Our ninety ninth interview in this series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer Alastair Hooley from the West Midlands, England, UK. You may know of his work from his popular Instagram account, @bigboystair. Hooley recently had some of his mobile photography work exhibited in the Lansdowne in Birmingham as part of the ‘Birmingham now, before then’ photography exhibition, curated by @westmidsphotocollective along with 24 other local photographers. As a mobile photographer with just three years experience this is a fabulous accolade and demonstrates his natural raw talent. Enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Wahlberg, Andrea Bigiarini, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani(@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer Graham, Cathrine HalsørPaul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart), Karen Messick, Serap Utaş, MaryJane Rosenfeld, Paul Suciu, Susan Latty (@pause.and.breathe),John Nieto, Phyllis Shenny, Joy Barry, Max Lies Derdonk, Rita Tipunina, Violet Martins, Nizzar Ben Chekroune, Lynette Sheppard, Paul-Andre Hamel, Rejane Rubino, Susan Detroy, Rosalie Heller, Wayman Stairs, Cintia Malhotra, Anita Elle, Juta Jazz, Cheryl Tarrant, Hanni König Kaoru Shintaku David Gilbert Jana Curcio, Mary Lorincz Amado Ergana, Francesco Sambati, Philip Parsons, Kathryn Garkut Massimo Bortolini Camilla Crescini Francesca Malagoli Sidonie Petit Dirk Fleischmann, Fiona Christian, and myself, go here.
What was your earliest childhood ambition?
The earliest one I can remember is to be an astronaut. I think this was triggered by the first flight of the Space Shuttle which was big news at the time. I remember writing to NASA to ask for the autographs of the crew and they sent me a signed photo back!
The earliest memorable one is coming top in my class at baking and decorating a Christmas cake. I did cookery (or Home Economics as it was actually called) at school — this would be when I was in my mid-teens — and I received a certificate from the headmaster as a result.
I didn’t have any childhood jobs so my first job was upon leaving sixth form college at age 18. At that time I loved physics so I applied for a job as a junior scientist at a Government lab in London, UK. That meant me moving out of the family home in Doncaster to live some 200 miles away in the city.
Private or State school?
State school. My dad worked for what was the National Coal Board and as a consequence we moved around the UK a few times with his work. This meant changing schools a number of times and forming new friendships.
University or Work?
After sixth form college I went straight to work as described above. I studied part-time university-level Physics which my employer allowed me to do in their time. A few years later, upon realising I wasn’t really clever enough for hardcore science work, an opportunity arose for me to work in the lab’s funding unit in Central Government. From that, I drifted into procurement, became qualified, and procurement is what I’m still doing to this day — I’m head of procurement in a Government office.
Who was or is still your mentor?
That’s a difficult one. There are and have been people who I have admired based on whatever particular interest I had at the time. In photography, there are a number of people I follow on Instagram who I particularly take an interest in — street photographers and those who are adept at editing, especially those iPhone photographers who use the app I use (Hipstamatic). However, I don’t think I could name a specific individual as my mentor.
How physically fit are you?
I would cautiously say “average”! I tend to go through phases of healthy eating and a bit of exercise, then drifting the other way. There was a period a few years ago when I was probably at my fittest in training to climb Kilimanjaro. At the moment I’ve taken a New Years’ resolution to become fitter which I’m trying to maintain!
How politically committed are you ?
Until very recently I have never really been politically minded as I believe all the mainstream political parties have something to offer that I’m in agreement with. However, the impending departure of the UK out of the EU has made me take more notice in the political environment and my voting habit has changed as a consequence.
Ambition or Talent, what matters more to success?
Personally, I would say a bit of both plus appropriate external factors. When I was younger I wouldn’t say I was particularly ambitious but my work environment has changed radically in recent years which has provided opportunities and driven my ambition and eagerness to succeed in a way I didn’t think would happen at my stage in life.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
I always believe something should be earned rather than handed to you on a plate. Now that I’m married with two young children virtually everything I earn goes into providing for us as a family and so I don’t tend to think about other things I’d like to possess. If I was answering this question last week though I would have said washing machine as ours broke down, was beyond repair, and we were without a new one for a few days!
What’s your biggest extravagance?
I’m not particularly extravagant with my spending for the reasons mentioned above. I think these days my biggest extravagance is going out for a few drinks with friends. I’m a lover of craft beer which often tends to be on the pricey side.
In which places are you happiest?
I think anywhere with my family and knowing that they are happy and safe. We have moved from living in London to the outskirts of the city of Birmingham nudging into the countryside. I certainly feel happier here — the way of life is much more quiet and laid back.
What ambitions do you still have?
I want to continue to develop my iPhone photography, which began about 3 years ago when I discovered the Hipstamatic app. Back then, I largely used the app to try and mask my lack of skill in photography, but over time it has encouraged me to improve my picture-taking skills.
What drives you on?
What is the greatest achievement in your life so far?
Whether this can be considered an achievement, I’m not sure, but I would say having my two young children. Probably more of an achievement for my wife though!
What do you find most irritating in other people?
People who love the sound of their own voice without having anything particularly constructive to say. I tend to find the same people are unwilling to listen which makes them doubly irritating!
If your 20 year old self could see you now, what would he think?
I was very naive and somewhat childish at that age. I was also very shy (I still am to some extent). I think my 20 year old self would be relieved that I’d managed to have a family (I was never lucky with the girls at that age!) but would also consider me to be a bit of a square as I think I’m a lot more sensible these days.
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you’d still had?
This is a difficult one as I struggled to think of anything specific. There are some toys I remember loving as a child, in particular a beautifully hand-made garage. The reasons for wishing I still had it are purely nostalgic — if it suddenly materialised I’d enjoy looking at it for a period then wonder what to do with it!
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
I’ve seen this response in at least one of your other interviews and I would agree and say climate change. The stark warnings coming from experts are definitely worrying.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I believe there is a god who has created everything. I also believe that all religions are fundamentally the same and point to the same deity. I’m hopeful that there is a life after death and that our souls are transferred. I also think there is something to be said about those individuals who claim to have memories of a past life. Maybe it’s the same soul that has moved on?
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