Theo Gould (2007) tells us what he has been doing since leaving St James.
Theo’s wonderful photographs have gained recognition both in publications and competitions and here he shares what he loves about photography and his aspirations for the future. ‘I’m a photographer mainly working in photojournalism and travel photography. However, I spend a lot of time honing my skills with various other disciplines in photography such as street and city/landscape and some portrait work.
For me there are few greater feelings than that of taking a great photo. I started teaching myself photography when I was living in Colombia last year. It was an amazing way to connect with the culture and people in a country which has seen such violence and felt such tragedy in living memory.
As I was living in Medellín I decided to wander through the poorest parts of the city and speak to the people about their experiences. In many cases, my camera was almost an afterthought. What I found was a group of people in great spirits with great passion for life. I was invited into every home whose door I knocked on, told stories of unbelievable hardship and pain, with family members and other loved ones being killed in some of the most brutal ways possible, yet the smile on their faces told a very different story.
In many ways, this attitude of humans thriving in the face of adversity has informed the rest of my work to a huge degree. The way I see my reportage is that the camera is almost immaterial – I connect with the people, get them to trust me and then the photo is a natural product of those two things: a partnership between subject and photographer.
I have huge aspirations within photography. I’ve only been taking photos for just over a year now, it was something I found much later in life than most people, and although I’ve already had some great recognition for my work in both publications and in competitions my personal, ultimate goal is to work for the Magnum Agency. It is by far the most highly renowned photojournalism agency in the world. It was founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger and David Seymour and has represented virtually every great and prolific photojournalist since its inception in 1947.
At the moment I’m researching a long-term project about Voodoo which will aim to eradicate some of our (poorly founded) western beliefs about it being a force of evil – something it absolutely is not – and on top of that show how important it has been in shaping modern day society.’
When asked about St James, Theo recalls his time there very fondly, ‘St James’ untraditional, yet rounded education taught me many things: to be interested in less mainstream ideas which is absolutely key for finding new and interesting projects. Studying at St James led me to philosophy, which I then studied at undergraduate level and I’m not sure I could fully describe how much it has helped me in relation to understanding issues, thinking around them and also getting to the roots of them. Many, many times I’ve found myself getting completely lost in a shoot. Often losing sight of what I originally set out to do. St James taught me to pause, take a breath and refocus. St James also showed me how to connect with people from all different cultures and how to accept things for what they are as well as teaching me the value of listening to other people because everyone’s got something to teach you.’