An Interview with Coloring Dragons.com

When it comes to having a good eye for a picture, few have one as well honed as Andy Craddock, a photographer by trade, he’s turned an art form into a passion. Enker manages to convince him to spare a few minutes to sit down on the couch and talk to Coloring Dragons about himself, his art, and his passion.

ENKER:  Firstly Andy I want to thank you for agreeing to talk to us today. Your portfolio is amazing and it’s great to have you here. I’ll start with the basics. For those who don’t know you, can you give us a basic summary of who you are and what you do?

ANDY:  Hi Ben! Thank you for the compliment. Me? I’m just a guy trying to turn a passion into a career. I’m a photographer that whilst doing commercial work also has to work to please himself. I have eclectic tastes and a bizarre sense of humour and would love to think that shows in my work.

ENKER:  Your bio says that you are from the United Kingdom (like me) are you English or do you just reside here?

ANDY:  Born and bred in the UK. Pretty much a Sarf London boy with designs on moving to the surfing coasts of Cornwall when I’m rich and famous.

ENKER:  You’re playing through Pokemon Pearl on the DS according to your latest DeviantART Journal, how are you finding it? Do you play games often?

ANDY:  Pokémon Pearl has to be the most rounded of all the Pokémon games to date. Over 100 hours in and still addicted. Gotta catch ‘em all you know! I’m a bit of a video games addict. I collect consoles and am always on the look out for rarities. At the moment I have a Wii, a 360, a US PS2 (for Final Fantasy games) and a Japanese PS3 fighting for space under my TV. Under beds and on top of cupboards I have Dreamcasts, Snes’s, Neo Geo’s, PC Engines, most of the hand helds ever released and everything by Sega, Nintendo, Atari and Sony going back to the start of industry. Mmmm… The new ‘Nights’ game for the Wii… *lusts*

ENKER:  I often get the impression from your journals that you’re a laid-back and fun loving kind of guy, peppering them with jokes and film quotes. Would you say that sums you up? How would you describe yourself?

ANDY:  Definitely laid back. Life is way too short for bad karma. It’s always difficult to describe oneself. It’s very subjective as we don’t tend to see ourselves as others see us. I’d like to think that I’m seen as one of the good guys but that’s for someone else to say. I think that during my life I’ve lived for myself and the people I love and that you either ‘get’ me and like me or don’t and don’t.

ENKER:  Onto a more serious question, can you remember the first time you used a camera?

ANDY:  Hmmm… Dredges the recesses of his memory. That would have been some 35 odd years ago. I can remember my first photograph. A grainy B&W of a blurry goose shot on 110. It must have been the goose that was blurry and not my lack of skill haha.

ENKER:  Do you prefer traditional photography or digital?

ANDY:  Definitely digital. I like the immediacy of it. I can go on a shoot and come back in the evening and see what I’ve taken straight away. Now digital has the same resolution as film I can’t see why anyone would shoot film other than to experiment with old cameras. I only shoot film on my 1940s Leica.

ENKER:  In your opinion, what makes a good photo?

ANDY:  In other peoples work? A photo that moves or amuses me in some way. The lighting could be up the spout and the composition could break all the rules but if it has content I like it’s a good photo in my opinion.

ENKER:  On average how long does it take to set up a shoot?

ANDY:  As long as it takes to move my studio around… Seriously, a lot of what I do is on the spur of the moment. I have had shoots that have taken weeks to arrange all the models, props and locations to all be there on the same day and I have had shoots where I’ve been on the phone to a model in the morning and arranged a shoot for that afternoon… I like impulsive more than I like fixed. I like the pressure and spontaneity of those kind of anything goes shoots.

ENKER:  Do you scout your own locations for your shoots?

ANDY:  Eight out of ten times I do. Especially with the church work. Sometimes a model has a location she wants to shoot in that’s pre-arranged and often a commercial client has a location but for my own work I tend to either use my studio or a location I know would work for the look I’m after.

ENKER:  Your bio says that you have little professional training, but that you have been tutored by someone over the internet. Care to expand upon that a little for me?

ANDY:  Of course, he deserves all the promotion I can give him. The guy that really made a difference to my work and inspired me was RJ Carroll. He trained as a tog in the US Navy and learnt the conventions that I never did. Through deviantART he became my Bro and is due to stay with me in the UK for a few weeks later this month (August). His constant criticism and tips have really helped. It is a truism that to break rules you have to know them and the mentoring I have been given rattles through my head on every shoot. (keep those fingers and toes in shot… Don’t cut arms off at the wrist) And on and on…

ENKER:  Do you approach the people who pose for you or do they come to you?

ANDY:  It’s a half and half mixture. I have accounts on modelling sites like One Model Place and Model Mayhem that I use to contact and be contacted at. I also use sites like MySpace. If I’m after a very specific look it would be fair to say that I do the contacting… I actually shoot anyone though so am happy to be contacted. I generally like people that have something that appeals to me rather than the masses. I like to shoot people that have something a little different about them… Amputees and dwarves apply here! I like the girl next door type rather than the super model.

ENKER:  Talk us through the process you normally follow when on a shoot and when developing your photos.

ANDY:  God, have I got enough space? On a shoot I try to strike up a rapport with the model. I have a very laid back approach and would rather let the model move in their own way rather than strictly pose them. I like to think that shoots with me are enjoyable rather than work and that the personality of the model shows through. I shoot a lot of images rather than a few specific ones and often find that the outtakes are as appealing as the shots I sought. Laughter is a great icebreaker. Laughter and lots of fag/coffee breaks are the key! Developing film I leave to the professionals… Digital, I do all my post-processing in Photoshop. I try not to over post though. Models are real people and shouldn’t look like plastic.

ENKER:  You use Photoshop as a common tool in your works. Would you say that photography is coming into a digital age?

ANDY:  Photography ‘is’ in the digital age. Photoshop is a digital darkroom pure and simple as that. If used properly, everything that could be done of old such as cross-processing, burning, over exposure etc can be done digitally and so much more on top. Goodbye messy chemicals and hello bright and spangley PC!

ENKER:  You always say that you’re simply portraying the models as they really are in your photos. How much input do you give them before the shoot and do they contribute?

ANDY:  I really do portray the models as themselves! Some of my regulars, Missy and Phoenix Blood for example, work with me because we can collaborate and produce some great stuff together. They are my muses, my best friends and often my sanity. Other models come to the shoot as themselves and I let them be themselves. They portray themselves as they want to be portrayed. Very occasionally do I have long drawn out discussions pre-shoot. If a model is a glamour model and I want to shoot her in a fetish style I’ll spring it on her with as little time as possible for her to worry. I like the rabbit caught in the headlights look!

ENKER:  Do you feel that each picture you take tells a story?

ANDY:  Nope! I’d like to think that each model shoot shows some kind of emotion that was there during the day or that each of my one-offs shows a little how I was thinking at the time but story? No.

ENKER:  Pinky art seems to be the comic relief side of what you do. A respite from the models and the serious edge some photos have. Do you enjoy doing this and are you a closet anime fan?

ANDY:  I love the Pinky stuff! To take a craze/convention that already existed and turn it on it’s head… What isn’t to love? The Japanese and current Pinky fans are still doing the same old stuff. Pinky in Rome, Pinky in Paris… Only in my gallery will you find Pinky Seal Clubbing and Pinky Bukkake. Haha… Closet Anime fan… nothing closet about it my friend. Tried and tested anime fan. Hayao Miyazaki is the MAN! I’ve been following anime since Akira was released and the only way to get it in the UK was on dodgy video copies with no subbing or dubbing. (Kinda showing my age!)

ENKER:  What was the first camera you ever owned and do you still have it there somewhere?

ANDY:  That’s asking… The first camera I can remember owning was an Olympus Trip 35mm. (Ask your parents!) It was good enough for David Bailey according to the ads. I don’t have it now… probably.

ENKER:  What camera do mostly you use now?

ANDY:  A Canon 1Ds Mark II. I <3 Canon!

ENKER:  Your photos feature a lot of nudity, which most of us consider completely natural as artists. Do you get a lot of negative mail about it?

ANDY:  I get some negative mail, not a great deal but always on content and never on technique. Most people are accepting of ‘artistic nude’ but are still prudish about ‘porn’. I shoot porn for a living amongst other things so I have no problem with it of course. Badly shot porn I have a problem with but only aesthetically.

ENKER:  What is your standing on the art/porn debate?

ANDY:  I honestly don’t think there’s much of a difference between art and porn. Badly shot porn is made for masturbation… well shot artistic nudes can still be masturbated over if the model appeals to the viewer. Well shot porn can be very artistic, see the works of Petter Hegre, Bob Coulter or Richard Kern. My personal standing is that art is subjective. The saying that light is the thing that separates artistic nude from porn is poppycock. It’s composition, lighting, location, model and feel… It all comes down to the viewer in the end.

ENKER:  If you could say one thing to the people out there who moan about it, what would it be?

ANDY:  Get a life and look at the architectural galleries instead of coming here to complain about something you didn’t want to look at in the first place.

ENKER:  What is your opinion on so-called ‘fine’ or ‘modern’ art?

ANDY: To be honest I like what I like. I like Degas, his capture of the human form was superb. I also like the work of Jack Vettriano again for his capture of form. I spend time walking the galleries in London and my opinion regarding art whether fine or modern is the same as my opinion on photography; if it moves me in some way I like it. If it doesn’t I don’t. I’m a simple guy at heart.

ENKER:  And the Turner Prize?

ANDY:  C’mon, what’s not to like about a shed that turned into a boat and then back into a shed? Or the room where the lights went on and off in five second intervals? Perhaps it’s just me but I think some of the reasoning behind this art is pretentious. Wander around the Tate Modern and everything seems to have a reason for being and creation that runs deeper than the average Joe would ever care about. Why not say… “I did it because I liked the idea of it”? When I shot the Pinky Bukkake photo I had no motivation other than to amuse myself. Myself and hopefully others. The idea came to me while surfing Wikipedia for Japanese fetish and made me laugh so much I had to shoot it. (Pun intended). When you look at the photo now, there is no message about world peace or hidden motivation driven by an essay regarding a cure for cancer, it is what it is… A Pinky covered in what might or might not be ejaculate.

ENKER:  Your Deviantart Gallery showcases other artists that you have found, do you spend a lot of time searching out other artists you like to advertise them in this way or do they come to you?

ANDY:  I showcase work that I think needs to be seen by the people who watch me that might not watch the gallery I showcase. Generally I showcase the work of people that have befriended me or supported me during my time on deviantART. I sometimes come across something I find mind-blowing and need to show people but on the whole I give back the support I’m given. I find surfing dA a chore sometimes. There is as much dross as there is art. Perhaps I could start a dross showcase? Name and Shame! Seriously… we all start at the bottom as did I and I hope I give back as much as I got.

ENKER:  Other than photography, what art styles do you like?

ANDY:  Yuri floats my boat! Why can’t there be as much Yuri as Yaoi on dA? I like some of the anime artists, I think that MySpace pics (where you hold a camera above your head and try to look as emo/attractive as possible) will one day become an art form and have their own gallery. I like some digital art. I like traditional art. Anything goes in my world.

ENKER:  What advice would you give to people starting out?

ANDY:  Practice! Whatever your style, whatever your bag, practice. Practice, post your work onto forums and online communities for feed back and be respectful when criticised. You are not the best artist in the world and people do know better. Accept that and learn and then practise some more.

ENKER:  I’ll end on something lighter, favourite food?

ANDY:  Comfort food… I love massive portions of Chilli Con Carne, Spaghetti Bolognese, Sausages Egg and Chips. Chinese, Thai, Italian, Sushi, BBQ Pork Buns from Chinatown bakeries, McDonalds, KFC. Should I stop yet? It’s little wonder that I’m overweight!

ENKER:  And how are you getting on with Pokemon Pearl? What’s your team line-up at the moment?

ANDY:  Just peachy! The ‘Elites’ are beaten and I’m on a mission to level up and ‘catch ‘em all’. I’m on a legendary and shiny hunt right now. My team at the moment are; Kazza the Kadabra lv 100, Bettie the Bibarel lv 81, Sarah the Staraptor lv 70, Katie the Kricketune lv 65 (deliberately kept low level for false swipe and sing), Seth the Steelix lv34 (that needs some work) and Quan the Quagsire that has a bunch of HM’s and is my utility Pokémon.

ENKER:  Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me today Andy, it’s been greatly appreciated. Feel free to drop by Coloring Dragons anytime, we’d be glad to see you.

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