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Stephen Ambrose on assisting, travelling, and winning a Discovery award

13 November 2017

Stephen Ambrose, an AOP Assisting Photographer member was not only shortlisted as a finalist but won Best in Category in the Non-Commissioned Portrait category. We caught up with him to find out how it all came about. 

©Stephen Ambrose, Best in Category Non-Commissioned Portrait single 

How did you first get into photography?
My Dad was a keen amateur and my parents bought me an SLR for my 13th Birthday 
How long have you been assisting for?
Jeez!  I’ve been assisting for 15 years now
Tell us about your experience of assisting: have you assisted loads of photographers or have you stuck with one or two for a while?
I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences assisting.  You get to see things that many people would never see or experience.  From flying round the world to exotic locations, helicopter round the Statue of Christ the redeemer in Rio,  spent 4 days in the astronomers residence at the European Southern Observatory in the Atacama desert.
I used to assist loads of different photographers but for the past 5 years I’ve been assisting just one photographer on a freelance basis whilst trying to get my own work and the balance works well.
How do you fit in shooting your own work with working full time? What's your work life balance like?
Ah, yes, that is the big question.  Its very tricky, life gets in the way, I’ve got married and had two kids while assisting so it becomes increasingly difficult to factor in personal work.  Especially from a financial point of view.  You’ve just got to think of projects closer to home and that cost little or no money.  But saying that, the main hurdle of personal work is access.  One of my first personal projects was in a bus depot a 5 minute walk from my house and it took me 3 months to get access to shoot the mechanics in there.   
It's an incredible achievement to win Best in Category for the Portrait single category. What does this mean for you?
Its recognition and publicity of course but to win it now that the assistants are in with the photographers is, well I don’t know, its encouraging I suppose.  Because you are up against some photographers with budgets for models, locations, styling, make up and this image didn’t cost a penny and I shot it because I saw it. 

©Gurdev Singh

What does the AOP do for you?
The AOP is a constant source of industry wisdom.   
What's next for you?
Right now I’m making the most of the publicity and booking appointments to see people with my folio.  I’ve got a couple of personal projects in mind.  One I’m on with but its a slow burner and another one in the research stages.  All the creatives I meet through the photographer i work with stress the importance of personal work.  They want to see who you are.  Personal work is all.  And competitions:) 

See more of Stephen's work here
©Gurdev Singh

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