Taking images that people want to keep
Greg Funnell is a London based photographer whose work for charities and NGO’s in the UK and abroad across Africa, South East Asia and Latin America often involves delivering the goods in unstable environments. Funnell studied History and War Studies at King’s College London before moving into photography.
He has spent the last 10 plus years shooting everything from commissioned celebrity portraits, to travel assignments, in-depth documentary features and development work in the field for NGOs. He also works in the commercial and advertising sector, producing campaigns and content for clients on international campaigns, especially in the travel, lifestyle and adventure industries.
Funnell has also lectured on photography and the industry at institutions and universities throughout the UK, and has been approached as a consultant on numerous projects. He is full member of the Association of Photographers (AOP), a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and a member of PhotoShelter, the leader in portfolio websites, photo sales, marketing, and archiving tools for photographers.
Please introduce yourself and your photography
I’ve been shooting professionally for 12 years now. I have a studio in south London but work globally on assignments and commissions. My main interest is in capturing images that will stand the test of time, images that people want to keep coming back to.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is about seeing, it is about really seeing. We often look but we do not always see. To see properly we have to be tuned into the moment, but we have to be more than just present, we have to exist almost on another plane, one where we can slow down time to the point where we capture it and stands still forever. This is, as you can imagine, is hard to do, and in many ways is rare and infrequent. But when everything comes together and you are able to get into the correct headspace to work that way – it can feel almost zen-like.
Tell us about your most memorable shoot
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to be asked by Vanity Fair to shoot a story in Tanzania on the Hadza, a tribe of nomadic hunter-gatherers whose way of life is under threat. Spending time with them in the bush and seeing the way that they utilise knowledge of nature and their surroundings was a real privilege. It is knowledge the majority of the world has simply lost. Most of us live in constructed cities and fret about constructed systems that are meant to make our lives more efficient, but inevitably make life more complicated. The Hadza’s way of life hasn’t really changed much for thousands of years. It was definitely an honour to be able to observe a way of life that involved a much more symbiotic approach to the natural world. Seeing them hunt for bees nests with the eager assistance of a ‘Honey bird’ was mind blowing.
When did you get started in travelling photography?
I have always been interested in travel and being exposed to new countries, languages and cultures. Before I was being paid to shoot travel, I was already taking myself off for extended periods, when I could afford it, and shooting out of pure curiosity and joy. Probably in around 2010 I got my first few travel commissions, and I started shooting for airline magazines and a few of the bigger newspapers in the UK. Generally shooting editorial travel is a bit of a hustle these days, but it is certainly still possible. It is an interesting sector of the industry because you have to be quite adaptable to shoot it, and capable of wearing many different hats.
Where do you like taking pictures?
I like taking pictures anywhere that I find visually stimulating. If I have a reason to be there and feel that I have the approval of the subjects that I am photographing, then it certainly makes things easier. However I can take pictures anywhere if the light is right, and I can lock into the right state of mind. For me, when I am shooting something that most people don’t get to see, I get really excited because I feel the images then have importance and poignancy. I love assignments that celebrate human culture and achievements.
What is your next destination?
Currently things are winding down for the year. However, I am trying to tee up some trips for next year – I certainly hope to be heading back out to South America again. Ever since I started this career, I have tried to visit at least one new country per year – so that is always in the back of my mind when planning trips.