One of the world’s best wedding photographers by day, Brisbane’s Marcus Bell has also escaped death by jaguar, alligator and stampede to capture cowboys in the remote regions of South America. The Nikon Ambassador spoke to us about turning a dream into a job.
How do you describe your job?
I never really see it as a job. I just see it as who I am and what I do. I started out as a banker, and obviously it didn’t suit me. It effected how I saw the world. When I turned to photography, everything just fell into place.
What has been your most memorable shoot?
A friend of a friend working for National Geographic asked me to help out with an assignment out in the middle of the Pantanal in Brazil, which is sort of like going into the remotest regions of the Kimberley in Australia: the middle of nowhere.
It was like going back in time. All these cowboys on these ranches with no electricity. All the skills that I got from doing portraits over the years just naturally applied to that setting. They couldn’t speak English, so learning how to communicate with people without virtually using words was a great experience.
There were three or four times that was pretty life-threatening calls that happened. You’ve got jaguars. You’ve got alligators. Shooting those times like getting stampeded by hundreds of cattle, getting run over by a colt about to be branded in a corral, I grew up very quickly. I have a great appreciation for photojournalists in the world that go out and do this every day.
What’s the best advice you’d give to photographers starting out?
Photographers can be quite shy putting themselves out there, but if no one knows you you’re not going to get work. That’s the difference between being allowed to continue doing what you love doing, or having to go back and getting a normal nine to five job.
Is there a shoot you’ve wanted to do but haven’t yet?
I would love to do what I did in Brazil but in Australia, and to continue that work around the world. To live on the land, to document other people’s lives.
What’s the secret to taking great photos?
It’s about finding your voice and not being afraid to share it with the rest of the world. That’s what’s exciting about Instagram: it’s given people the ability to do that.
You can be so different to what everyone else is doing, but you have to be true to yourself. We all see the world quite differently, and we need to hone in on that.
What camera equipment do you carry with you at all times?
I always carry the Coolpix A, which is a really tiny camera. Having something compact like that, there are times where people just think you’re a tourist, and you’re able to capture someone in without them even realizing that you’re there.
Is one camera your stock-standard workhorse?
The Nikon D810. With a couple of different lenses I can shoot anything from an advertising campaign to a wedding portrait or even a landscape. It’s got no AA filter, which means that you’re really seeing all the raw grit. Nothing is getting softened or reduced. You can bring out that image that just pops.
Nikon are supporters of Smith Journal.