Ken Sparkes as EinsteinI wasn’t meant to be a pho­to­grapher, I think the inten­tion was that I would become a mad sci­ent­ist, or an aca­demic of some kind. I stud­ied Zoology and Botany at University and embarked upon a post­gradu­ate degree. I could tell you all about the pyr­uvic acid cycle, exo­skel­et­ons or cladist­ics, but I’m way out of date, and you prob­ably don’t want to hear about all that.

My first camera

Kodak Instamatic 126 type film

I had an Instamatic when I was 12 but then it got sand all over it. After that I didn’t take any pho­tos for a long time. Until my final year at uni­ver­sity when, for no explic­able reason, I bought a 35mm cam­era and pho­to­graphed abstracts of oil slicks on the River Irwell using Kodachrome.

Back in London, I was asked to take pic­tures of a fringe theatre pro­duc­tion, the pic­tures were prin­ted by The Times and I got a cheque. I cold-called sev­eral London stu­dios offer­ing to help out for free. Most said, ‘Yes, but don’t break any­thing or say any­thing stu­pid to the cli­ent’.

The whole thing was a hec­tic mix of very hard work and amaz­ing acci­dents. Visiting a model-mak­ing stu­dio who were craft­ing golden cigar­ette packs and giant Kit-Kat bars, and a couple of phone calls later found myself sit­ting-in on a Benson & Hedges advert­ising cam­paign pho­toshoot. Sometimes in a stu­dio com­plex like Holborn Studios (then loc­ated at Back Hill) or North Audley Street, I could migrate to other pho­toshoots; Tessa Traeger on a Liberty shoot, Paolo Roversi doing Polaroids for Vogue. It was an intense period, freel­ance assist­ing with the likes of John Crane, James Stewart, Tim Hill and plenty more, work­ing on Smash Hits in the morn­ing and a cor­por­ate iden­tity in the after­noon.

Lessons learned: Quality work lasts longer. Attention to detail and intel­li­gent plan­ning pays dividends. Improvisational skills are essen­tial. Understanding people will get you a long way. You need to be weird some­times. Should have done a busi­ness course.

Spaces magazine by Ken SparkesI set up as a freel­ance pho­to­grapher work­ing with design­ers, advert­isers and magazines. Clients include: IPC/Southbank Media, Emap, The Guardian, Bennison Fabrics, H. Bauer, La Redoute, to name just a few. The jobs involved any­thing from detailed product shots to large room-sets with mod­els run­ning around in them, from por­traits to Scottish castles. The inten­tion was always to make iconic images that worked bril­liantly with the brief.

After becom­ing more involved with dir­ect­ing as well as shoot­ing, I co-foun­ded and pub­lished Spaces, a glossy archi­tec­ture, design and interi­ors magazine launched in 2003. Until we sold it in 2007 I was respons­ible for pho­to­graphy, cre­at­ive dir­ec­tion, design and pro­duc­tion. I also did a lot of the edit­or­ial plan­ning, writ­ing, fea­tures and sub­bing.

Philosophy: Start with a deep under­stand­ing of what is needed, mix it up with skill and magic, see it through to the end.

In addi­tion to pho­to­graphy, I develop web­sites, mar­ket­ing and brand strategy, and I’m cur­rently involved with sev­eral online pro­jects, includ­ing posh London rental agency AccommodateLondon. London is my home and I’m open to enga­ging pro­jects. You can phone me on +44 (0)7956 483 899 or use the con­tact form.

— Ken Sparkes