Interview - UK Corporate Photographer Justin Short

When I was preparing for the April A to Z Challenge earlier this year, I sought out photos I thought were evocative, and then contacted the respective photographers to ask permission to use them. For me, there are many photos I find 'pretty,' but to me, evocative is the standard to which to strive in the Visual Arts in general. (I don't claim to be an expert, or a photographer in the technical sense, because I'm neither. But I do have eyes and I know what moves me personally.)

In the process, this particular photographer, who graciously allowed me to use one of his images as the letter P, also granted me the opportunity for an interview. I'm very happy to present that interview now.

Justin Short is a Corporate Photographer based in the U.K. Included in this interview are colorful, unusual, and beautiful images from all over the world.

Commercial Photographer Justin Short

Shortwork Photography 
Charlton Park
SN16 9DF
Tel:07850 689 699


Citroen 2CV  Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

This photo had a lot going on for my eyes to take in.

I noticed the very cloudy sky overhead – I can almost hear the thunder rumbles.

The tree on the right is kind of jutting out its leafless branches in all directions. It appears that a vine of some sort has climbed it and wrapped itself around it repeatedly in a vice.

It’s sort of a bleak background, kind of a ‘haunted novel’ feeling there.

Then, in the foreground, there is this beautiful car, in a vivid shade of color. The lights are on. (I think?) The car drew my attention also due to the curvy body style, like that of another era – at least when compared with what drives around in my world.

So there is this contrast of bleak stormy sky and shiny, beautiful car. But then, if you look, there is one tire twisted to the left-hand side, as if the car were parked in a hurry. That kind of ties the background to foreground in a way I think. Action is implied in both maybe.

Of course I realize that this is my interpretation of the picture and I’m having fun with it. With so much to take in, there could be quite a story there.

What made you choose that particular parking place and day to take that photo of your car? Were you consciously going for a contrast of darkness and light? About the car – would you mind talking about it a bit? Is it a vintage car, or did I get that wrong?

I knew this location as the tree had drawn my eye previously and the sky that particular day was perfect for a high contrast shot - hence the lights on the car as well! It's an old car, I used to own two of these old Citroen 2CV's which are real characters, though not the most reliable... Using red in dark photographs is a trick used by many visual artists.

I Am Crumpet 1   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

The fog, the dewy grass, and the dog’s fur all seem to flow together in color. The fence posts and dirt do the same. Did you feel that it kind of ‘flowed’ color-wise when you took the picture?

The caption says “My dog and muse.” That would seemingly be an ideal relationship when ‘man’s best friend’ is also a muse. How does Crumpet serve as your muse?

There are a few from the "I am Crumpet" Series that get a lot of attention and this is one of them (1,2,3 and 5 are my personal favourites)

Crumpet is my best friend - she's now nearly 15 years old and we've been through a lot together, walking every day for an hour or two around the estate I'm lucky to rent a house/studio on - think Downton Abbey!  In "I am Crumpet 1" the mist and frost combine to suck all the colour out of the scene leaving a sepia style cast - coupled with the receding lines of the fence and path, and Crumpet's gaze - it's one of the most sought after in the series! 

I Am Crumpet 2   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

I Am Crumpet 5   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

I Am Crumpet 3   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

Poppy Crab Fighting   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

Who won the fight? :)

 Poppy! Who's also featured in "I am NOT Crumpet 1" on Etsy

I Am Not Crumpet 1   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

Rome 1 Ceilings of the Vatican   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

Rome 13 Classic Colosseum    Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

What fascinated you the most about the city of Rome and the Vatican itself?

Rome was an amazing city, with sculptures and amazing architecture everywhere. The main challenge facing photographers here is the number of other people/tourists, so it's either an early start or clever angles to avoid them getting in the frame. I've put quite a few more shots up on Etsy recently, some showing more of the Vatican Museum as well, with more information on the shots there too.

Lamu Donkey Beach Portrait  Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photoraphy

This portrait radiates a sense of fun.

This is Omar, a friend of mine who lives on Lamu and always has a beaming smile - and who can blame him - life here is idyllic. Donkey's are the public transport system here and much easier to understand than the London Underground - and they know their way home, even if you don't.

I thought it was interesting that donkeys provide the main source of transport, since there is only one car for the entire island. This may show my ignorance, but I couldn't help but think: Who decides who gets the car?

 Only the island's Chief Commissioner gets to use the car, and only when it's working!
Kikoy Headdress   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography
The colors are vibrant here. 

This was one of the managers of a well known hotel on Lamu island and she had an amazing smile - though this is the shot that gets the most attention from the shoot as the colours work so well alongside the background texture and framing.

I love the textural similarities of the donkey's muzzle and the wall behind, as well as the angle of the shot - I have this as a large canvas on my office wall.

 If you traveled somewhere remote, and discovered that unfortunately you left your camera and all of the equipment behind, would the travel experience itself be the same for you, or would you be too distracted with all of the missed photo opps? Does that become too ingrained at some point to detach yourself from the impulse to take photos?

A really interesting question. I find that I'm always looking at scenes with a "photographers eye", and seeing how the light's changing as well as the subject - after a few years it becomes second nature. I do "go out" without any camera (or phone) with the intention of purely looking and appreciating, rather than attempting to capture the scene with a camera. Otherwise you can miss what's really going on around you - as a photographer it's critical you see and understand the light, rather than purely look at the scene..

Highland Cattle 1   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

Would you mind talking about these beautiful creatures, and the large structure behind them? What is it like, taking photos of them specifically, and on the grounds of such a pretty building?

That's the main house on the estate and it does make an impressive backdrop. I love these Highland Cattle and they've got used to me after many years wandering around their field at odd times of day and in odd positions. They can be a little grumpy, but I've never had any trouble from this bunch - yet!

Pig Me! Pig Me!  Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography
I am noticing that you really seem to have a gift to capture the personalities of the animals that you photograph.  In this photo, one pig is clearly climbing over all others to get near you, as children might do.

`Do you find generally that animals enjoy the attention in a photo shoot much like people do?  Do you feel that they often show the same degree of curiosity as humans do? (Even if, of course, they don’t understand exactly what is happening.) Have you ever taken animal photos and been surprised by their reactions to you?

I love photographing animals - I do corporate head shots quite a bit, and animals are generally much more fun - but you have to get to know their environment and behaviour to make sure you're in the right spot at the right time. That's true of Crumpet in the Cotswolds, lions in the Masaii Mara and eagles in Scotland - planning ensures you're more likely to capture the moment.

Elephant Study   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography
Giraffe Study   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

Did you actually get to walk around ‘up close and personal’ with the animals for these shots? What was involved? Did you get the pictures that you wanted to take? 

It's all about the access you have to rangers/trackers, cars, the animals themselves and time. The less time you have the more risks you take to get the shot. I often hide under the car for low level shots of large animals, though both the shots you mention were from evening walks with my friend/guide.

Has there ever been a time when ‘getting the shot’ meant risking danger, but in the process of getting the shot, you forgot about the risk?

Absolutely. I've been lucky enough to have access to vehicles and reservations parks in East Africa which gives you the time to learn how the animals react and prepare. Some of the wildlife is not that friendly - some can get hungry and see you as lunch. I've spent a long afternoon stuck under my car avoiding the attention of a lone young bull elephant - I think he was just playing, but I was terrified!

Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

I liked this children’s portrait - for me, I think mainly because it shows the child in action and happy.  I have heard people comment that when having their pictures taken, they don’t ‘pose’ well.  Do you think there is an advantage in taking pictures without forcing a pose, and what do you focus on instead when bringing out someone’s essence in a portrait? 

Even when posing it's important to keep your subject relaxed so they don't look forced. Moving around and chatting about them normally gets them thinking of other things, rather than worrying about how they look. I do prefer more natural "environmental portraits" and I shoot weddings in a reportage style rather than poses if I can.

Horse Abstract 2    Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

Close and Close Up 1   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

How do you try to see the world, and how do you think that shows up in your photos?

I try and look at the world around me from different perspectives, lying down or pearing up at sculptures in Rome, or horses in France - and find new angles that interest me. The horse abstract is one of my personal favourites, though nobody has bought one yet! I treat the Highland Cattle Series as you would human portraits, with sympathetic lighting and close framing, which gives them more character.
Poppers   Photo © Justin Short @ Shortwork Photography

What inspired your Poppers project? 

I was playing around with some animatronic eyes from another project, and decided the little round "dog chews" really "came alive" when I put a single eye on them. So I bought a load of them, and started playing with different set ups. They're about to be used by a T-shirt company for a new range this year! It's important to me to try out new ideas and keep pushing myself, technically and creatively.

Thank you, Justin! I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about you and your work!

All images in this interview are used by permission, are the property of Justin Short, and are copyright protected.