“The rain had started to come down … and all the photographers were shouting ‘put the umbrella down, get that guy away,’ because it ruins their shot. But for me, it really made the shot.”
— Getty Images Photographer Gareth Cattermole on his image of actress Reese Witherspoon in the rain
Based in London, Gareth Cattermole is an entertainment staff photographer for Getty Images, and has been with the company for over 12 years. Specializing in fashion and portraiture, Gareth has considerable experience in the fashion and entertainment field, covering major industry events throughout the duration of his career, including London Fashion Week for the past 13 years. In addition, Gareth has also covered Paris, Berlin and New York Fashion Weeks, as well as Film Festivals in Cannes, Rome, Venice, Dubai and London. Gareth has also worked extensively at the MTV Awards, The Brits and the BAFTAs.
Gareth introduced and developed Getty Images’ “alternative view” collection of images, for which he approaches the shoot from a creative angle and uses post production techniques to create a stunning visual that gives a different insight to an event.
How did you get started in your photography career?
I was never academic at school at all; I loved art and being outside. Sitting down to learn was something I could never do, and I would become incredibly frustrated in all classes other than art until that teacher introduced me to photography.
I went on to study a BTEC at West Herts College in Watford and in my final year while out shopping with my parents, my dad picked up a copy of the British Journal of Photography and saw an ad for celebrity photographers with ‘Big Pictures.‘ I wasn’t too keen on the idea as I’m not really a celebrity person but my mum and dad both said: ‘Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do to get where you want to be.’ So I went for an interview. I was very young and had no experience at all, but they called me straight back and gave me the job. I’ll always be grateful to them for my first break. All I wanted to do was take pictures every day.
I stayed with them for around three years, did a lot of travelling and learned so much being a paparazzi photographer – I’m in no way ashamed of it. I left in 2002 and moved to Getty Images after they approached me, and I’ve been on staff there ever since.
Did you have a mentor in your earlier days and what did they teach you?
I have had a few mentors throughout my career, but the two most important ones have been MJ Kim and Andy Zakeli – both exceptional photographers. Andy and I worked together during my time at Big Pictures, he taught me a lot about how to deal with the frustrations of the job and how to turn disadvantages into advantages and make things work for you. He has been a solid support to me throughout my whole career and is one of Australia’s finest photographers.
MJ Kim was my senior photographer at Getty and taught me most of what I know today. From lighting and technical aspects to dealing with clients. When he joined Getty, he really took me under his wing; we worked and traveled everywhere together. He taught me the importance of being a good operator.
Also most importantly my parents have always supported me and my decisions and have always been there for me. It was very hard for me in the early years and hasn’t always been easy throughout my career but my parents have always been by my side and I certainly would not be where I am today if it weren’t for all of these people.
What important lessons did you learn early on in your career?
I started out as a paparazzi photographer so all of my early lessons were tailored towards that kind of work. Taking the actual pictures was not really the difficult part, it was learning how to get into a position where you could get the images, which is what I had to learn very fast. You also learn not to be seen, and this is what allows you to get a stronger set of pictures. I was never ashamed of what I did because I actually use those skills to this very day in my work. When I am shooting behind the scenes, I try to blend in and not be seen as this creates a much more natural feel to the images.
I also learned that my parents’ advice was right and that we may have to do things we don’t want to do to get where we want to be. I never grew up wanting to be a paparazzi photographer but it was my break into the industry and I took that chance. These days with digital cameras and social media literally everyone is a photographer, but I was faced with carrying a printed portfolio around with me to look for work. It just so happened the first interview I went for I was offered a job.
Also don’t try and run before you can walk, take time to learn your craft from those who have more experience and also respect goes a long way, as does the ability to be humble.
What advice did you receive when starting out that sticks with you today?
The most important piece of advice I have ever been given was from MJ Kim and that was to become a good operator. I was taught that being a good operator is 70% of the job and actual photography makes up the remaining 30%. You can be the most amazing photographer in the world but if you can’t deal with people or aren’t able to get yourself backstage at a fashion show when a PR is giving you grief, you’re not getting any pictures. You have to be good with people, build contacts and understand that great photographers are not defined alone by their actual work – it’s who they are as people that gets them access.
Do you still feel like you’re learning at this point in your career?
I am learning every day; MJ always used to say to me that as photographers we never ever stop learning and that to become truly successful we never can stop.
We have to learn new techniques and processes to further ourselves and our work. I still have a few mentors especially within Getty Images and they all help in different ways.
MJ is still my overall mentor; I will turn to him for advice. He lives in LA now, but we speak pretty regularly. I also find the internet a great source, I like learning from YouTube videos and reading blogs about techniques or new kit or watching old documentaries and interviews with photographers for inspiration and learning.
View the latest from Gareth Cattermole on Getty Images
For further information, visit: garethcattermole.com