Editor’s note: Here are a few things folks have to say about the work of UK photographer George Marshall…
“George is the man.”
“Love his work. Medium format all day.”
“One of the best BMX photographers.”
“Amazing Spots and Shots.”
George is a London-based freelance photographer, co-founder of The Albion – an independent BMX magazine, and a producer/photographer at Red Bull. He also is incredibly creative, refreshingly precise and super generous with his time.
In an age when action shooting is dominated by feature-packed DSLRs, George captures most of his amazing images with a medium format Hasselblad 500cm and a large format Wista 45.
Read our exclusive profile and get inspired by this modern master of “Spots and Shots”. He’s the real deal!
What is your motivation to use a large format camera like the Wista 45?
I think it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and make life hard for yourself every now and again. I mostly shoot on film with a Hasselblad 500cm camera and occasionally a DSLR if the job requires, but shooting on digital never gives me the same satisfaction that I get from shooting on film.
I recently did a shoot for Red Bull and I wanted to do something different. Large format photography in action sports is very uncommon, to my knowledge only skate photographer Scott Pommier also does it. My Hasselblad was being serviced after being bashed about by some slum kids in Argentina [I had to buy it back after robbed at gun point.]. With my Hasselblad out of action and wanting to do something different I decided to dust off my Wista large format camera.
I enjoy shooting large format due to the process that camera dictates and the unique results. The process is slow and demands attention to detail. I need a clear head to use the Wista 45.
The large format camera has the ability to create an image with an incredibly shallow depth of field that can be manipulated with the lens movements. You could achieve similar results in post-production but personally I like to see images as they were originally captured. I scan in my film but only retouch it to make look like the transparency. I was taught not push the button until everything was perfect, to correct faults or to add in elements afterwards would feel like an admission of failures at the point of shooting.
Which Lowepro bag do you use and what do you carry it in?
The Lowepro Pro Runner 450 AW has been my bag of choice for 3 years now. It’s strong, large and protects my gear perfectly. It also fits on planes as my hand luggage. All my work is location based, on some days I pedal miles and miles with all gear on my back. My kit changes all the time, I like to shoot on different cameras. I find shooting on different cameras makes me shoot differently so my photos have some variation.
Typically my bag would contain my Hasselblad with 3 prime lenses, a Nikon D800 or D3 with 50mm and 85mm prime lenses. For most of my BMX shots I use a lot of flash, but I rarely light portraits. I use two Elinchrom Quadras Rangers which are powerful and have a short flash duration for capturing movement. In the middle of my bag sits my favourite camera – my Hasselblad Xpan with 45mm lens for more informal shots. The pockets are a mess of cables, pocket wizards, batteries, loose change and chocolate wrappers.
How would you describe your signature style?
That’s quite difficult to answer. I consider my photos to be very simple. I used to go to town with more complex compositions and elaborate lighting. Now I prefer to let the subject matter be the prominent with a basic composition and not distract from it with too many bells and whistles.
Which came first to you: a BMX bike or a camera?
I started riding BMX in my early teens. My introduction to photography came from wanting to document my passion for riding bikes. My dad bought me a point a shoot Canon 35mm camera and it all fell into place – riding bikes, travelling and photography all go hand in hand. One of the older riders was heavily into photography and taught me the basics; he also introduced me to the work of photographer Glen E. Friedman who documented the early evolution of skateboarding, punk and hip-hop. Flicking through the pages of those books got me hooked on photography but it was another 10 years till I started shooting professionally.
You’re the co-founder of The Albion BMX magazine. How did that come about?
Long story. At 25 I finished my masters in Photography at Nottingham University, I was unable to find work as a photographer and got a lucky break working as the Art Editor for the science journal Nature. In my spare time I started shooting BMX with some success and had some work published in Ride UK magazine. Over 2 years I worked hard on my BMX photography. Eventually my freelance work over took my day job and I left my job as an Art Editor to concentrate fully on photography. I was unsatisfied by the BMX magazines I contributed to and wanted to start a new magazine. Some like-minded individuals thought the same and The Albion magazine was born.
When you’re not photographing BMX, what do you like to shoot and why?
I spend about half the year abroad on BMX shoots. While I’m on trips I make an effort to shoot subjects other than bikes, I shoot documentary style portraits and landscapes…whatever catches my eye, whether that image has any commercial use or not.
Any upcoming shoots or projects you’re excited about?
This year I will be continuing to shoot features for The Albion and shooting portraits of cyclists for the clothing brand Rapha. I have a new role as a producer and photographer at Red Bull creating the best images and editorial I can. I’m currently in the planning phase of some big projects this year; I’m looking forward to pushing my photography and getting even further out of comfort zone.