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 56 year old professional wildlife and aviation photographer, has won over 24 major international awards, made people suffer watching him on various TV shows, likes a laugh and loves being with animals.
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 Tiger, 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....
So what system do you shoot with?
I have shot many systems in my career to date and I will probably shoot more too in the coming years. I always put my photography first and I move system when I can see some real advantages to it for my photography and for no other reason. These days I have zero loyalty to any brand, it's all about my photography. So I have loved and shot with Canon, Nikon and Pentax throughout my career, and been various forms of an ambassador with each of them. Currently I shoot with the Olympus system, mainly for the 150-400mm lens and Pro Capture, shooting M43 has its challenges but I have enjoyed my time shooting with the system. I'm always looking at the market and what's available and new, if some new piece of kit peaks my interest then I will test it and use it for my work if it fits into my way of working. So in many ways I'm a completely independent photographer these days and will shoot multi system if the need arises without worrying what anyone else thinks of that! The only thing that counts for me is my photography.
I don't make a big thing of any system that I shoot with, that's for others to discuss, all I care about it my photography and my wildlife.
Actually I said about loyalty and that's not quite true. I have always stayed loyal to those that have supported me. One example of that is the Flexshooter tripod head, I was involved in the prototypes and have used it ever since. It's an incredibly flexible head, perfect for all sizes of lens and light for travel too. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone, check the website here.
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.
How do you support conservation and charities?
It's a tough one to answer as there are far more worthy people to highlight in conservation than me. I do what I can for a wide range of organisations but don't make a big deal of it, I only post on social media when they ask me to support a particular campaign. I'm a patron of the UK Wild Otter Trust and I like to help them when I can. But like I said there are lot more people doing a lot more than me in the world of conservation and they deserve the airtime not me.
What is your biggest frustration in wildlife?
Trophy hunting. I hate it. Pointless, barbaric and doesn't belong in this day and age. Get rid of it.
HS2. Hate it. No need for such a destruction of our ancient woodlands. No one wants it but no one is listening.
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. Bring back the Lightning as it looked good, and no I don't mean the monstrosity we have now. I wish I had been born in the golden era of aviation and experienced it as a photographer.
You have won over 24 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.
So is that where the judging comes from?
I never thought that I would be a competition judge now I have been a judge for BirdLife Australia, Nature Talks, BWPA, Nature in Focus and the WildArt Photographer of the Year. Whilst it can be a very challenging process it is so rewarding and inspiring looking through so many incredible images of the natural world. I love working with the other judges to find the final images, that's probably been the coolest part of the whole process. I really love judging now and think I bring something to the party so hopefully this will continue.
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 been many times on BBC Radio Wales. My most recent TV appearance was to film and narrate a short film on Great Crested Grebes for BBC Springwatch. I've recently produced, shot and presented some short wildlife pieces for Chris Packham's lockdown wildlife Twitter show and also started my only week show on YouTube called Wild Angle...
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.
What do you do in your spare time?
I have a great personal and family life with awesome friends. This is very important to me and nothing more so than my partner Suzie and my daughter Sabrina.