Copperdollar Studios has the pleasure of hosting a vast wealth of artistic talent within our walls. Recently, James Bellorini used The Hayloft for a photographic project for his MA portfolio with model and performer, Naomi Wood. James discusses his first encounter with a camera and what inspires the subject in his editorial and commercial photography work.
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m a commercial and editorial photographer, I do a lot of different types of work from portraits, live events and performances, and even food photography. I live in Brighton but work all over. In January this year, I began a part-time MA in Photography through Falmouth University.
Can you tell us a little bit about the project you’ve worked in recently at Copperdollar Studios?
This photoshoot was part of my ongoing practice-led research for my MA. My wider project is about multiple heritage and the meaning of belonging, and I’m working on a number of ways to approach and capture what that is like visually. This shoot was very much the first in a series that looks at the subject in a more interpretive way, working with performers and artists who have a personal connection to the theme, thereby exploring responses in a very physical manner.
For this shoot, I worked with model, performer and writer Naomi Wood, who totally understood what I was trying to achieve. She was just great at working ‘in the moment’ and also prepared to experiment with ideas as we progressed.
How did you first hear about the studio space?
I go back a few years with Copperdollar, and I’ve used the Hayloft a number of times for photoshoots. Originally I heard about the studios through a very good friend, a live performance producer, who knows Kt really well who recommended I check it out and that was that.
What is your favourite aspect of Copperdollar Studios and what makes it different from other spaces you’ve used previously for your work?
The light! I am talking about The Hayloft. For me, the natural light in there and its dramatic fall-off really suits the kind of work I like to produce, especially in my portraiture. I love the possibilities that gives me alongside the added flexibility of bringing in additional flash if need be. I also love the different textures available on the walls and floor.
Can you remember the first time you picked up a camera?
Yes. I was very young. Maybe four years old. My grandad was an avid amateur photographer and he showed me how to use his Olympus Trip camera – we are talking the 1970s here by the way!!
When did you realise you wanted to pursue photography as an art form?
Oh that’s been a long journey for me, one that starts at art college back in the 1990s then stops for about 20 years as I pursued a different career, then starts again when I got a digital camera about eight years ago. It was as if I had never stopped and I knew it was what I wanted to do creatively. I was fortunate enough to pick up commissions very quickly. Then I got the itch to create more personal work alongside my commercial work and started building projects for myself, formalising that process by starting the MA this year.
A lot of your photography centres around people and portraits. Why do you like capturing people as your main subjects?
I’ve always been a documentary photographer at heart, despite what my portfolio shows, my approach is that of an observer of people, events and stories even at a photoshoot like this one presented here. As a result, like a lot of photographers, I’m looking for moments, those that often take me by surprise. People are full of those moments, they are endlessly fascinating, they hold so many experiences and stories, and what we see on the surface is only the tip of the iceberg: what happens within and without is what I hope might be revealed in my work. I love the amount of communication in a face and eyes or the way someone takes up space in the world.
You’ve shot for lots of theatres and theatre companies. What is it about performance that makes for a captivating photograph?
So as an extension of what I’ve said above, for me everything contains theatre or performance in some way. I love performance work (whether that’s in rehearsal or on stage) because it is the distilled version of that. Concentrated, energised, and focused. Really, like a lot of my work, I’m hunting for the human moments in it as much as any other form of work I’m involved in. But of course, often it is simply the spectacle of what is happening and the commitment of performers that makes for fascinating pictures.
Where could we see more of your portfolio?
So there are a few places to view my work:
Main commercial and editorial website is here: www.jamesbellorini.co.uk
And my MA work in progress is here: www.jamesbelloriniphoto.com
My food and hospitality photography is here: https://www.bellorinifoodphoto.com/