. Hopefully, there’ll be another trip to the US in the coming months in a possibly misguided attempt to become a country hit writer. I grew up on a farm, so it must be in the blood, right?
You can read Stephen’s BBC article about photography here.