Lauren Parkin

Billy Bennet | Interview

Originally published in our second edition of Ezra Magazine.

“This was something I was more than happy to do because I knew it would one day pay off. The amount of knowledge I gained about studio photography, networking and customer service truly made it worth it. I knew I had to work hard if I was going to succeed in the industry, and if working for free meant that I would be one step closer, then this was something I was happy to do.”

Jumping into the world of photography at age 16, Billy Bennett began interning at a photography fashion school to hone his skills and dedicated “every single Saturday” to intern there for free. 

“People usually think that there are two sides of the camera. You’re either in front of it as a model or behind it as the photographer. I spent a lot of time on the side of the camera that often isn’t spoken about. This side is the third side and it is the side of being an assistant. I spent a large amount of my time assisting. Because of my age, I was always ‘just the assistant’. It took a lot of courage for me to put my foot down and tell myself that I wasn’t just an assistant anymore. When I was given paid work, I was too scared to accept it because I never thought I was good enough. I actually often offered to do it for free rather than accepting payment because I was so used to being referred to as the assistant.”

© Billy Bennet

Self identity can often be a trouble aspect to any career when first starting out. At times the employee might feel as though they are an ‘impostor’ – getting paid for skills they think they don’t deserve to be paid for. 

“Being young comes with its price. I am used to having those older than me assume that I am immature and unable to cope with stress. I guess the best thing I can do is prove them wrong. Being in the photographic/media industry has opened up so many exciting opportunities for me to meet so many amazing people within the creative industry.

“I’ve been able to visit amazing locations and attend sponsored dinners – all things I never imagined myself doing. I’m very grateful that I’ve discovered my passion for photography. Even while working, it honestly just feels like I’m getting paid to have fun because I enjoy it so much. I can’t imagine what I would be doing if I weren’t creating.”

© Billy Bennet

On the topic of creativity – one which we love exploring in Ezra Magazine, everyone loves to create differently. Their heads are in different spaces, they draw inspiration from different areas and like working at different times during the day because that’s when they feel they are most creative. 

“The thrill and rush that I experience is something that is very hard to explain. I have so many thoughts going on inside my head during a shoot. I guess my biggest fear is not being good enough. What if the photos aren’t good? What if the model doesn’t like them? This is something that just has to do with my personal habit to over think.

“However, I must state that I’ve never had a shoot where I haven’t had fun. Every time I take photos I have music playing and spend at least 50% of the time laughing. If you’re not enjoying and having fun while creating, then why are you doing it?” Below is a few of our Q&A’s with Billy Bennett.

How do you prepare yourself mentally before a shoot? Do you have any special routines you like to do beforehand or do you like to sort of just, ‘go for it’?

“I’ve always wanted to have some sort of ritual that I would do before a shoot – but I haven’t quite found the right one yet. So I guess you could say I just ‘go for it’. I always plan my shoots to some extent, but i think it’s best to go with whatever your gut tells you in the moment. I’ve had shoots before where I’ve prepared a certain style and it evolves into a completely different photo shoot.”

© Billy Bennet

“In 2016 I photographed my close friend China Darlington. The shoot was planned to be ‘tribal’ themed but by the end of the shoot I had her throwing talcum powder everywhere and creating a massive mess. You sometimes just have to let loose and have fun when creating. Who knows, you might even end up with a final product better than you had originally planned.”

Do you think people treat you differently because you are a young photographer? If so, how have you dealt with it and what do you say to people who answer back with, ‘you’re so young!’

“I definitely think people treat me and my photography differently because of my age. It’s become very clear that my generation is seen as ‘lazy’. I spent 2 years interning for free as an assistant to gain as much experience and knowledge as possible. When finally given paid work, I felt reluctance and some questioned whether I could handle it. I did struggle knowing that the only reason some were reluctant was my age, even though I had been learning the processes for 2 whole years. But in the end, I just have to get on with what I’m being paid to do. If they think I’m incapable because of my age, then I’m more than happy to show them just how capable I am.”

“I hope the world changes into a more positive mindset towards young creators. The constant ‘you’re too young’ can almost feel like a de-motivator. I hope anyone who is pursuing any kind of career at a young age just works hard no matter what comments are made. You know what you’re capable of, it’s up to you to present it.”

What sparked the idea for the photography project centred around terrorism?

“Ever since I was little, it was tradition for my family to watch the news at 7PM. I’ve always been engrossed in the news and what is going on in the world. Terrorism is a topic that appears on the news more and more each month and it is honestly quite scary. As much as I wish I could write blogs that could make a change – writing has never been my strong point. So I figured that if I can’t write – why not try and make some sort of change through the images I create.”

“My photography series based on terrorism is going to be a symbolic recreation of particular attacks that have happened on the world. The images will showcase what happened and the effects it has on people’s lives. I’m creating this series in hope that people will realise how bad these attacks really are and I want to reiterate that just because these attacks are no longer shown on the news, the families and victims have to suffer through what happened every single day. This particular series is one I decided to postpone. It’s something I am so passionate about and I would rather wait until I’m completely ready and capable before delving into such a big project.”

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What is one particular photograph you have taken that defines who you are as a photographer? Tell us about it and why.

“I think it would be quite impossible to find one photo that defines me as a photographer because I am always pushing my boundaries and limits each time I create. There is, however, a photo that defines the exact moment I decided to delve into the path of photography. And this photo is probably one of the worst I’ve ever taken, but it means a lot to me because it is essentially the photo that made me say ‘hey, maybe I’ll learn about photography’”

“Many many years ago, when I was 15, I went to the zoo with my sister to accompany her as she did an assignment for her animal science University degree. At the time, photography wasn’t even on my mind. I took the camera to take random photo’s of the animals I encountered.

“When I arrived home, I went through the camera roll and came across this photo that I took of a lion. As you can see, it’s nothing special. But for me at the time, I felt inspired. It was the first time I had created something and it was the first time I felt the need to create more. I always think back to that day and wonder what I’d be doing now if I decided to stay home rather than accompany my sister.

© Billy Bennet

How do you deal with stressful situations as a photographer? 

“During a shoot, it is so easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Sometimes I struggle to gather the vision in my mind and create it in front of the camera. I’ve had to figure out ways to make sure this doesn’t show as it is my job to make sure the client feels comfortable. Many people I photograph haven’t modelled before, so it is so important that I keep them confident during their time on the other side of the camera.”

“I definitely think the most stressful situation I experienced was during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2017. During this week, I was assisting an amazing photographer who was taking photos for Vogue, MAC Cosmetics and many other well known brands. I was so stressed I didn’t check any of the photos as I was taking them. The whole week I worked 12 hour days and I was constantly in fear that I was doing something wrong. But in the middle of all the chaos there remained some calmness because it just clicked that this was the industry I wanted to work in. The best way to deal with stressful situations in my opinion is to take a step back and tell yourself that you’ve got this. Have confidence in yourself and keep creating.”

You can view Billy Bennett’s portfolio by visiting his website at www. billybennet.com