Napier is the greatest place on earth, it’s where I was born and where I still live. My home and studio these days is a converted woolstore a kind of a warehouse in the old port area of Hawkes Bay. Napier, however is a small city, because of this I have to do a little bit of everything, in previous years I ran a GP Studio in town using Mamiya RZ 6×7 roll film cameras and studio lights. The lighting skills I leaned in those years are what apply to my current work.
I love the interaction between classical old scholl style lighting and the studs, leather and tattoos of alt model photography, they just go hand in hand. Although my passion is shooting fashion and model portfolios the bulk of my time is spent shooting motor racing and it is that genre of work that has taken me all of the world on assignments for manufacturers. Those budgets, however, didn’t last and these days most of my work is within New Zealand primarily as the Series photographer for the Toyota Racing Series and the Toyota Finance 86 series.
This year I was judged the New Zealand Motorsport Photographer of the year. I also shoot a lot commercial work of varying subjects, for a variety of clients throughout New Zealand. As you can imagine, I spend most of my time shooting with 500 mm and 300 mm lenses and I still shoot a lot of my portfolios with a 500 mm where space allows me to, I love the way it isolates the subject and blows the background out, I would shoot with a 300 mm 2.8 all the time if I could!
The highlight of my time as a photographer was last year when my wife and I went to USA, bought an old V8 SUV, a caravan and hit the the road, we ended up in California some 4 months and 11,500 miles later. I would dearly love to go back again and spend more time shooting the people!
Now tell us what’s your preferred motif? You mean as in signature? I suppose I try create something that has a strong element of style with a hint of edginess.
For how long have you been a photographer and is this something that you always wanted to do? I have been a professional photographer for 30 years. Photography has always been an interest but no, I started life as a jeweler and watchmaker and got into photography through my sideline business of shooting motor cycle races. I still love jewellery though and developed the love of “stylish things” because of it, an element that I like to bring through in my photography.
What happened at the most crazy photo shoot you ever had? I obviously haven’t been crazy enough on my shoots because I cant think of one. There have been a number of unexpected things happen on commercial shoots but when I’m shooting people I tend to make sure that my subject is completely at ease and I’m concentrating so hard on what I’m shooting and what I’m going to do next that I really don’t leave room for anything untoward to happen. Maybe I need to loosen up a bit!
We notice a beautiful sharp photo style with rich colors in your photos, but how would you describe your photo style? I am pretty locked in to some of the lighting techniques that I learned from some of the masters such as Dean Collins (USA) and David Oliver (UK) and many others whose seminars I attended back in the 80’s. I’d like to think my work is recognized as having classical lines but with enough edginess that would ensure that they would not be out of place in a fashion magazine.
I think my jewelry background has also taught me to pay attention to finer details, I will often try to source genuine Gold and coloured stone jewellery, in an ideal world my models would wear genuine Cartier watches, diamond earrings by Tiffany and Manolo Blahnik shoes in conjunction with the studs and tattoos. Don’t bother coming to shoot with me if your shoes are scuffed or your nails chipped!
Do you have any exciting photo shoots planned? And if so where can we see them online? I do have a couple of experienced models that want to shoot but I am actually coming up to the time of year when I will be travelling a lot shooting race cars so I’m not sure when I will fit them in. Best way to keep up with my schedule is on Facebook as Bruce Jenkins Photographer and instagram as brucejenkinsphotography. You can also keep up by checking my blog on Bruce M. Jenkins Photography.
Please explain to us what makes a photo not just good, but great? With digital it all too easy to take a really good picture but as you said, really good is simply not good enough these days, it has to have the “X” factor, it has to “Pop”. I spend a lot of time studying my opposition and then thinking about how I can do better. I am constantly challenging myself, constantly critiquing my own work and constantly striving.
Sometimes those elements can be achieved with post production but I’m of the old school where I like to go into a shoot with a plan in my head and a vision of how the finished result should look (but still ready to seize any unique moment that suddenly crops up), add some post work to it and you should (hopefully) have something that will jump out at you.
Describe to us your best photo and tell us the story behind it? Not sure that I have one, it’s a bit like finding the perfect wave. I suppose my view of the best shot is always one of most recent ones but after I’ve looked at them for too long they became stale, I start seeing things wrong with them and I am hankering at the bit to go and shoot again. I think that’s the way it should always be otherwise you are never going to get any better.
A desolate island and a boat without gas, who do you want to be rescued by? Probably Valentino Rossi, he would have the thirstiest, loudest, fastest boat on the ocean and after the jubilation of being rescued was over we would hoot and holler over all the waves as we raced back to the mainland!
Explain to us the alternative lifestyle culture in NZ. Is it a good place for great photos? And how about that oh so important light? My home town of Napier has a population of about 60,000, its a very conservative provincial city so the Alt lifestyle here is pretty non-existent. Fortunately, however, I work with 2 of the most talented people in the country, namely Cherry Boomb who is the current Miss Burlesque NZ and Eliza-May Tolhurst who designs and makes her own exquisite latex wear through her label “Miss-E”.
These 2 have a huge following nationwide and they both been instrumental in ensuring that my work is seen in the right circles. As far as my location is concerned, Napier is a stunning place to shoot. It is now a major tourist destination because of it’s Art Deco buildings which make for wonderful backdrops. The NZ light, however, is extremely harsh, midday shoots are even more of a no-no here than anywhere else in the world that I have shot.
— Bruce M. Jenkins