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PAN Q&A: Owen Harvey – People Photographer

Continuing our series of short intro interviews with photographers – here’s our latest. Meet Owen Harvey, a great modern people photographer who shoots life for clients and his own projects. His website is a modern one-pager which takes you straight to his images collated in series with a clear contact page – all a photo editor or art director needs when looking to commission a new photographer.

Owen Harvey – A new self portrait exposed for PAN this morning

PAN: Where are you based?
Owen: I’m currently based in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK. I moved here in December as I wanted to be close to the water but still remaining close to London.

PAN: How did you get into photography?
Owen: I was playing music for a large period of my teenage years and twenties. Alongside this, I was of course a big music fan and was introduced to the album Quadrophenia, by The Who. I was equally excited by the images on the vinyl cover and booklet (made by photographer Ethan Russell). I loved those images and they inspired me to start taking pictures.

PAN: How many days a month on average are you shooting for commercial clients?
It really differs from month to month. Sometimes it can be a couple and other times much more than that. The time of year has a big part to play, as well as how busy I’ve been with my own personal work and of course how suitable my work is for any potential commercial jobs that my agent may be contacted about.

PAN: Which cameras are you using?
Owen: Usually a 5Dmkiv, Profoto lights, a couple of lenses and then various lighting modifiers depending on the job requirements. I was shooting film for a long time too and during this time I was working with a Bronica SQ-Ai, a Nikon F80 and occasionally a Mamiya 7.

I walk up and down the seafront and wait for things to happen ©Owen Harvey

PAN: Last shoot?
Owen: I am working on a series documenting Southend-on-Sea at the moment, called Last Days of Summer. I try to take pictures for this at least a few times a week, as it’s literally on my doorstep. We’ve had three back to back storms, so it would have been last week now. I walk up and down the seafront and wait for things to happen.

PAN: How many photo assistants do you work with?
Owen: Usually two on commercial jobs. One digi (who deals with file management via Capture One) and one lighting assistant. On larger jobs there is sometimes a second lighting assistant.

PAN: Most interesting shoot and why?
Owen: Tough question! They are all interesting for different reasons, whether that be overcoming technical difficulties and learning, meeting inspiring people, or having the opportunity to go to new and exciting places.
For now I’ll say one of the most interesting shoots I did was for Huck Magazine x Levi’s. I had a huge amount of creative control and we were flown to Russia and Germany, over 48 hours. It was a whirlwind and a great (and cold) experience.

PAN: Did you design your website?
Owen: Yes, it’s very simply put together on Cargocollective.

PAN: What is the most important message a commercial photographer should include on a website?
Owen: I’m always trying to strike that tricky balance between art and commerce. I want my website to showcase the work I am most passionate about, whilst also illustrating to potential art buyers/picture editors how it can be used. Due to this, I showcase a lot of personal projects and then show a variety of commercial work too. Ultimately the most important message is to show what you are passionate about and make sure “your voice” in photography comes across.

Brighton Dancing from the Mod UK series ©Owen Harvey

PAN: How did the Mod UK series come about?
Owen: Through a few different introductions to the scene. Firstly, as I mentioned above, I’d seen the images by Ethan Russell of Quadrophenia and was inspired and encouraged to learn more about the “Mod” scene.
Secondly, I had a friend at school who was into the scene and he’d pointed me in the direction of clubs I should explore. I visited an “all nighter” that was promoted by New Untouchables and it felt magic to me.
I was blown away by the enthusiasm of those attending. The attention to detail in clothes, the passion for the music and the energy on the dance floor. Once you find something you’re that excited by, you have to shoot it. I spent the next 10 years doing so.

Alex and Christie, London. From Series, Mod UK ©Owen Harvey

PAN: This image (above) Alex and Christie, London, really sums up your Mod series for PAN please explain how this shot came about?
Owen: So I’d often go to these club nights as I mentioned above and then meet individuals there and ask to meet them the following weekend to take their portrait. As the project developed it became about these candid shots in a club environment, that held an energy to them and showed people interacting with each other and dancing. Alongside this, there were the portraits and this offered those in the images the opportunity to show their attention to detail with their clothes and their pride in the scene. This particular image, I’d arranged to meet the couple near Mudchute, in London. It started pouring with rain so we headed inside the pub to grab a drink and warm up. It suddenly felt like the perfect setting and I took a few frames and this was the one I picked out.

Southend-on-Sea, currently titled: “Last Days of Summer” ©Owen Harvey

PAN: Which series are you shooting most at the moment?
Owen: My work on Southend-on-Sea, currently titled: “Last Days of Summer” . It’s a very different process for me, as all previous projects have needed a degree of access. This series I just pick my camera up and off I go. It has been very refreshing and continues to be a new learning curve.

PAN: How do we buy a print of the Alex and Christie image?
Owen: I sell editioned prints from the Mod UK series. These are made to order, on a black and white paper. They come signed as an edition of 25 and with a certificate of purchase. You can order a print by emailing me on
[email protected]

PAN: How do we license a photo from your collection?
Owen: I handle licensing directly, so they can reach me on [email protected]

PAN: What do you do when you are not planning shoots or editing images?
Owen: I play piano and guitar a lot. I also look at a lot of photography and continue to learn about the medium. Alongside this, I also go to the gym regularly and embarrassingly I am a collector of limited edition 50 pence coins.

PAN: Pub or Restaurant?
Owen: Few pints and a pack of dry roasted peanuts.

PAN: Full English breakfast or smoothy?
Owen: Full English on the weekend, smoothy on the weekdays.

PAN: Real magazine or online?
Owen: It really depends on what the subject matter is. I recently bought Sixteen Journal, because it’s beautifully designed and the content is great and I don’t think that would have translated to digital as well. If I want to read something quickly then online is more convenient. I guess it’s the old argument between digital and analogue. For me, they both have their place and they both have their limitations and pros and cons. It’s why you choose to use one over the other that’s important.

Thanks Owen, view more from the Mod UK series on Owen’s website – and there’s lots more to view day to day on his Instagram feed.

Related on PAN:
• Read more industry Q&A’s on our PAN Interviews page.
• We just ran a search across PAN and spotted we had covered Owen’s first solo exhibition in 2016 here!

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