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Photographers in Focus: Colin Dack

Model-turned-photographer, Colin Dack, talks us through his big breaks, his back pains, and his life spent on both sides of the camera

Interview by Will Halbert
Photography by Colin Dack
Model Lexii Thomas (Nevs Models)
Styling by Annie Bee Ounstead

They say a picture paints a thousand words, but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s best to get the story straight from the horse’s mouth. Which is exactly what we endeavoured to do when we joined Colin Dack, Lexii Thomas(pictured), and Annie Ounstead for a jaunt around London. So if you prefer your shots with a little context, your behind-the-scenes a little more front-and-centre, and your metaphors a little mixed, then boy do I have a treat for you.

First off, what’s your story? Talk us through your career so far. What would you consider to be your big break in terms of your modelling?
I think it’s quite the usual story as far as modelling goes; a normal, working-class boy gets scouted by a London modelling agency. I went from floor laying in south London to walking for Burberry in Milan in the space of three weeks. It was a whole new world for me, one that would change my life. I was – and still am – very lucky to have had that opportunity. I’ll always be grateful for it.

Suit by DAKS, boots by Grenson

What made you try your hand at photography? How did you go about perfecting that craft?
Truth be told, I never really felt comfortable in front of the camera. Like most of us, I have insecurities. So I always struggled with that side of it which, you know, is a big side of being a model [laughs]. Don’t get me wrong I can bust a move or two, but being behind the camera feels like the right piece of the puzzle. It feels more natural, more fulfilling.

I’m not a very academic person. I’ve always struggled to concentrate on numbers and technical stuff. My approach has always been more about having an instinctive eye and just getting stuck In. You can learn the technical stuff after. It’s about getting out there and having a go and learning from your mistakes. I’ve made a few, to say the least – but that’s how we learn.

Jacket and trousers by DAKS, knitted jumper by Polo Ralph Lauren, boots by Grenson

What’s the hardest part of life behind the lens?
Honestly? The back pain. I have sciatica from years in the building industry and I’m often crawling around on the floor or crouched like a frog – all in the name of a good shot. Don’t let anyone tell you that photography isn’t physical work. That, and the editing process. That’s a skill in itself. It’s far too easy to get carried away with the potential of post-processing. The real challenge is striking a balance between getting to grips with the tools at your disposal and not overusing them. There’s a real knack to mastering editing tools without becoming too reliant upon them. Less is more!

Striped roll neck by adidas Consortium, jacket and waistcoat by DAKS, trousers by YMC

Do you think your modelling career helped prepare you for photography in any way?
Oh, completely. One of the most important factors of being a decent photographer is making people feel confident and – more importantly – comfortable. I’ve been on shoots as a model where the photographers have been a bit cold and not that engaging and I genuinely think that comes through in the final product. Shoots like that have taught me the importance of putting people at ease, you get much better work that way, and the whole process is more rewarding as a result. Who doesn’t want to have a laugh on set? I’m happy to play the clown to get people laughing.

Are there any photographers that you look up to or draw influence from?
The late Peter Lindbergh – he’s an absolute legend. Not just for his technical prowess but for his outlook on fashion photography. His work speaks for itself. Herb Ritts’ work is incredible too. I love true photography.

Photography as truth is something that really resonates with me. I’ve always admired photojournalism for that very reason. Photojournalists are committed to the truth. Sometimes it is an ugly truth or an inconvenient truth, but it’s the truth nonetheless. I admire that. It’s something the media has completely lost sight of.

Lindbergh and Ritt are also one of the main reasons I like to shoot most of my work in black and white. I’ve found it helps me concentrate on form. There’s something about making the subject in front of you as abstract as possible that just seems to create stronger images. Breaking things down into shapes, and considering a sense of movement is a lot easier when you take colour out of the equation. You can always change them to colour later.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
I’m not one for regrets, thankfully. If I was I’d be in trouble. But I would tell my younger self something like this: be a bit more confident, not cocky, there’s a difference. Also, don’t be afraid to wing it a little. There are people out there already doing what you want to do without your drive, your mind. So just get out there and get something done. Learn on the job and make every mistake count. That, and look after your back. You’re going to need it.

Coat by Joseph, gilet by Ben Sherman, roll neck by Whistles

And finally, what are your goals for the rest of the year?
More shooting, more travelling, hopefully. Obviously, I want to work on more cool projects with Annie, the stylist on this shoot. She’s an incredible stylist and all-around star. 

It’s been a mad year, and I feel – like most people, I imagine – that I was just about finding my stride before the pandemic hit. So the rest of 2021 will be all about getting that momentum back. 

I’d like to work with a few more brands to help get their message out there. I’m a huge advocate of sustainability, and it’s nice to see so many brands getting on board with the idea. It’s not nearly enough, but it’s a good start. I want to play a part in that. I’d love to use photography to show people that there are other ways of doing things, especially in the fashion industry. 

Check out more of Colin’s photography here.