Q & A with Leading Fashion Photographer Peter Tamlin

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Photographer Peter Tamlin

We are all born with unique gifts that make us different from the rest of the masses. Some know from an early age exactly what those gifts are, while others, arguably the majority, have to go through the sometimes grueling process of trial and error before their true ‘purpose’ shines through clearly.

Today, Toronto-based photographer Peter Tamlin is sought out by major companies like cosmetic leaders including MAC, CoverGirl, Revlon and Clairol to jewelry designers such as Dean Davidson and award-winning stylists like Caffrey Van Horne to use his creative eye to capture their products and designs for all the world to see. But, if you asked Tamlin back in high school how his life would look in 10 years, chances are he wouldn’t have predicted himself having a career as an internationally celebrated photographer, but that’s exactly what has happened. After discovering his love for photography at the age of 19, he dove in full force and hasn’t looked back since.

Aside from the impressive list of clients Tamlin has shot for to date, he has also had his personal photography work featured in gallery shows including the “Vision-Perceptions of Light” exhibition at the Warren G. Flowers Gallery in Montreal, Canada.

In 2011 he earned the award for Best Fashion & Beauty Photography from the prestigious Applied Arts Photography & Illustration Awards for the intriguing black and white photo he took of Tea that is featured below. The way he endows the shot with a feeling of movement and the whimsy of a fairy tale make it a difficult photo to take our eyes away from.

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Tamlin has shot editorials for a diverse collection of some of the most read magazines around the world including Fashion Magazine, Plastik Magazine, Lush Luxury Magazine, Fantastics Magazine and countless others. While he is continually pushing the boundaries of the mainstream with his personal photography style, what has made him such a success in his field is the fact that he is able to strike a balance between what his clients want and what he finds creatively inspiring.

Regardless of whether they are fashion models donning new designs or products for the various companies that hire him to shoot their ad campaigns, Tamlin is a miracle worker when it comes to creating the perfect lighting to capture his subjects. His unique ability to light a model’s skin in a way that glows effortlessly while still looking natural was a huge draw factor for Shoppers Drug Mart, which hired him to shoot their Glowing Skin campaign in 2013.

To find out more about photographer Peter Tamlin, what inspires him and how he got to where he is today, make sure to check out our interview below. You can also check out more of his work through his website: http://www.petertamlin.com/

You can also connect with him on Facebook here.

Where are you from and how did you first begin learning photography?

PT: I was born in Scarborough, but raised in a small town named Stouffville, both in Ontario, Canada. I’m now based in Toronto.

When I was 18, one of the first friends I met in Toronto was a photographer and was an assistant to famed photographer David Lachappelle. My friend would always show me David’s photography books and expose me to the many types of pop-culture photography coming out of New York. When I was 19, I bought my first 35mm film camera and began shooting and experimenting.

Are you self-taught or did you go to school to study photography?

PT: When I was 23, I moved to Montreal and enrolled in the Dawson Institute of Photography. It was a two year program and I graduated at the top of my class.

What is it about photography that first inspired you to pursue it as a profession?

PT: Basically, I love the idea of being creative and creating artwork that is captivating and original. Professionally, I detested the idea of working a 9-5 job and doing the same thing everyday. I wanted a career where I could always be setting new goals and where there is no limit to the success I could have.

I also wanted flexibility with my schedule and to be able to work when and where I want. I love the idea of being able to travel as well.

Can you tell our readers about some of the projects you’ve shot?

PT: In Jan 2015, I was hired as photographer for a campaign and hair competition shoot for Aveda Canada and specifically for Civello, which is an Aveda Salon in Toronto. Over the course of two days we shot 7 different models, each with different hairstyles. The photos were used in a campaign and also entered in the NAHA’s (North American Hair Styling Awards) and also the Constessa’s, which is a Canadian hairstyling competition. The entry was named a finalist in the CONTESSA Awards for Canadian Salon Team.

I was hired for this shoot by Aveda Canada’s Creative Director, Kristjan Hayden. I worked directly with Kristjan to develop the direction for the shoot. The concept was based on movement and motion of the hair, so with the specific lighting I developed with Kristjan, I was able to use a special effect to illustrate the movement.

I believe the reason I was asked to be involved in this project was because of my unique creative vision and my ability to bring original and captivating ideas to this project. Hair photography is not only about showing the detail in the hairstyles, but also about presenting the hairstyles in creative and interesting ways. I think the specific lighting, set, special effects and retouching treatment I produced for this shoot are extremely unique, interesting and effective.

In 2013 I was hired to produce the Glowing Skin advertising campaign for Canada’s largest drugstore chain, Shoppers Drug Mart. For the Glowing Skin Campaign, we shot 4 different models in one day. The purpose of the shoot was to showcase clean, healthy, glowing skin. The photos were used in a national advertising campaign, appearing on billboards, in stores, newspapers, magazines, online and many other advertising outlets.

I was hired again as photographer for Shopper’s Drug Mart in 201 for their 30 Days of Beauty campaign. We shot 30 different models ranging in age from 16-60, over seven days. The purpose of the campaign was to showcase diversity in beauty. Again, the photos were used in a national advertising campaign appearing on billboards, in stores, newspapers, magazines, online and many other advertising outlets, as well. Each model was featured for each day in September 2014.

It was extremely important for these projects that the lighting capture the detail on the skin and the texture and colour of the products used. The lighting I used for both shoots was designed specifically to the needs of each campaign. For the Glowing skin campaign, it was very important that the skin looks healthy and glowing. The lighting that I designed incorporated many different light sources from multiple directions giving the skin enhanced luminosity.

For the 30 Days of Beauty campaign, it was very important that we showcased diversity in beauty, but in many different ethnicities and ages. The lighting that I used was softer and more flattering than standard beauty lighting. This meant that the light helped highlight and enhance each model’s own beauty.

Early in 2015 I was hired by Dean Davidson, a top Toronto based Canadian jewelry designer, to shoot his spring/summer campaign. Being the first time I had a chance to shoot for Dean, I wanted to do something completely original for him, so I suggested that we have the model pose in a pool of water. The model’s name was Hannah Donker from Elite Models in Toronto.

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Then in October Dean approached me to shoot his fall/winter campaign. Again, I wanted to do something original, so I suggested shooting in a set of mirrors. The model’s name was Emily Van Raay and she’s represented by Anita Norris Models in London, ON. I worked with a very talented team with Greg Wencel doing the hair and makeup, and George Antonopoulos as the stylist. Both shoots were a great success and very well received.

In June I was hired to shoot an editorial for the September issue of FASHION Magazine, which is Canada’s leading fashion magazine. The editorial was titled “Team Spirit” and the theme for it was androgyny. It was a 10 page editorial and we shot in the ballroom of the historic King Edward Hotel in Toronto. The editorial featured two models, Alice Ma, represented by NEXT Models and David Chiang, represented by Ciotti Models, both in Toronto. Hair and makeup was by Susana Hong and the Fashion Director was George Antonopoulos. The editorial featured many top fashion brands including DSquared, Burberry, Vivienne Westwood, Gucci and Dries Van Noten.

Most of my work is photography, but I am also inspired by music videos and films, so over the past few years I have branched out in that direction. In 2013, I was hired to produce and direct and show package video for one of the top male modeling agencies in Toronto, Elite Model’s.

In one day, we shot nine different male models in the studio in front of a black background. The video was black and white and high contrast. I really enjoyed the editing process of the project and I was able to experiment and create with many different filters and effects. Even though the video is very different from my photography work, it was very popular and gained over ten thousand views online.


What has been your most memorable shoot?

PT: I would have to say that most memorable shoot would be the Elite Models video. It was a project where I had no restrictions or limits to what I could do. I was able to experiment with editing and effects and create something very bold and original. Also, it was great working with all of the models. Shooting photos can sometimes be tedious, but shooting this project was very exciting and enjoyable. It is probably the one project that has gotten me the most exposure.

What is inspiring you as a photographer now?

PT: It’s hard to say what inspires me now. My inspiration changes daily. At the moment I am really inspired to do shoots that are very dark and macabre. When the industry is moving into a more bright and fresh mood for Spring, my gut is telling me to go in the other direction.

Aside from the jobs that you are hired on to shoot, how would you describe your personal photography style?

PT: Captivating, dramatique, intense and unique. My main priority as a photographer and visual artist is to always be creating work that is original and reject the “norm.”

I always try to go against the grain and turn convention on its head. My most successful projects have been ones where I did something unexpected. I also enjoy experimenting with contrasting colours.

How much freedom do you have when it comes to creating the direction of a shoot for brands like Mac and Covergirl?  

PT: Unfortunately, with those two clients specifically, I don’t have much freedom. For Covergirl, the direction was very conservative and commercial. Basically, it was a standard beauty shoot. We shot a pretty model with 4 or 5 makeup looks. The lighting was very basic in order to show off the product.

Clients like Dean Davidson, Greta Constantine and Aveda are the ones that give me more creative control. I generally have no limits to how creative I can go with the direction for those shoots.

Do you have a specific area of interest or subjects that you prefer to focus on with your photography?

PT: Commercial. I like to focus on conceptual beauty and hair projects. I find that I can be more creative in that area than the standard fashion shoots.

For my creative work, I like focus on models or subjects that are unusual, bizarre and outside of the norm. I like photographing unique characters that don’t fit in the fashion industry’s molds.

How do you keep productive and retain your creative edge?

PT: I try to keep productive by always exposing myself to different and new experiences and people. I’m constantly researching new concepts and lightings. The best way I’ve been able to retain my creative edge is by always pushing myself to do what no one else is doing, being original and pushing boundaries.

What has been some of the best advice given to you by another photographer?

PT: The best advice I’ve received wasn’t actually from a photographer, but one of my best friends. When discussing what career path I should take, he said I should “do what I love.” It was really the catalyst for me to pursue photography professionally.

What special advice would you like to share with other photographers?

PT: Don’t follow trends.

Be original.

Do what makes you happy.

Who are some of your favorite photographers?

PT: David LaChappelle, Steven Klein, Mert & Marcus, Txema Yeste and Solve Sundsbo.

What equipment would we find in your camera bag or studio for a typical shoot?

PT: Generally, I shoot with a Canon 5d Mark II, my MacBook Pro, and a Profoto ComPact-R kit and lots of colour gels.

What lighting equipment do you favor and why?

PT: Profoto is the brand I learnt with and probably the most popular and versatile.

 

 

 

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