How it all began.

As a photographer I get asked two questions on a frequent basis. The first is ‘What camera do you use?’, the second is ‘How did you become a photographer?’. I am very lucky to be able to do something I love as a job, but actually I became a professional photographer totally by accident.

My Dad has always taken photos, and since I was little ‘a camera’ has meant a large, old and heavy film Nikon that required a stout strap to hold it around the user’s neck. It was my Dad that taught me the basics of aperture etc and showed me the inside of a camera with the mirror and the shutter. I only showed an avid interest in photography when I reached my teens, I had always been more interested than my brother, but I began to look into it more. I did a Saturday morning photography course at my local university. I got much joy out of developing my own black and white film, and still love the smell of fixer and find dark rooms an exciting place to be. I tried to take photography at GCSE, only for my school to pull the plug on the course at the last minute. Photography then took a back seat to everything else I did, although I would occasionally play with my Dad’s camera from time to time. As I entered 6th form I became more interested again and the result was that as I finished my A-levels I bought a new Nikon film body to replace my Dad’s now broken one. A few months later I packed it and a 50mm lens into a rucksack and got on a plane to Africa.

I owe my gap year much. I changed considerably for the better as a person and was profoundly effected by the poverty and character of the people I met in Burundi – a  small country south of Rwanda, bordering Tanzania and the Democratic Rep. of Congo. Whilst there I lived with a photographer and met two others. There began the love affair. Being in close proximity to some brilliant and inspiring photographers and seeing the results on their laptops in hours converted me to digital. All my films had to fly home with me before I saw a single image from my time there. On getting home I scoured the internet and bought a Ricoh compact digital. Battling with slow autofocus and live view – coming from a manual focus film SLR – I eventually began to get the hang of digital. When I got to university I did what all good students do with their university loan and purchased something expensive I previously couldn’t afford…a digital SLR. From then on I found myself taking pictures of friends, getting more requests to do the same and was asked to cover a wedding, as the official photographer had pulled out. From that moment I knew I wanted to do it for my living. The moments, the joy, and the satisfaction of producing images under pressure has an allure for me. Since then I have been blessed with more interest, bookings and a business development far faster than I ever imagined.

In many ways it was Africa that turned me into a photographer and I would love to go back there with a camera again some time. Other than that, when people ask me ‘How did you become a photographer?’ I usually reply, ‘Totally by accident actually.’.

In closing here is one my African images – Makamba province at dawn…


About David Charlwood

I am a professional photographer, specialising in weddings, working across the UK, based in the South East. View all posts by David Charlwood

One response to “How it all began.

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