Timothy Cochrane interview
Timothy Cochrane is a music photographer. He’s worked for SonyBMG and NME and he’s photographed Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and the Beastie Boys. Here he tells us how he got started and explains why he’s in a constant battle with the ticking clock…
I’ve never taken a photography lesson in my life.
I studied sound engineering at uni and worked in that field for a few years. That job took me to Australia to work for Sony and while I was there I did some photography on the side. I volunteered to work for free so when lesser known British bands came over I would hang around with them and do little tour documentaries. After a while I came back to England with a portfolio from my free work and touted it around. I got some work with a photo agency in London and from there I pitched to people like NME and finally started to get paid work.
One of the hardest parts of this job, particularly when you’re starting out, is convincing marketing departments to let you have access to the people you want to photograph. Everyone is really guarded about keeping up a certain image so they can be sceptical about using a photographer they don’t know. The other huge challenge in this industry is time. Every aspect of my work is limited by it. You usually get fairly short notice about a shoot and then you’re given x amount of minutes on the day. I photographed the Beastie Boys for NME last year and I was given six minutes.
At live gigs the standard allowance is three songs, but sometimes it’s shorter. I did a Beyonce gig at the beginning of the year and I was allowed 80 seconds. You have to prepare really carefully for that type of job. A lot of work goes into choosing the right equipment. Everything happens so quickly so there’s no chance of changing midway through.
When you go to a festival as a photographer there’s a lot of running around. I have a spreadsheet of who I’ve got to shoot and when. You literally go to one stage for three songs from one artist and then to a different stage for another three songs, but that stage might be the other side of the festival. It’s hard work.
Like many photographers I got into this by being a music fan, so it can be upsetting when you have to leave a gig midway through. I found myself out in the street listening to the remainder of a Radiohead gig once. While I’m shooting I tend to get really involved with the camera and I almost zone out. I could walk away from a gig and not even tell you what songs were played.
When you do a shoot you’ve got to get a good rapport going with the person you’re photographing otherwise it can feel awkward for both of you. The thing is that it’s quite a collaborative art because you both want the same thing out of the shoot. They want to look good and you want a photo of them looking good. If you put in a bit of effort to make them feel at ease then most people will be really helpful.
I don’t really know whether this is the dream job people imagine it to be. Every job has its downside. Working for a magazine with a high profile brings a lot of pressure with it. You’re only as good as your last job so you’ve got to be constantly upping your game and you don’t necessarily get to be as creative as you would if you worked for a smaller publication. If you want to make it in this industry you’ve got to be determined and focused. Aside from that there’s a large element of luck and good timing, which can be massively improved by being proactive and pestering people.
Timothy Cochrane was speaking to Katie Jackson.