Meet Alex Douglas A.K.A Blaow, a freelance photographer from Southampton. Blaow started his career by “accident” and is now shooting everything, everywhere and if you ever attend a festival in the UK you will probably spot him at some point. We spent a fun afternoon browsing around Brixton for this interview. Check it out!
My name is Alex or Blaow, either one. I’m a freelance Photographer from Southampton, but have been calling London home since I was 18. In addition to photography I also work part-time for a charity called ALPHA on their creative team.
I got into photography thanks to my older brother. I looked up to him, and copied him quite a lot. I used to steal his clothes, stuff like that. He was really into photography, which meant I was really into photography, but I got better than him when he stopped doing it to focus on making films instead. When I moved to London I was around more creative people, and that helped me get better at my craft. The work I do at ALPHA fell into my lap after failing college. I got an internship and never left, I’m still there part-time, which is a lot nicer and flexible.
Stay grounded. Stay in structure, stay with people.
There are creative people that I look up to and aspire to work like. Then there are photographers who make me excited about stuff that I want to photograph. I do a lot of music photography, and one person who’s influenced a lot of the way I shoot is Ewen Spencer, a British documentary filmmaker from Brighton. Ewen documented subcultures of music so well, almost like an immersive photography of little subcultures of music. He photographed UKG and then grime music as that was being formed. I really like his work. Honestly though I really think my inspiration comes from all sorts of people.
What is one of the things you love most about your line of work?
Stories are so important to people, and Photography is a great tool to tell them. Everyone’s got one. Even if you’re different or ‘bad’, chances are you’ve got a great story. I love that photography can either lie or tell the truth. Sometimes it does both at the same time. My goal is to tell really good stories of people who perhaps have never been asked to share theirs before. I believe that you can hear someone’s story by looking at his or her face. A simple portrait can say so much. I get very excited when I manage to do a little bit of that, and do it well.
Myself. I’m very critical and quite self aware of my failures. It’s always the easy stuff that I don’t seem to get right. People always give creative advice like “thinking outside the box” or “try mindfulness”, and these are really good ones but honestly I think creative people just need to go to bed before midnight, and eat three good meals a day. It would make life so much better, but those sort of structured things are my biggest enemy. I notice when I fall into a structured routine for a month at a time that’s when I produce my best work, simply because I’m grounded. Sometimes when I look more erratic, more busy, my work seems very exciting, but the reality is nothing is working.
I love to take pictures of people. I learnt photography by going out and doing it, shooting photos of friends in natural light. It's definitely the side of photography I enjoy most.
If you can find your worth outside of what you create then you’re going to be stronger than anyone else in your field.
I’ve made some friends that I care about with all my heart now. Friends that I’ve only met because I got the chance to photograph them. There’s a couple of musicians whom I really loved their music, and now I’m grateful to be able to call them friends. We look out for each other and to me that’s been better than all the shoots. To be honest, yes, there are some cheques I’ve cashed and I’ve bought really nice things, and yes, I’ve had really fun days shooting, but there’s more than that.
John Mark McMillan said in an interview, “This whole thing [referring to his career] all ends up with us all sat around the porch clinking our glasses, and telling stories” and I quite like that image, because yeah, there’s these successful things that you can do, that you can put on your LinkedIn profiles but isn’t great to just have great people come together? Maybe that doesn’t sound ambitious enough.
Stay grounded. Stay in structure, Stay with people.
In this life it’s so important to stay with people that know you outside of your creativity/career. If you only know people that you think could be clients I would say get out of that. You need to find people who know who you are outside of what you create. It’s a very dangerous path having your whole personality tied to what you do. If something happened and I couldn’t photograph anymore, I’d still be me, and I’d still have my worth. If you can find your worth outside of what you create, then you’re going to be stronger than anyone else in your field.
Oh! And go to bed early and eat three meals a day.
I’m very critical and quite self aware of my failures. It’s always the easy stuff that I don’t seem to get right.
If I look back and I join the dots of how I got to where I am now it would be audacious for me to say that Jesus wasn’t with me. No, I think I’d just be lying. I’ve never being that good at faith, but I know that God has always had more faith in me than I’ve had in Him. Jesus has been with me and He’s made me better at what I do. He’s also taken me places I wouldn’t have expected to, all of this success, all of these experiences they’re all Him. I can’t claim any of this. I’ve screwed up far too many times along the road to not know that all of this is His plan, even if it doesn’t look like it, it all is.
Like I mentioned before when you keep people around you that know you, and love you for who you are, you do your job better because your purpose is not set on your creativity and that releases all sorts of pressures. You become freer you start to enjoy things more. We all produce better work when we are enjoying it.
The hardest part about community is that we are all pretty of awful. I feel like community is impossible sometimes, because if I get some sort of shame about who I am or how life looks, I’ll retreat from the people that are closest to me, simply because I know those people will embrace me even though I’m rubbish. I can’t hide who I am with them, so it’s easier to hide from them.
I’ve never being that good at faith, but I know that God has always had more faith in me than I’ve had in Him.