Contest: PhotoFood
Edward Olive was a commercial litigation lawyer in London & Paris until throwing in the towel to pursue his more artistic interests working as a professional screen actor, based since 2002 in Madrid, Spain.

Edward got into photography by chance only in 2005 when he purchased his first camera (an entry level digital reflex Canon 350d) to shoot his own actor’s book on a tripod with remote control. Finding he enjoyed the experience he started shooting actor & musician friends & the people living and working in his neighborhood Chueca (central Madrid’s equivalent of Soho or Le Marais).

Again by chance in summer 2006, when shooting street portraits, the owner of the local antique postcard shop offered him his first professional job, shooting his daughter’s wedding. Having no idea how to shoot a wedding and having only one camera (ca Canon 5d digital reflex) one lens (an 85mm f1.2 L ultra fast portrait lens) and no flashgun he shot the wedding all on available light relying on instinct alone, reacting to the events and the people as he found them at a discreet distance, posing nobody and faking nothing.

Exchanging html design classes for his English classes with a local computer programmer he built his first website to put up the pictures on the internet. The home made website of his photos was an instant success and from then on he suddenly found he was a “wedding photographer” travelling across Europe to shoot his web visitors’ weddings.

Dissatisfied with the focused perfection of modern digital images and seeking an alternative look for his pictures he started adapting analog lenses (he extracted from broken old cameras with a large metal hammer we understand) onto his digital reflex using masking tape and built DIY lighting from microphone stands, disco lights and Kelvin correction gelatin discarded by technicians on his acting jobs.

In autumn 2006 he bought his first film camera, a 1980’s Russian point-and-shoot (a cult Lomo LCA) using some very expired color film they were throwing out of the local photography store. Delighted with the dreamlike qualities and vintage colors, he hasn’t looked back. He continues to shoot almost exclusively analog cameras, still preferring the oldest expired film he can find, shunning the contemporary digital post-produced Photoshop look of current commercial & fashion photography, in favor of the grittier, earthier, unpredictability of expired film whether color negative, slides, black & white or Polaroid type instant film.

Edward freely admits that it wasn’t until he bought his first Hasselblad in 2007 (the classic V series 500c/m with Carl Zeiss t* lenses) that he really found his instrument of choice. He still uses other cameras for reasons of variety, speed, ultra fast lenses or the discretion and convenience of a 35mm compact camera but takes a pair of V series 6x6 cameras & wheelie bag loaded with 120 & 220 film backs, as he says, when he really means business. Slideshow of his Hasselblad work:

Outside weddings Edward’s pictures range from street photography to nudes, often combining his location wedding travel to shoot personal projects inspired by the new places & people, admitting he still takes more photos for himself just for fun than he does to try and sell later to clients, taking some consolation from the new ideas that come from expression, reinvention & experimentation, free from any commercial pressures, that can later be applied at work to put food on the table.

Edward’s wedding photography style is still, as it was on his first assignment, instinctive, unprepared and natural, preferring to keep an open mind, only reacting to the events as they unfold, at times keeping discreet and shooting off long lenses and at times getting into the thick of the parties as just another guest… and in the wildest Latino weddings can even be seen shooting his pictures dancing merengue with female guest in one hand and camera in the other.

Edward’s reportages are typically focused on the capture of emotion: the groom hugging his best friend from Australia; the little girl crying under the table; the best man whose lip trembles during his speech; the father of the bride with eyes closed on the dance floor at 4am with drink in the air to favorite tune… but often also involve trademark candid sensual and even erotic images of his brides & female wedding guests. He describes his work as often treading in certain shots on the limits of what catholic mothers in law can be persuaded to remain calm over without swinging their lead lined handbags at the foreign photographer.

Edward aims to project in his work the contrasts and contradictions that exist withn himself and within people in general. He wears Italian silk suits to work but takes some shots that step out of line. He uses perhaps the world’s best cameras and lenses yet feeds at times them with the worst Chinese made “black and white” film that has in reality neither black nor white dreamy red blurred images. A combination of the perfect public image and internal private thoughts that combine to make up the people we are, conforming and breaking society’s norms. His aim is to one day attain the vocal control of Pavarotti yet to turn it on hits head Sex Pistols style refusing to sing correct notes.

Edward’s admits that his studies of Stanislavski and work as professional actor have helped him in his wedding photography concentrating on the capture of real emotions, the desire to obtain a cinematographic look & an obsession to eliminate any hint of over acting in his portraiture work. However he is the first to say that both his acting and photography is really and more fundamentally a form of self expression to convey emotions through the use of the third person, emotions that in his own personal life he finds more difficult to release. In his photography the capture of the emotions of others and in his acting work the “theatrical mask” that is the portrayal of a character.

Ironically Edward has said from his earliest years he never wanted to get married himself, even admitting that just seeing the grooms standing at the front of the cathedrals with everyone looking gave him a cold sweat until photographic matters got him back to thinking shutter speeds on the little kids running around at the back of the congregation and the inadvertent rising up of female guests’ dresses. Recently there has been a slight softening of his hard line, stating that if he ever did get hitched it would be as Elvis in Las Vegas with the bride as Marilyn on YouTube with only one photo taken, preferably of the bride & preferably without all her clothes, which would be the role of the only guest.

Artistically Edward lists influences from William Claxton; Joe Buissink, the VIP Beverly Hills wedding photographer; Anton Corbijn (particularly his work with U2); Mario Testino’s informal “backstage” reportage and Japanese Flickr photographic maestro Toshihiro “Tommy” Oshima. However he feels that more important than seeking same medium influences are other sources of inspiration whether other artistic media such as music, literature, dance… or simply travelling, going for a run in the park on a day off or spending all day in bed with someone who matters.

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