Interview: Andy Gaines
Photographer Interview: Andy Gaines
Andy Gaines is a British photographer who has won many high profile titles for his work. He was Masters of Wedding Photography: Best wedding Photographer in the UK 2017, JuneBug Weddings: Best of the Best wedding photographers in the World 2016, Winner: TWIA Best Wedding Photographer in England 2015, Rangefinder Magazines Rising star of wedding photography in the World 2014 and JuneBug Weddings: Best of the Best wedding photographers in the World 2014.
Can you briefly tell us a little about your life, where were you born and raised?
I was born in the North of England, and despite living in a few places - I’m still in the north! I settled in York in my early 20s and love it here, though I travel for most of my weddings.
Have you always been a photographer? What was your path to photography and specifically to shooting weddings?
I was into photography as a teen. However, I was also into fishing and climbing and each passion was all-encompassing for a time. I went to University to study Astrophysics but spent all my free time either climbing or playing music. When I left the band was everything for the next few years. We played all over the UK in all kinds of venues from small pubs to V Festival stages, we also toured Germany and France. However, things were changing and we were all starting to move in other directions. When my daughter was born, I was drawn to capturing moments with a camera, it rekindled my love of photography. I also started to realise I could work hard and make a career out of it. I threw myself into improving my skills and ideas. My sister’s wedding was my first official wedding, but after that time I was hooked! Each wedding is so unique and so special, I love seeing what happens and making the most of each moment. What other job is there where people are so happy all the time!
Do you remember the first moment or time a camera/photography jumped out at you as something different/interesting/worth pursuing?
When I was a teen my dad let me borrow his old SLR camera and I love learning how to use it. However, real life got in the way and it was a good few years until I came back to it. As mentioned, the birth of my daughter was a turning point in my photography career.
Do you have a style or widely understood approach to shooting weddings ie fine-art, documentary?
I wouldn’t like to define myself in a particular style, but I would say that 99% of my work is more documentary. My focus is on empathy. I want to get to know my couples and understand what matters to them and see the day through their eyes. I admit I do love the quirks and eccentricities of life and love capturing those!
What/who do you look at for visual inspiration? It could be a favourite photographer or blog? movies?
Everything I watch or look at I look at it with a photographer’s eyes - much to my wife’s annoyance when I point out the lighting in scenes or what they’ve done to create an effect! I’m inspired by the world, things that I find, the light and situations that I see that would make good photographs.
What would a perfect day shooting a wedding look like for you?
A couple with their family and friends who are relaxed, in love and having a great time. That’s all you really need!
Do you have any sort of routine before a wedding to get yourself into the right frame of mind to achieve that perfect day?
I travel for most of my weddings, so my routine is generally a fairly depressing breakfast in some travel hotel. A big thing for me before the day is communication. I will have caught up with the couple a few nights before, I go through the pre-wedding questionnaire and then I like to get to the couple as early as I can. For me unlimited coverage is what I offer all couples, that’s the only way I believe I can capture their story. It’s also great to be around from the start as people get used to you and then start to relax and forget you are there. Spending an hour with them before taking photographs is important for me. That sets up the day brilliantly, by the end I’m just seen as another guest!
Generally speaking, what do you focus on when you are shooting a wedding, by which I mean, what (this could be anything eg your own artistic satisfaction, the couples emotion, people, details) about a wedding is important for you to prioritise while your shoot?
As mentioned above, I shoot the wedding purely for the couple and nothing else. I want to tell their story. I want to capture people as they know them, their emotions, characters and ultimately their love for each other. I’m so lucky as my couples trust me with their day, and when shooting the full day there are many opportunities to experiment and try new things. I want the images my couples to receive to be meaningful. Not something stylised or created to try and win an award. If others who weren’t involved like the pictures too - even better! However, I believe by taking this completely client-driven approach o my photography, I do not sacrifice my own creativity or art. Because as creatives the ego always wins out, so even though my approach is 100% client-centric - the artistic ego in me always finds a way to make photo’s for myself!
I often think peoples experiences of marriages, theirs or their parents, can have an impact on their involvement in working in the world of weddings. Can you explain what weddings mean to you personally?
I’m not particularly romantic or a big fan of ceremonies and traditions for the sake of it, I’m not really interested in people with ‘Hollywood’ ideas of romance and weddings. However, I have always had a very close family and circle of friends, so for me, that is what I gravitate to at weddings - the genuine deep bond shared between a couple and their friends and family. With less emphasis on the contrived ‘wedding circus’ the better!
Weddings to me are being surrounded by those you love and having the time of your lives. A wedding isn’t about just one day, it’s just the start of the story and I want to to capture that!
In the feedback you've received from wedding clients over the years, would there be one word that keeps popping up again and again?
I can’t find one word, but generally, the feedback is that I manage to capture people for who they genuinely are without asking them to do anything. The fact that i’m able to capture and document the relationship of the couple and those close to them irrespective of the wedding
Having seen lots of weddings, what would your advice be to a beloved family member if they came to you and said they were getting married and asked for (any) advice on how to approach their wedding day?
I’d tell them to plan and do whatever makes them happy. It’s their day and no one else's. It’s about them celebrating their love. I’d tell them to ignore all the advice and articles out there and create something that is truly them (and obviously have an amazing photographer to capture it all!)
What three pieces of advice would you give young photographers starting out?
Running a successful photography business is more about business than photography. Be prepared to do a lot more of one and a lot less of the other.
They should also ignore the photographers who brag and gloat everytime they buy the latest piece of equipment - you don't need it. Will it make you more money? if not, don't buy it!
From an artistic point of view - don't just listen to those who just tell you to follow your own vision and do your own thing. I believe we work in a service industry so providing our clients with something that they want and value is more important than us making 'art'.
Along with a selection of other lead photographers in the UK, I run NineDots which is a wedding photography training company that includes workshops, an annual conference, an online membership training community - I’d tell photographers to get involved!