Cape Town based photographer Neil Roberts Mayne heard his calling into the creative field after his travels and a few modelling gigs. The graduate of Psychology discovered the world of fashion as a model and decided to start working behind the camera. As a self-taught photographer he learned the tricks of the trade through making his own errors and learning from them.
Also a director, Neil likes to keep things fresh by working on all sorts of projects that come his way. His kidswear photographs are brimming with style while capturing innocence and bright smiles. On the other hand, his fashion photography featuring men and women is vibrant, edgy and fun. We chatted to Neil to learn more about him and his work.
Tell us more about your background and how it has influenced your career?
After school I studied Psychology. At first I wanted to work with kids but I couldn’t deal as in this case you usually end up working with lighties that are not so happy. But it was only when I started modelling after my degree that I discovered this world of fashion and became interested in it. Collectively both my studies and experience modelling have given me a lot of what I use to make the pictures I do. I love shooting fashion and kidswear.
How did you go about becoming a photographer?
After a stint travelling and modelling I decided to try and work behind the camera and got into production where I coordinated shoots. At the time I was working with some great international brands, photographers and art directors. An early mentor told me that if he knew then what he knows now he would not have studied photography. He said everything you need to know about pictures is built into the camera and that there are no rules for good pictures, only good pictures. I took this to heart and decided never to assist or study but to rather teach myself via trial and error and a bit of voyeurism by watching the shoots that were going on around me in the production world. I had a spare room in my first flat and used it to start shooting the crazy people I was pals with. Once some of those images got picked up by magazines I decided to go into shooting full time and have not looked back since.
How would you describe your photography style?
I think it’s quite DIY and sometimes experimental. I have always tried to dabble in different styles and mediums. It’s part of what I love about photography. You can take so many different types of shots, and I try to do just that. That being said I think there is an element of youth culture and subtle homoeroticism in my fashion work.
Your photographs are for the most part fashion-focussed. What do you enjoy about making fashion imagery?
Fashion photography is the creative expression of clothing and fashion. To me it’s a fantasy or a moment that can’t be seen with the naked eye and needs a camera, a ridiculously hot person and a team of creative people to make that moment. After that it lasts a few minutes and fades away leaving you wanting to create the next image. It’s a momentary thrill and that’s what I like about it.
Which one came about first – directing or photography? How do you use these two mediums differently?
My career has been an evolution, I never planned to direct. When still cameras changed a few years ago to include HD video functionality I started playing with it. I was so stoked to see my pictures move that I pressed in. Directing is still new and whilst I have done a few TVCs and a bunch of fashion films I am still learning and loving it. It seems that particularly in fashion there has been a move by clients to work with photographers as directors so I see the two going nicely hand in hand. I can see it growing and I am well pleased to keep at it.
How selective are you with the projects that come your way? How do you decide what to take on?
Well I think I am pretty open. I like to work with new people and especially new emerging creatives. I think that you get your best results when you are part of a strong team. I like to take projects on as they come and base it on the creative merit they pose. Keeps things fresh.
Please tell us about your ongoing series ‘bratpics’?
Bratpics420 is a project I have been working on with my boyfriend Gavin Mikey Collins. We have a few small cameras that we take with us most places. We are pretty social and just love seeing how people flex their expressive vibes out and about and we try to capture that. So essentially it is a documentation of ‘in the moment’ focused on youth and fringe cultures. We have been throwing parties with our pal Michael Cooper from GQ and that has given us a great platform to shoot people in all kinds of crazy outfits. You should come check out DISKOTEKAH and have your picture taken!
What are you working on at the moment?
It never ends. Have a few things going on but I am most excited about the exhibition work I have been doing. Gavin and I are shooting 100 young South Africans for a show we want to do in the summer. I’m using a light that I created and so I feel like it’s pretty special. Keep you posted!