My year in images | Portraits

When you take as many photos as I do, the ones that tend to stand out are those that have something a little different about them, those that for some reason or another are out of the ordinary.

Usually, one sees an image in isolation, left to be judged only by what information is contained within the frame. But photos are more than just a moment in time. In most cases, the end result is governed by the circumstances presented to the photographer, meaning there’s often an untold story behind them, a context that can make them more interesting than just being another nice picture.

While quantity is ubiquitous, quality is elusive, especially when you’re continually raising your own bar. Like many creatives, my focus is habitually on the here and now, rather than the past, so I’m always more excited about the results I’ll see from my next shoot, than the images I’ve already created. Even so, I recognise at least once every twelve months, it’s good to pause and reflect, to look back and take stock.

As I did last year, I’ve split this retrospective across the subjects I photograph the most — automotive, floral, music and people — and selected just ten images from each.

Whatever I’m shooting, I always aim to create images that are inventive, that are different from the norm. Whether that’s in the content or the execution, for me, it’s all about being out of the ordinary.

Since day dot, I’ve never been content for my images to be restricted to what can be achieved in camera and have continually experimented with different looks and treatments to find my own individual aesthetic. 2018 has seen me not just be more inventive than ever, but perhaps most satisfyingly, produce images that are even more distinctive. The end-game? Creating immediately identifiable, iconic images.

The more pictures I take, the more I find myself drawn to images of people, and more specifically, portraits. No matter the circumstance, I feel I have an ability to seek out interesting faces. But as always, finding the subject and taking their picture is only just the start of the process.


I’ve been shooting the Brighton Tattoo Convention for each of the past eight years. Keen not to repeat myself, each time, I’m looking for something different. It’s easy to get shots of heavily tattooed people, the Convention is full of them. Much harder is to seek out a pretty face or an unexpected subject. And you really do have to seek them out. One such person was this girl whose look reminded me of Cleopatra. Having got her agreement to be photographed, it was just a question of waiting patiently for the shot. No posing, no cheesy grin, just a natural expression. It’s how I like to get my portraits.


The legendary guitarist was being interviewed at The Great Escape. By the time I arrived at Patterns, the small club was rammed and I found myself unable to get to the front. With people standing in front of me, I didn’t have a uninterrupted view of Marr who was sitting in a stool. Fortunately there were a few brief moments when his head appeared among the gaps between the heads of the audience and I was able to fire off a few shots. Given the circumstances I don’t think I could have got any better portraits, no matter where I was standing. He’s got such a great face to shoot and some brilliant expressions. This is one from the set.


Each year at The Great Escape I try and identify one or two artists who I think have something about them that sets them apart from the rest of those on the bill. I then try and arrange to interview them. This time round, the focus of my attention were new Vegas rockers Naked Elephant and, particularly their frontman Josh Royse. Immediately after their gig at the Hope & Ruin I sat down with Josh a few streets away for a chat. In the limited time we had, I also took some portraits of him. I had previously scouted two locations that would make for interesting backdrops. With his rock star looks and outfit, Josh was fantastic to shoot and virtually every frame was a keeper. This portrait, in front of some monochrome street art captures him perfectly.


The last band I saw at this year’s The Great Escape was one I stumbled across when leaving the festival’s new beach side venue. Whenever I’m shooting a new band, I instinctively gravitate to an interesting face. So it was with APRE and their guitarist Jules Konieczny. As always, it’s about capturing the emotion of a live performance.


This was my second time shooting Seal. Not only does he have a great face to photograph, but he has a wide range of expressions. The aim, as always, is to capture his personality with an interesting portrait. Red light is usually something to avoid, but here it works well against the grey of his outfit. I particularly like the red flare on his head.


Waiting in the press tent at Pride before shooting the next act, I looked up and there, standing a few feet from me, was a familiar face. It was Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears. As he posed for a quick selfie, I grabbed two shots. This is one of them.


Of the thousands of racegoers who come to Ladies’ Day at Glorious Goodwood, I’m only interested in the best dressed. More than that, they have to be wearing a gorgeous hat. It took a while, but I finally spotted what I was looking for. Unfortunately, she was surrounded by other photographers who were snap, snap, snapping away. That’s not my style. So I waited until they’d got their snaps and then went up to her and asked if I could take a photo of her. It turned out I also shot her last year and she loved my portraits. This time the challenge was there was nowhere close by that could act as a plain backdrop and all around us was packed with people. My only option was shooting upwards against the sky. Despite the fierce sun, the rays illuminated her straw hat beautifully.


All too often, a great photo is about capturing a moment in time. This was taken at a pre-season friendly between Brighton and French Ligue 1 team FC Nantes. I was waiting for their substitute to turn round so I could get a shot of him, when all of a sudden he poured a bottle of water over himself. The result? Not your normal footballer photo.


I’ve photographed the Chichester-born singer/songwriter many times. As a pianist, it’s really difficult to get portraits of him other than in profile. I got some great shots of him during his Brighton Dome show, but my favourite was taken when he made a rare foray from his piano and stood on the front of the stage.


This was taken backstage at The Old Market in Brighton. I had just finished interviewing New York indie-rockers Sunflower Bean and wanted to get some portraits of the band to accompany the chat. The interview had over ran and their manager was keen to wrap things up. I didn’t have time to do anything more than find a plain piece of wall and get the band’s three members positioned. Having got a couple of band portraits, I then said I’d like a few individual shots. Their manager wasn’t having any of it and said all three had to be in the shot. It all lasted about a minute and I managed to get three usable shots. This one is an extremely tight edit from one of them. I have to say I love everything about it: Julia’s pose, her expression and how it fits in the square frame.


Inglorious singer Nathan James played the Voice of Humanity in the 40th Anniversary of Jeff Wayne’s The War Of The Worlds. Having shot the show a6t5 the Brighton Centre three times before, I knew how challenging it was to get good portraits of the performers. This time, I was able to get much closer to the stage and this is one of my favourite shots. He looks like a character out of a fantasy movie.

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Gary Marlowe

Gary Marlowe

Creator of images that are out of the ordinary, reviewer of live music and live events and interviewer of interesting people