Calum Heath - 100 Journal
A couple of weeks before I headed up to London from Cornwall for work, I dropped Calum a message to see if he was around and if he’d be keen for a follow up portrait. I had first photographed him whilst he was studying Illustration at Falmouth Uni in 2016. He moved back to London after he had finished his degree and has been working for some quite high profile clients since finishing in Falmouth.
On arrival in London my phone rings and it’s Calum, turns out he’d rung the wrong number by mistake and got me. I find out that he’s not going to be around for a portrait unfortunately, he was off to Bristol for an illustration gig. He was just on his way to Paddington station for his evening train and had a couple of hours to kill. As it happened, I was only a five minute walk away from Paddington so we decided to catch up over a cup of tea whilst he waited for his train. It’s funny how things work out sometimes, I’m so glad I got to catch up with him. I’m admittedly a big fan of his work and already own a couple of his screen printed books that he’d made and sold via Facebook. As I didn’t have my camera kit with me, I shot his most recent portrait on my iPhone but as the saying goes, the best camera that you have is the one you have with you...
I first photographed you in the gardens at Falmouth Art College in around June 2016....
“Yeah that’s it. I graduated last June from Falmouth. I pretty much went straight into work after that. I did one editorial job before I graduated which gave me a bit of confidence that I could go on and do it in the real world. It was a bad time to finish my degree as summer is so quiet but towards the end of August I had suddenly started to get work from Vice and it kind of went from there. I moved back to London straight after I graduated and since then it’s been snowballing really. I moved into my studio in Bethnal Green in the September just gone. There’s been things that have happened that I’ve been really pleased with, I couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to all this. I feel like it’s a rodeo thing, like you get in America, when you’re on the bull, it feels like that! I’m just trying to stay on the bull! (laughs)
The longer you hang on...
“Exactly! It’s been a bit like that, there’s been a lot to learn. From how to deal with clients to using your time effectively there’s a huge amount to learn.
At uni they did outline how agencies work and that helped me understand people’s roles and I’ve never really had to read between the lines. Falmouth was awesome, it really prepared me well. I worked hard there and everything that’s happened is because I really went for it there. I put in a lot and I feel like I’ve had some reward.
I miss the whole vibe of Cornwall. There’s a different energy in Cornwall, it’s like life is going at half speed, I had lots of time to think and there’s something much more personal about it. I came back into London and it feels like a 100 miles an hour, which is good as well, but I did love that about being in Cornwall.“
Has that change of pace affected your work?
“Yeah I think my work is better, I feel like there’s more of an intensity to what I was doing. But then I think that was about being a student as well rather than about being in Cornwall. I think once you leave student life, you can push your own thing and you have more space around your work, you create your own work. What I’ve done since is different league to what I was doing before.
What client’s are you working with?
“I’ve done loads of editorial stuff with magazines, the big boys are Vice, The New Yorker and The Guardian. I haven’t ventured into the whole advertising side of things. I’m proud of the people I’ve worked with so far, I’m doing the work I wanted to do and working with the people I was interested in. It’s been a learning experience finding out how these different companies work. Most work I’ve got so far has been from me being a bit of maniac on the emails and directly contacting people. I’ve just spent a lot of time trying to get in touch with people, sometimes that pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve had more recently people coming to me directly, which ideally will happen more and more, but for now it’s mostly me pushing it. It involves a lot of luck as well, sometimes I’ve messaged someone at just the right time when an illustration job has been available.
I don’t feel like I’ve got much to lose, I don’t feel scared of putting my work out there, I like what I’m doing and I feel confident to be putting my work out there.
And I have had feedback from people that don’t like my work too, and that’s part of the whole thing, learning to deal with that feedback. I’d rather someone said I was absolutely awful rather than ‘oh that’s nice” which is totally meaningless."
You can find Calum on Instagram