Making seconds seem like hours
Jon-Paul Mountford reminds us that if commercial photography is to bring a client commercial success, it has to defy the time constraints of our modern lifestyle
Eposure: What are you trying to achieve with your approach?
J-P: With every commission I’m trying to achieve is a picture that’s as commercial as possible. An image needs to connect with the customer it’s targeting, and my approach is to make sure I also bring an artistic element to it, because I want the image to be more than momentarily interesting, and my view is that the artistic element creates an intrinsic appeal that holds the viewer for longer; in a way, its making time stand still in a fast-paced world.
I never try to stick within a certain style, the very nature of being creative is to want to try different things, and my images create answers to questions. If they happen come out looking stylized then that’s just part of the process, I don’t want to be a slave to making everything look as if it fits ‘my style’
Eposure: Many of your commissions are used for advertising campaigns, why do they work so well in that genre?
J-P: I’m most successful when I approach as shoot as a means to convey an idea – and at times this means compressing a narrative into a single frame. The fact is, with commercial images, the viewers – the brand’s customers – are only giving advertising messages fleeting glances, so it’s imperative that I can create commercial pictures that can be ‘read’ instantaneously. Often that means making it necessarily minimal, but not always. Sometimes it’s just the opposite, adding levels of complexity can be integral to an image, nobody needs to ‘get’ everything on first pass, and brand images are designed to be seen multiple times, so the various elements can be just as important to the impression it leaves.
Eposure: There’s much more going on here than just photography as we all think of it, what other disciplines are you bringing into your work?
J-P: I’ve a tendency to pre-visualise an image well before I make it, although that’s not carved in granite, but is more of a starter point.
And I purposefully use the word MAKE, the time of the fortuitous picture (or the decisive moment) departed with the first digital camera. In a time saturated with cameras our jobs as professionals must be to create, and not merely capture.
A professional shoot has always brought with it more than the just photography side, hair, make-up artists, stylists, models, etc. These are all still essentials, however an understanding of retouching is the most recent ingredient I have added to my repertoire. Its insufficient to try and cobble together disparate elements and hope for a good result and I believe, for a cohesive solution, everything (within reason) should be shot bespoke for that particular job.
Eposure: How do you work best?
J-P: I do enjoy working in a studio but given the choice I gravitate toward location shoots, in the main because I like the challenges. It’s important to be adaptable and use what’s happening to your advantage, and to the advantage of the image.
It’s always a team effort, the contribution from others is a huge part of what I do, none of my images would be half as good without the people who work with me. It’s vital to creativity to not get too entrenched in your own thing and to avoid getting in a rut it really is essential to work with other creatives and with other minds with other ideas. Collaborations are crucial to keep things on the move, it stimulates and inspires and it takes me to places I wouldn’t have gone without the input.
For more information about Jon-Paul and his work please visit his website at