Oscar May

Photographer

www.oscarmay.com

Oscar is a portrait and fashion photographer. He has worked around the world building a reputation for his portraiture, and has photographed a number of well-known models and celebrities including WonderWoman actress Gal Gadot. 

What made you want to go into your career path? 

 

When I discovered that it was possible to have photography as a career path (I'd known that school/wedding/photojournalism were career options, but I'd never considered the more creative type of photography) I immediately got excited about the possibilities, but didn't have much of a clue about how to begin. I really liked the idea that I could be paid to create and the possible opportunities it could lead to, and bigger projects I could be a part of. 

Did you always think you’d go into this career? How does it compare to how you thought it would be? 

 

I was about 16 or 17 when I started think this could really be a potential career path for me, although I was skeptical due to teachers and career advice from school suggesting it wasn't a realistic pathway for most people. Fortunately for me I had a neighbour who worked in the arts who gave me more inspiring advice. 

 

Working as a photographer certainly more competitive than I had imagined and progress to the best jobs is slower than I had anticipated, but if you are smart and not afraid to work hard, it's definitely possible to succeed in having a good career. I imagined that after a couple of years I would know everything there is to know about being a photographer, but the reality is that there is no end to learning, but I'm glad about that, otherwise things would get boring!


How was life at school?

I enjoyed school for the most part, I was always drawn to the more creative subjects at school, having undetected dyslexia (until I got to university) explains that a bit. 

 

I would often spend my free periods and lunchtimes in the art room doing my coursework, or learning how to use photoshop, I quickly went from being taught the basics by the teachers, to teaching them new techniques I'd learnt through tutorials online and in magazines - I think these hours of experimentation were really where I found my original passion for the medium of Photography.

How did you get into your career? 

After school I decided to do a Foundation in Art & Design at Farnham (UCCA), as at that point I wasn't sure if it was definitely Photography I wanted to do, I also had a keen interest in graphic design, from there I made the decision I wanted to photograph people, so I chose the BA Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion. 

After university I went straight to being a freelance photographer. I was quite fortunate in that my mum lived in London, so I didn't have to pay the sky-high London rent, which is lucky because for the first couple of years I really struggled to find enough work to make enough money to survive on, I think there was probably enough work available, but my business and marketing skills were beyond awful, so the learning curve was steep. 

In retrospect, although I felt I was ready to be taking professional photos, I would have benefitted from assisting an established photographer for a few years first, to learn even more skills, including how to run a business.


What do you enjoy most about it?

I think the people I meet would be the best part of the job for me. I've been fortunate to photograph and spend time with some really interesting and talented people, and have access to a lot of places and events, I don't think I would have seen otherwise.


What are your ambitions?

My ambition is to become known as a portrait photographer, and work with more stars and talented people. Although I've already been working for 10 years, I still feel like I'm just getting started with the type of work I am really passionate about doing. I have of course been doing work I like since the beginning, but also I've had to take on jobs that weren't so interesting, in order to make money for rent and photography equipment (it's not cheap!). 


 
Tell us a fun story about your work  

In the early days of my career I was asked to photograph a band who'd won a local competition to open the main stage at the Isle of Wight festival, they gave me access to all the same areas as the band so I could take behind the scenes photos too. Whilst leaving their dressing room to get in position for their performance, I was walking down the hotel corridor, and bumped into Amy Winehouse. That was one of those moments that made me realise the potential of the kind of opportunities I could get, and the types of people I can work with, if I worked hard enough. 

To learn more about Oscar, and about mentoring and opportunities, please contact us at info@thesixteen.org. 

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