James Ellerker won the Let’s Face It 3 single image category with his atmospheric shot of a traditional circus ringmaster commanding the crowd. The self-taught photographer started taking images with his father's camera in his early teens and by his early 20s decided that he was going to pursue a career in photography. He has worked as an assisting photographer for the last six years and has assisted a number of photographers including Tim Flach, Ashton Keiditsch, Sam Hicks, Julia Fullerton-Batten and Jason Bell. We talked to him about his Let’s Face It 3 single image win.
"I love portraiture," he explained. "I enjoy working with people and love the connection that the photographer makes with his subject shooting a portrait. I see it as a privilege."
The winning image in Let's Face It 3 was taken whilst James had backstage access at Zippo's travelling circus. He remembers it being quite a struggle to gain permission to photography the circus. "I basically harassed them until they gave me permission – it took a while!" he laughed. "I had in mind a very cinematic approach to this project and I wanted to get behind the scenes".
"Norman – the ringmaster in the image – is such a great personality and exudes charisma. I decided to shoot the image from behind him so that I would catch him at his most natural in his working environment." The result is perhaps an unusual angle for a portrait image, but it's obviously one which works.
James has been working for some years as a photographer's assistant but now feels that the time has come for him to move on. He's currently putting a lot of time into his personal projects and getting his book together, making sure that he has a strong portfolio. His next goal is to find an agent to work with and his long-term aim is to work on creative editorial and advertising campaigns.
He feels that it’s key to be proactive in order to shift from assistant to photographer, and that competitions play a major part in getting his name and images known. “This is the first year that I’ve entered competitions; they are so good for creating awareness of your work. If you’re going to succeed, you need to put time and effort into showing people that you exist,” he says firmly. “Awards are perfect for that.”