About Andy Rouse
We are always asked many questions by students, journalists and aliens about Andy and his work. So we thought it would be a good idea to get him to answer the most common questions that the office is always asked, since we cannot make up any more lies! In a nutshell he's a 50 year old professional wildlife and aviation photographer, has won over 20 major international awards, made people suffer watching him on various TV shows, is a proud Canon Explorer, runs the FotoBuzz online community with one of his best friends Andrew James and is proud father to 5 month old Sabrina. Oh and he supports West Ham and likes beer.
When did you turn professional and why?
I think it was at the grand age of 32. I'd become disillusioned with my corporate career, decided that I wanted to follow my passion for photography so promptly resigned from my job and the rest is history. It was tough at the start to get enough money to live but somehow I managed it as I have always had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. That will probably be my epitaph too!
So what is your favourite animal?
That is such a tough question to answer as I have had so many fantastic encounters with wildlife over the years. I think though that in the UK it's the Hare and the Roe Deer, whilst further afield it has to be the Mountain Gorilla and the Polar Bear. All of these species present some unique challenges when working with them, but all have given me so much pleasure. I get an extra kick when I see one of these images published too, imagine my surprise when I was leaving Kigali airport and there before me in the Business Lounge was one of my silverback images on the wall.....
Are they more than just photographic subjects to you?
They are NEVER photographic subjects to me. I am a well known animal hugger and aviation nutcase. I would do both if I weren't a photographer, as for me it's the experience and the relationship I have my with subject that defines my work. Photography gives me an excuse to spend time close to what I love, and gives me money to pay the taxman (the late great Galen Rowell said that). But that is all photography is, my love for what I do transcends anything else, which is why I always shoot ethically and is probably why I have lost a fair few opportunities to those without the same beliefs. I guess I just love animals at the most basic level....
You are a Canon Explorer, is this important to you?
Yes very. It ensures that I am always under a little pressure to continue to innovate and produce good work. No one on the Explorers program is an average photographer, everyone is supremely talented so I've had to step up to keep to a high standard. It keeps me fresh and always thinking about my next direction, otherwise I'd be tempted to sit in a hammock all day long!
What's in your kitbag?
I don't go far without my trusty 1D-X's, they are the stalwarts of my photography. I have a 7D2 which I love for when I need the reach and lens wise I use everything upto my 200-400mm / 500mm lenses. I love a good fisheye!
Where did the aviation come from?
As a kid I went to all the airshows with my parents and had Airfix models hanging from my ceiling. The Lightning and Phantom were my favourite aircraft then. I made the choice early in my career to pursue wildlife instead of aviation and I think at the time it was the right one. Recently though I have been really enjoying my aviation photography and it's brought back my mojo for wildlife too. I see myself as enjoying both equally from now onwards, they are challenging in very different ways but both ultimately rewarding too. I think that the skill set I bring from my wildlife photography, an eye for atmospheric light and a determination to get different pictures from everyone else will really help me. Time will tell.
You worked on board HMS Endurance for a while?
Yes I was incredibly lucky to be aboard her as a civvy photographer for two work periods in Antarctica and South Georgia. It was here that my love of aviation was rekindled as I spent a lot of time either airborne in her Lynx helicopters or trying to con my way onboard somehow! Flying over the pristine wilderness of Antarctica was something that I will never forget, nor will I forget the great crew onboard and the friends that I have made which last to this day. You can check out a few Lynx pictures from Antarctica in the "Whirlybirds" gallery under the Showcase tab.
What's the photography industry like today for pros?
Tough, very very tough. The stock business can no longer sustain a serious professional with a decent living so every decision must be taken on balance. It's true that being a professional really compromises your photography too, as you have to balance the need to fulfill creative juices with the need to pay the mortgage. It's a balance that I have learnt to come to terms with but in truth I'd rather just take pictures every day.
Have you got any tips for would be pros starting out?
Sure. Find something else to do. The markets for aviation and wildlife are completely flooded out with diminishing clients and shrinking revenues. As I said above it's harder and harder to make a living doing this when you are well established, when you are starting off now it's not the same as it was when I first began. My simple advice is to do your photography as a hobby, that way you do it for fun and with no pressure. It's a luxury that I am only just managing to achieve after 20 years in the business.
What irks you the most about photography today?
I see more and more the mentality that being a photographer is not a calling or a passion but a badge to wear. Too many photographers take pictures for the sole reason of posting them online to get a backslap from someone. It's not about art, it's about being a "name". I hate being a "name" these days. My philosophy has always been to have fun and this has put me at odds with a lot of people who misinterpret that as someone who doesn't care and doesn't take anything seriously. When I work I do so until I drop, squeezing every last creative juice from my body, when I am not working I like to party, have fun and to relax with friends and colleagues.....
How do you support conservation and charities?
Wildlife - I have long championed the plight of tigers and mountain gorillas, self publishing two fundraising and awareness raising books on them. I am an Ambassador for 21st Century Tiger , have donated images to various conservation bodies worldwide and allowed my images to be a voice for species that cannot speak for themselves.
Aviation - I have recently donated several large canvas prints of my aviation work to the Aerobility charity auction. This is a great charity that gives disabled people the chance to experience the wonder of flight. I'm also helping to raise funds to keep the Sea Vixen flying, a lovely vintage aircraft that will hopefully grace our skies for years to come.
What is your biggest frustration in wildlife?
Our inability to stop the world's climate spiralling out of control. I have seen so many changes over the years and I just get frustrated that efforts to do something about it seem to take forever. We haven't got forever. Polar Bears haven't got forever, they have tens of years before the ice recedes so much that they won't be able to find food. I wish I could do something, it frustrates me that I am absolutely nobody with no real power or influence to change anything. Yes I can take a few nice snaps and hopefully this shows why we need to save a particular species but in my mind it doesn't really make that much of a difference.
What is your biggest frustration in aviation?
Our government's defence cuts and their shoddy attitude to our wonderful armed forces. Our air force and navy have a fraction of the platforms that they used to and on the ground our army has shrunk alarmingly. I am all for moving with the times, but I think we have really gone too far with these policies now and we need to start rebuilding them again.
Who do you hate most in the world.
Jeremy Hunt. Health secretary. He is systematically destroying the NHS and de-motivating all the dedicated hard working people that keep the NHS as something to be proud of. Please leave. Or better still be pushed.
You have won over 20 major international awards, do they mean much?
They certainly did to me a few years ago, it's fair to say that they meant everything. Perhaps too much. These days I don't do so well because I have retained my highly commercial style which makes my photography successful everywhere but competitions.
Which photographers inspire you?
In the early days there were many, Cherry Kearton started me off, Art Wolfe showed how to run a business and Galen Rowell showed how to stay true to your beliefs. Salgado inspires with his vision. But now I don't really look at anyone else as I don't want to be accused of copying someone's ideas. I know what kind of pictures I enjoy taking and I'm happy taking those as I know they are most definitely recognisable as my own style.
We have seen you on TV and heard you on radio many times....
Well I have done a lot of TV and radio yes. It started with a series for Channel 5 and Animal Planet called Wildlife Photographer and I have been on various programs (including the Richard & Judy This Morning program) since. Radio is a medium I love, I have done a version of Desert Island Discs, been interviewed multiple times about my career and now have a regular slot of the Eleri Sion news panel for BBC Radio Wales. My most recent TV appearance was to film and narrate a short film on Great Crested Grebes for BBC Springwatch. I'm actually very comfortable talking to the press, below you can see me holding a press conference for an exhibition in Hong Kong where I partnered with Canon.
You are known for being quite a tough pro to deal with?
I wouldn't say "tough" is the right word, "fair" is a better one. I believe that professional photographers should be paid a fair wage for a fair day's work and I very much stick up for our rights. I hate having clients tell me that I will get lots of PR so I should give images away, that they have another two people at half my price or they just treat me like a naughty schoolchild. My response is always the same, I would rather walk away and say no to a bad deal than compromise what I believe in. The professional marketplace is bad enough as it is now without the added client pressure to get images for next to nothing. Good imagery costs money because as photographers we are worth it, sometimes I think we don't get as much respect for our skill as we deserve when compared to someone who shoves a pile of old bricks in a gallery and calls it art.
You've done so much, what is left to do for you?
Wildlife - to be honest I have no real goals here anymore, just to continue photograph the animals that I love free from pressure of being told how I should do it!
Aviation - to continue to learn and really enjoy it, perhaps to get a few backseats in jets to do the kind of atmospheric air to air that I want to.
What do you do in your spare time?
In my life before being a Dad we would eat out a lot as we are really into our food, it's a great scene in Cardiff and we have great friends here. We are even shareholders in a well known Indian restaurant. I like to just do normal stuff, watch Rugby, go to see West Ham play at home, socialise but to be honest the business I have is a demanding one and there are always things to do. Now of course as a Dad things have changed completely and all of these things have gone out of the window!! But it's cool and I would not have it any other way, the challenge is finding the right balance.