Words by Jamie Preisz | Photos by James Adams
James’ talent with a camera in his hand is only superseded by his unparalleled ability to be a good human.
With a halo of curly hair and a soft smile that’s being ridden by the best moustache you’ve seen since Freddy-mutha-fuckin-Mercury, you get the overwhelming sense that everything will be fine. James grew up in South-East Queensland in the Hinterland behind the Gold Coast, where he lived until the age of 15. A lush abundance of mountain ranges that overlooked the coast, it was as beautiful as it was isolated.
“We knew that friends at school lived close enough you could ride bicycles to each other’s places,” says James. “Something as simple as easy access to mates seemed so awesome to me.”
But that distance necessitated a strong imagination.
“My brother, sister and I all got along famously and had a dog to complete our own little posse. We made our own fun. Sometimes my sister and I would sit on our verandah and watch our younger brother walk around our yard talking to our dog. I remember that being so entertaining.”
James’ introduction to cameras was formative of his style. “The first camera I used was an old Pentax of my Mum’s. Its light meter was busted, so it was a bit tricky to understand at that experience level.” With some guidance from photographer and Valley Eyewear founder Michael Crawley, he managed to snag some golden advice.
“He told me that the camera you use isn’t important, it’s recognising a moment that’s important,” says James. Catching the elusive ‘moment’ has been a motif throughout James’ work and a way to stand out amongst a choppy sea of lifestyle photographers. His unique focus was solidified by a gift from his sister. “12 years ago my sister sent me a book from London about the beginnings of punk culture in New York City. The candid photos of some of my heroes in that book affected me. It changed the way I shot pictures. I no longer wanted a ‘portrait,’ I wanted a real moment, still do.”
When you spend time with James, even the most cynical Sydney-sider can’t help but feel the genuine warmth that radiates from his personality. It comes very naturally from a place of satisfaction and content. James has let trends and a fickle art market demand stumble past him like a drunk English backpacker on George Street, and has instead focused on building the life and style he wanted.
“Everyone should strive for the life they want. I guess not being burdened by the desires for money or success has really freed up the way I shoot, by not inhibiting my style to reflect styles that attract money or success. Don’t get me wrong, I need money to survive and want to be successful but I’ll always put what I want to see in my pictures first. If money comes with it I’ll just buy more cakes.”
James has recently found himself mingling in art galleries with his show, appropriately titled, James – A Photo Show exhibited in Sydney and Byron Bay. The Delta Riggs, Wild Honey, Heavy Lids, Moses Gunn Collective and Bad Dreems playing with Matt Mason of DMA’s, treated the audience to unexpected performances. The night was an invitation for the audience to step into the world of music photography that James is so passionate about.
“I understand and enjoy traditional exhibitions with fine art and wine but for my subject matter, a party environment was more suited to take everyone at the opening closer to the vibe that was present when shooting the photos. They were tonnes of work but the payoff was epic for my confidence.” The amazing lineup and party atmosphere that happened at each showing was a testament to how deservedly loved James is amongst his mates.
They say that every photo tells a story, so we wanted to know particularly about this one.
“We’d rushed from a big dinner to a small venue to see a sick new rock band (Cherry Dolls) thrash a mad set. I was the only one who’d seen them before and everyone was razzed from the energy and went downstairs to the bar. My memory gets pretty hazy but I think this photo of mad dog artist Nick Potts helps sum up some of the shenanigans that were taking place that night. I was there and I still have questions I want answered…”
With some exciting things on the horizon, James seems to have discovered a fool-proof motivator for achieving goals. “This year I’m working on a joint exhibition with another photographer who has been an influence on me. I’m also going to do my first book. If I think an idea is achievable I start telling people I’m going to do it, that way I kind of have to do it.”