A photographer captures images, preserving moments in time, either on film or digital media. What separates a good photographer from others is skill. What separates a great photographer from others is style – distinct individual style – a vision, you might say.

Jacob Hodgkinson is a great photographer with distinctive style and vision. Jacob began his journey to become a professional photographer with his very first 35mm SLR camera. “I started out as a photographer in Brighton when I was 16, there was an excellent course at my college, the tutors were amazing and very encouraging. They really taught us how to shoot our own style as well as the technical aspects such as dark room techniques, etc.”

Momentarily tempering his passion for photography, Jacob made his way to London to study. “I studied Advertising as a major with a minor in Photography. At that age, I thought working in advertising would make for a more stable and lucrative career. I think I was probably right! [smiles] I just don’t think I could work in that kind of environment these days.”

Jacob managed to keep his passion for photography whilst learning all about the world of advertising. Some photographers would not study another discipline. HUF Magazine asked if Jacob thought studying photography exclusively would be a wise decision for aspiring photographers. “This is a tricky one. In short, yes and no. I think maybe a 6 month course to learn about the basics of how to use a camera might be useful, but you can probably find all that information on YouTube nowadays anyway. We didn’t have that when I was growing up. I would say working as an assistant was one of the most useful things for me to become a professional photographer. You just learn so much more than you will ever learn at university. I always recommend that route, over the the university route, if possible. Also, get down to your local library and look at a ton of art and photography books. I think it’s important to read them cover-to-cover and take in the whole book, and don’t skim through. If you have good galleries in your city then that’s a great way to discover photographers. I do love to look at other photographers’ work. However, I try and not let it influence my work too heavily. Maybe small things like a colour palette, etc., I might be inspired by. I prefer to be inspired from sources outside of photography – music, movies, places, etc., but some of my favourite photographers are people like Martin Parr, Nick Waplington and Guy Bordin. Traveling to new places is always a great source of inspiration and motivation! It doesn’t even have to be far away, just a new part of the city I live-in which I haven’t seen before can be really exciting and enough to spark some creativity.”

Jacob moved to Tokyo, in 2007, to assist on advertising and fashion projects for such well known brands as Converse, Nike, Numero, et al. It didn’t take long for him to find his rightful place behind the lens.

“The first paid shoot I did was for a Japanese magazine called NUTS, it was a lot of fun! It’s quite hard to live on a freelance salary at times when you are starting out. A lot of people want you to shoot for free and budgets are getting lower and lower over the years. there is a lot of competition too. I got into professional photography fairly late, at around 27. Before that, I worked in England as a DJ, running club events and at a record label. Tokyo is an amazing place! Everyone should make the trip out here at one point in their life, a really good source of inspiration. Working as a photographer here is great, lots of opportunities to work with some of the best creatives in the scene. I have a great team in here in Tokyo, I always try and work with my number one guys, but also enjoy looking for and working with new talent too. I also travel back to London 3 to 4 times a year which is also great.”

“…We didn’t have that when I was growing up. I would say working as an assistant was one of the most useful things for me to become a professional photographer.”

Jacob has been featured in the pages of HUF Magazine. He also shoots for Vivienne Westwood, Red Bull and Esquire (UK), amongst a growing list of clients. “I am a freelance photographer but I have representation in Tokyo and London. My agents find me jobs, and I also spend a lot of time looking for new clients myself. It’s a good relationship we have. I would say I am mostly editorial, I always try to work even a commercial-shoot towards my portfolio and keep it with an ‘editorial’ feel if possible. The most recent shoot I did was for Elle, it was totally different to when I first started shooting. A lot more production and planning goes into a shoot now! [laughs] It’s great {shooting for magazines} , usually I have total creative freedom, so it gives me the perfect outlet to shoot and show what I really want without any boundaries.”

Looking at his work so far, Jacob’s photographs deftly balance divergent elements and situate them dramatically. HUF Magazine asked Jacob how he prepares and shoots his commissions.

“Usually we have a few weeks, I shoot a lot of location stuff so we need time for recce. That could take a couple of days. Then I like to do a dry run to see how the natural light is and how busy it is if in the middle of Tokyo, etc. Also, the stylist needs a fair amount of time to pull in all the pieces if it’s a big shoot. {Before a shoot, I’m thinking of} everything! Image, consistency, casting, locations, relevance to the publication, etc. {During a shoot,} I will purely be focussing on the concept and creative details and connecting with the model and crew. I also have to take the lead as producer on many shoots, which means having a tight schedule with all the locations and times mapped out with parking spaces, that’s the bit I don’t like about it.” [laughs]

HUF Magazine asked what photograph Jacob is most proud or fond of and how he defines success and handles criticism. “I think it would have to be the Vivienne Westwood ads which I shot. It was such a great thing for me to be able to work with a super creative person like her. Second to that would be the Surface cover story which I shot. The whole thing was an amazing experience as it was my first time in NYC and also my first major cover. What I consider success for me changes every 6 months, I’m always aiming for that next goal and never satisfied until I get there. I don’t think I will ever feel like I have reached my peak, which is a good thing I guess, it helps me work harder and harder! Thankfully, I rarely get criticised (at least that I know of anyway! ) Generally people are quite tactful if they don’t like something and will offer solutions to improve things. I take it all on-board as constructive criticism.”

Jacob uses several cameras for his work, HUF Magazine asked which equipment he had and planned on adding. ” My main workhorse, which I own, is a Nikon D610. I like to upgrade my camera every 2 years, rather than buy the most expensive camera and keep it for 4 to 5 years etc. If I need something with a faster shutter, Medium Format, etc., I would rent for the job. I have lots of other cameras which I like to shoot with too: Fuji x100 is great for street photography, Contax G2 for film, Instax for memories with friends, iPhone for notes and inspiration, etc. I have been using the Profoto B1 {battery powered studio flash} a lot, they are so nice and portable without needing the generator packs. I would like to add a couple of those to my set-up instead of renting every time.”