From Finances to Frames: In conversation with Photographer, Nathaniel James

Photographer Nathaniel James found his calling in the creative realm after facing redundancy in the financial sector. Today, he delights in telling stories, evoking emotions, sparking conversations, capturing the unexpected and producing art that speaks to people from all walks of life.

Why did you decide to take up your creative trade?

I’ve always been drawn to the world of creativity, even while working in the finance sector. When I was faced with redundancy, it gave me the opportunity to reassess my career path. I realized that I wanted something more fulfilling, something that allowed me to express myself creatively. Photography had always been more than just a hobby for me; it was a passion waiting to be pursued. So, I decided to take a leap of faith into the world of photography, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding journey ever since. It’s not just about capturing images; it’s about telling stories, evoking emotions, and creating art that resonates with people and I’m grateful for the chance to pursue what I love every day.

How do you get past creative blocks?

When faced with a creative block, I employ a multi-faceted approach to reignite my creativity. Firstly, I embrace the practice of brainstorming, jotting down all ideas that come to mind, regardless of their initial quality. This serves to stimulate my brain and often leads to the development of innovative concepts from seemingly trivial beginnings. Additionally, I recognize the importance of stepping away from the project entirely. Engaging in activities such as going for a walk or pursuing unrelated interests allows me to clear my mind and return to the task with a fresh perspective. I find that my studio environment is particularly conducive to creative thinking, but inspiration can strike anywhere. Sometimes, a mundane moment in my daily routine or a random observation sparks an idea unexpectedly.

What is your creative process?

My creative process begins with a comprehensive brainstorming session, where I explore various ideas related to the subject matter I’ll be photographing. During this phase, I jot down everything that comes to mind, ranging from colour schemes and props to different shot types, allowing me to evaluate and streamline my creative options. Following this initial brainstorming, I step away from the project for a few days to allow the ideas to percolate. Whether I’m in the studio, taking a walk, or simply browsing through images, inspiration tends to strike unexpectedly, leading to further refinement of my concepts. Once I have a clear vision, I move on to implementation, although it’s important to note that not every idea translates smoothly into action. In such cases, I analyze why the idea didn’t work as expected and make necessary adjustments. For instance, in a recent project titled ‘Play by Image’ inspired by Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline,’ my original concept involving a sweet, carrot juice, and lime didn’t achieve the desired effect. However, by substituting a sweet with a swede and making other modifications, such as removing the drinking glasses from the scene, I was able to enhance the idea significantly. This iterative process allows me to continually refine and improve my creative output, ensuring that each project reaches its full potential.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I draw inspiration from various sources when embarking on a new project. Firstly, I delve into the essence of what I’m photographing, whether it’s a brand, a concept, or a subject matter, to understand its core values, aesthetics, and identity. This initial exploration serves as a foundation for my creative direction. Additionally, I scour through a multitude of resources, including images, websites, and social networks, to gather visual stimuli and spark ideas. Immersing myself in diverse visual content allows me to identify emerging trends, unique perspectives, and innovative techniques that I can incorporate into my work. Furthermore, I remain receptive to inspiration from unexpected sources during my everyday experiences. Whether I’m strolling through the city streets, exploring nature, or engaging in conversation, I remain attuned to moments, objects, or interactions that ignite my creativity.

What are you reading or listening to right now?

I’m currently reading Philip K. Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’—the novel that inspired ‘Blade Runner.’ It’s a fascinating exploration of artificial intelligence and humanity’s relationship with technology. Additionally, I’ve been enjoying the beats and lyricism of Gang Starr’s ‘Moment of Truth,’ which provided the perfect soundtrack for my studio session earlier today!

How do you switch off?

To unwind and recharge, I deliberately engage in activities that offer a departure from the realm of creativity. Whether it’s diving into a book, immersing myself in a film, embarking on a hike minus the camera, or indulging in model building with LEGO or plastics and by disconnecting from the pressures of artistic expression and allowing myself to fully immerse in alternate pursuits, I find renewed energy and inspiration when I return to my creative endeavors.


A big thank you to Nathaniel James for contributing to our series of creative conversations with industry experts.

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