In conversation with Brad Hobbs, a travel photographer based in Deal
Brad Hobbs is a local photographer whose work is informed by his surroundings. If you’re on instagram it’s hard to avoid Brad’s presence on the platform. He’s constantly posting new shots of familiar local places and you can follow him as he goes about his day on the “stories” feature. Having first picked up a camera aged 12, Brad has worked for major publications and lived in London and New York. Brad has returned to his hometown to focus on what’s next - we caught up with him at his home in Walmer.
What’s your background and how did you get into photography?
I went to school in St Edmunds, stayed on to sixth form. I’m self taught, moved to London and got a job assisting a stylist in Liverpool Street for TV films and things like that.
A lot of my work has come through Instagram, a lot of news publications all come through instagram and through submitting photos. They start asking you to contribute more images and if you're in the right place at the right time. I would just be hounding people with tags and if you keep pushing your work in front of people they start taking notice. It’s all thanks to instagram
Is there anyone whose style influences you or inspires you?
My friend Phil Penman, took photos of 9/11, he’s probably one of my main inspirations. We’ve been friends since I wrote an article on him. We ended up just hanging out in New York quite a bit and taking photos together. Just learning from him and how he maneuvers around the city was quite inspirational itself. He knew all the back streets, we’d turn around and he’d be gone. He’s probably one of my biggest inspirations, just because he left England as a young kid by himself, moved to New York and got a job taking photos now he’s been living there 10-15 years or more now. That get up and go factor is my inspiration, for me as much as I love photos it’s more the ethic behind people's work is more inspirational.
How do you divide your time between research and getting out and taking photos?
I spend a lot of time walking, the good thing with an iPhone you can walk and research at the same time. Even using podcasts, listening to how people work and research while walking. I love to hike, especially in Kent there's so much space where you can move around. You can do your research on the go or in the car whenever. There's always something on Instagram or facebook. If you're not looking you won't see it, there's always stuff you can research very quickly
What are some of the interesting places you've travelled to?
Bosnia, that was quite interesting, I went there for a month. It was on assignment with a NGO charity called Project 1948 based out of Oklahoma. So we spent a month working with kids that had grown up post war from the siege. We were basically teaching them about photography and creativity and how they can utilize the stuff they're interested in. We set them a task of photographing what the city of Sarajevo meant to them We had a lot of interviews with them about what they'd taken. Bosnia is such a beautiful place even if it's still a bit tatty round the edges, you can tell its history. People aren't that inclined to talk about it but the kids were really open to it, really happy to share their memories and their parents memories.
A lot of your work on Instagram focuses on wild and natural imagery, would you say you’re drawn to that?
My images vary, it depends where I am. I’ve been here since June now, I was in New York before then. I was surrounded by cities so I was just taking photos of that. I guess it's where I am I just adapt to what my surroundings are. It feels a bit strange sometimes when I’ve not been in the city for a while you come back and your brain doesn't work in that way it used to. Its research and finding inspirational images kind of inspire you to go to London and take that time.
Do you ever feel the urge to jump on the train and go up to London?
Sometimes it’s good to break yourself out of what you’re used to. Living in New York was hugely different to life in Deal, so much going on and so busy. Whereas here you know everyone, it's like living in a single borough of New York. Moving back from New York was a huge shock, I’d totally forgotten how small this place was but also how beautiful it is. You don't really appreciate it when you’re growing up, but I think now I’ve been away and worked in some different places I can appreciate it so much more.
Could you tell us more about your meet the locals project?
So Meet the Locals is a joint project with my friend Asher, we worked in a club together and didn't know either of us took photos. We started talking one evening, he was like yeah like let’s hang out and take photos, so that’s how it started. The project started in Peckham, and because I moved away quite a bit then he started travelling we thought lets branch this out and use this page as meeting the locals from around the world. We either meet businesses or local people that you might be sat next to in a restaurant, it’s about being a bit nosey and intruding on their conversation about an interesting day they’ve had. We ask them for a nice portrait, if they’re not happy with that we tend to go for the person’s tools, so their hands if they're an artist. We did some work with Dazed magazine. They did a big exhibition in London and we got asked to display some of our work. That was kind of the start of the big publicity for it, it kind of blew it us out the water. So there’s some good eyes on it for sure, it’s an interesting project.
When you’re in Deal, how do you come up with new and creative ways to get different shots in quite a small town?
I love to hike, in 10 minutes you can be in the middle of nowhere which is great, I find huge inspiration from that. You might meet a farmer or a dog walker or something like that who's happy to say hello. Sunsets are something I really enjoy, or sunrises depends if I wanna get up that early. It’s all to do with the weather, at the moment I’m hugely inspired by how great the weather is. During the winter it’s a whole different sort of inspiration, it’s quite depressing sometimes but I think the weather is something that makes me find different angles and shots maybe. Its an instant what's in front of me, how does this look on camera what do I need to do to this to make it look a little bit more interesting. I’ve just been taking photos around the town trying to find nice angles people would probably miss. Inside people's houses is a recent revelation, I was at my friends house, there was just a single window and framed perfectly in the middle was the Landmark centre, I’ve lived in the town my whole life I’ve never seen it look like that. You can't stage that stuff.
You’ve lived in London, New York and come back to Deal, how have those places affected your work? How did each location have an impact on what you were doing?
I lived in london for 6 years and lived in New York on and off for 2 years. I found I can do a lot by myself in New York, whereas in London I would only go out with other people to shoot photos. I was new in town in New York and didn't really know that many people I would just walk the streets all day. In the height of summer it’s a big task, even for the most athletic person, it’s still 37 degrees outside, walking around the city with a camera leaves you thinking what the hell am I doing.
I guess New York taught me that I can do things myself, I don't have to rely on other people for my career or for anything I can just do it if I wanna do it. Whereas London kind of gave me the confidence that I can work with other people. Deal I’m very relaxed about, which is the way most people in Deal are. They enjoy whats infront of them and make the most of their day.
Why did you come back to Deal?
I wanted to start building more of a career, I do a lot of stuff for social media- that's the other part of my career. I guess I just wanted to use this time in my life to build a proper career and portfolio of work, not just photos but more business side. I think social media on this side is something that keeps me floating above water.
What’s the goal with work and career
I haven't got there yet, everything always changes so I could get a call and go somewhere else. I try and work with how people want me to work. Like I said you’ve just got to enjoy it. I don't know what the end goal is.
Brad's local picks
FOOD & DRINK
Milaad Tandoori I’m a big fan of on a friday night, is a great way to start your evening.
WHAT TO DO + SEE
The pier is always interesting, there is always a new perspective to find.