From retail to marketing, photography to creative direction, the positions available in the industry are as varied as they are exciting. For the Inside View this week, we caught up with Rory James, Fashion, Portrait and Music Photographer. Published in Time Out, CLASH, Wonderland and more, he has been working with cultural icons since going freelance after a spell working in a London studio. From Emily Malice for his tattooist series to backstage at Ashish and Zandra Rhodes during London Fashion Week, Rory focuses on capturing the essence of popular culture, through music and fashion photography.

We caught up to hear more about shooting behind the scenes for Ivy Park, the liberating nature of freelance work, and how it felt flying to Sri Lanka to shoot the first Mercedes Benz Fashion Week there. Here, we find out why taking the time to get to know your subjects makes all the difference to the video, image and atmosphere of a shoot.

What is your job, and what does a normal day look like for you?

I’m a Freelance Photographer based in East London. It’s difficult to tell you about a normal day, as part of what I love about this job is that no two days are the same! A lot of time goes into planning shoots and projects. This can be anything from booking models and meeting with prospective clients to conceptualising my ideas and planning how to bring them into reality.

Why did you become a photographer?

Way back in college I wanted to study art but it became clear quite quickly that I had the ideas but none of the practical skills! So photography was for me a way to create things with a skill I already had. More recently, I went freelance as I love being able to choose when and who I work with. I don’t think I’d be very good in an office scenario! 

What achievements in your career so far, are you most proud of?

As a photographer who works in many disciplines, my proudest achievements are varied. Shooting backstage at London Fashion Week was a big one for me. Being around the work of such talented designers as Ashish Gupta and Zandra Rhodes. Having my work featured by publications such as CLASH and Wonderland and Time Out is always a confidence boost!

What did you study at university and how has this helped you?

I studied Commercial Photography at Arts University Bournemouth which is a fantastic course, that I would recommend to anyone. Doing a degree so heavily focused on the modern industry is invaluable and gives you the prior knowledge to manage all parts of life as a freelance photographer further than the creative, such as the financial and business side along with marketing your work properly. 

How did you decide to become a freelancer?

I worked for a bit of time in full time roles with prestigious photographers in their London studio, but decided that being freelance was the only way that gave me the freedom required to do this job well. It was tough at first, living in London with no guaranteed regular work but after a while, hard work and investment paid off! I would encourage any young creative to consider a freelance career path especially at a time when you’ve got nothing to lose and no major commitments. The current industry climate seems to be leaning this way with fewer full time photography contracts being handed out than ever.

What are the perks of the job?

The people. Every shoot I work with a varied group of people and as a portrait photographer, I take the time to get to know my subject whenever possible, in order for the photos to be personal to them and reflective of their personality.

How can a recent graduate or student gain experience in this area?

Assisting. Start assisting professional photographers as quickly as you can. I began at the beginning of my second year of uni and it gave me the experience and contacts I needed to go freelance quite soon after graduating. If you can’t assist them then ask them questions, get to know the people in the industry. It’s a small place but a few great chats here and there can go a really long way! 

Words and interview by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins