When I was about 10 or 11, my father gave me a Kodak Instamatic with one of those little ice cube flashes on top. My first subjects were probably just my mum and dad or the pet cat, but because I was growing up in Jersey I’d also go out and shoot scenery.
We spent a lot of time on the beach when I was young so I’d also take pictures of seaweed and crabs. When you live by the sea, there are definite seasons when you can see the weather coming and going, which lends itself to photography. Your environment definitely plays a part in the things you enjoy and because mine was quite dramatic, I wanted to record my relationship with it.
I’d very much like to create my own style as a photographer, even if it’s just for myself. I’ve never put myself in the mindset that I’m actually any good at taking pictures, I just love to shoot things that catch my eye, whether it’s landscapes or just my kids. I figure that if an image catches my eye, then it might just capture someone else’s.
My wife Mariana is a good photographer too and, like me, she just picks up a camera and takes a picture when she sees something, rather than looking too deeply into it. When we got married we put disposable cameras at each table. I know that’s nothing unique and that everyone’s doing it, but it was amazing to see how different the shots were when they came back, even when they’d been taken from the same table. And that was before the drink really kicked in and people got really creative!
I’ve moved on a bit since the Kodak Instamatic and I’m now using a Contax. It’s far more advanced and so you can’t just snap away with it. I need to spend some time working through the process and get more confident with it, adjusting the light properly. The problem for me is that I’ve never actually studied photography, so it’s quite a steep learning curve.
Cameras these days do so much for you automatically but I still think there’s a point where you should actually know the technical side. Digital has obviously changed things a lot, but not all for the better as far as I’m concerned. Of course it’s much more convenient and you’re getting instant results, but to me it just lacks the finesse of a roll of film and it has a slightly superimposed feel.
GRAEME LE SAUX’S TOP FIVE SNAPPERS
- Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Helmut Newton
- Mario Testino
- Andy Warhol
- Sam Taylor-Wood
The first photographs I ever did for show were for a Canon brochure. I’m not too sure why they asked me, but I used their Eos range and gave them a photo I’d taken when I was on holiday in the Maldives. Then, when I was still playing for Chelsea, I was approached to contribute a couple of photographs for Fashion Acts, the charity event. I initially went along to the show thinking that it could be really embarrassing if no one liked my photograph, but then I realised that it was for charity and no one was expecting me to come up with a masterpiece. They must have liked them because I’ve been contributing for about five years now.
The first year I sold a photo to was a lady who thought I was a chef, for some reason. I’ve no idea why. When she found out I was a footballer, she said “I’ll have to tell my son, he supports Arsenal. He told me to buy something by a footballer as long as he didn’t play for Chelsea.” I had to break it to her gently.
Funnily enough, the photo was something I’d put together using the kids’ toys – a Sindy doll being eaten by a shark – and one of the tabloids called in an expert to analyse the photo. They came up with something involving with my deep-rooted anger! Anyway the woman who bought the photo hung it on her office wall.
With each Fashion Acts picture, I’ve tried to be a little bit creative. I submitted another shot which again made use of the children’s toys, and called it Spiderman Avenges the Green Bug. That sold too, as did another I’d taken of some elderly men in Mallorca sitting outside a café. They were smoking their cigarettes and having a beer in the midday sun. I thought to myself as I shot it, I hope I’m like that when I grow old!
I was pleased that two very disparate photographs, two images that each worked in their own way had appealed enough to other people for them to buy them. I was also relieved they weren’t the last ones purchased, and that they sold for a pound more than the frame was worth. My most recent contribution sold for £420, so I don’t think I’m disgracing myself.
At some point I’d love to use my knowledge of football to see if I can take a picture that a national newspaper would want to use – not because a famous-ish footballer took the shot, but on its own merit. It may never happen, but I’m certainly open to offers.
There’s one shot I really would like to get, although it would mean stopping alongside the M3 every day. As I drive down to Southampton, there’s this part of the motorway where the River Test meanders nicely off into the trees. At that time of the morning, the sun is rising and each day it looks slightly different. Sometimes I’ll go by and there are a couple of swans, the next day it’s a few ducks. I’d like to stop there every day for a year and capture how it changes, then put it all together to create an incredible image of a traditional English scene.
What it all boils down to for me is having the enthusiasm to do something for enjoyment and being stimulated by what’s around you. That’s what photography does for me.
Interview: Susan Compo. From the June 2005 issue of FourFourTwo.