It is our pleasure to have Andrew as the guest judge of the Lightweight Photo Contest. Andrew Hancock is a US-based storytelling advertising and editorial photographer. He is a Nikon Ambassador (US) with a passion for creating dynamic visuals for a broad range of clients both in the United States and abroad. With an emphasis on portrait, sport and action imagery, his photos have appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated on multiple occasions as well as on the cover of TIME magazine and Nikon World magazine.
When did you start taking photos and what inspired you to get started?
I started taking photos when I was a kid. Both my parents enjoyed photography and I got my first camera (a fisher price camera) when I was young and went through film and flashes at a rapid pace. It got to the point where my parents had to start rationing film and flash packs! The first time I remember really being impacted by a photo was in high school when I went to a museum and saw a traveling exhibit of Ansel Adams’ work. My mind was blown and at that point, the creative part of my mind was really engaged in a way that it had not been before. Soon after that, all I wanted to shoot was landscapes and nature. At that point I wanted nothing more than to eventually shoot for National Geographic.
How did you get into the sports photography world?
My transition and interest towards sports photography began while in college and working for the student newspaper and yearbook at Texas A&M University. I was an athlete growing up and continued into college so I had a deep appreciation for athleticism, the work that is put in and respect for athletes that can compete at the highest level. I love competition and challenge. When photographing my first football game at Texas A&M’s historic Kyle Field, that is when I felt things begin to change. There was an electricity I felt when shooting the games that I hadn’t felt before and that inspired and fueled me. I liked the challenges and unpredictability that it presented as well as the competition to get the best photos possible. Despite that, I still felt the biggest draw towards telling stories…regardless of genre and was drawn heavily towards photojournalism and newspaper work where you have to be a storyteller across all photographic mediums. It goes beyond artistic vision at that point. However, that being said, the best storytellers have a unique artistic element that presents a situation in an honest yet fresh view that will attract and capture the attention of a reader. That need for diversity continues in my work now as I don’t let myself get tied to any one genre of photography…despite a significant amount of work being from the world of sport. Right now I feel myself drawn to portrait work more than anything else.
What has been your favorite shoot and why?
I don’t really have a favorite sport to shoot because I really enjoy the challenges that they each present. As mentioned before, I like the diversity. That being said, I find myself getting the most excited when basketball season rolls around. That is also the sport that is most exhausting for me with the use of arena strobes and many remote cameras. There is a lot of work that goes in on the front end for me when it comes to shooting basketball.
Do you have a favorite sport to shoot?
There are several memorable shots that come to mind and my favor towards one over another changes with the day. Two of my most famous photographs both happen to have been taken at Texas A&M and of a Texas A&M football player. The first is a photo I took of the student section at a Texas A&M football game. A&M is a very tradition rich school and the student section is the largest in the world. For this particular game, A&M was looking to set the world record and did so with over 31,000 students in the stands. The students are known as the 12th Man, a tradition that began in the early 1900′s. The photo is a long exposure of the students as they wave towels above their head and it creates a dramatic effect and layer to the photo. It ran as a two-page Leading Off spread in the front of Sports Illustrated.
Do you have a memorable favorite shot?
The second photo would be a portrait I took of Texas A&M’s Heisman trophy winning quarterback, Johnny “Football” Manziel. When I found out that I would be photographing Johnny, I wanted to make an iconic photo that had never been taken of a Heisman winner before so I started doing research and trying to come up with ideas. I found that one way that a Heisman winner had never been photographed from was from below, as they hit the iconic Heisman pose. For the shoot, I brought in assistants from across the country and from Texas to help out as we would have Johnny standing atop a 650 pound piece of plexiglas. Adidas sent me a pair of his game cleats so I could modify the bottom for added traction so as not to injure our subject should he have slipped. In the span of 20 minutes we had to photograph Johnny, we accomplished five separate portraits. One (a photo of him in the endzone) would wind up as the cover for Sports Illustrated followed soon after by the plexiglas portrait on the cover of TIME magazine…the first time a non-professional athlete was on the cover of TIME since the 1960s.
What advice can you share with other photographers?
As for advice for other photographers…I preach diversity. Some feel this is counterintuitive but I couldn’t disagree more. I need diversity to keep me fresh and creative. I feel it helps me across all facets of my work. Additionally, one thing I notice with young photographers these days, is they expect a lot of things to be given to them…and they lack work ethic. That is one thing that I pride myself on is having a relentless work ethic. I started off at the bottom step of the ladder working for a small town newspaper in Indiana. I am a better photographer and better person for it. I pushed myself on a daily basis and continued to set goal after goal and never quit until I reached that goal. This continues for me today. I am always thinking, planning, working and challenging myself. It is a non-stop pursuit to continue to improve and evolve as a photographer and a storyteller – whether it is for a commercial or editorial client. I want every photo to tell a story and capture someones attention.
Learn more: www.andrewhancock.com