Since winning a film camera as part of a competition when he was a kid, Joel Pratley always had a connection with photography. However, it wasn’t until he took a camera with him on a nine-month backpacking trip five years ago that photography became something that Pratley decided to take more seriously. “It gave me, for the first time in my life, a mental clarity,” Pratley says. “When I came home, I had a new outlook on life, and promised myself I would do it with my camera in hand.
Pratley says that life is very serendipitous. “Timing plays a big part,” he says, “and being open to take gut-instinct risks.” Self-taught, Pratley credits much of his learning to his good fortune of landing a casual job at a well-respected camera hire business. “Being exposed to an environment that creative freelancers stopped by in, kick started my brain, and my ass. I realised that I had to pull up my own bootstraps and learn hard, and fast, if I wanted to do good work.”
Assisting also played a major part in Pratley’s education and he says that he’s always been open to working with photographers from a variety of genres so as to learn as much as possible. He says that he can’t adequately stress of the importance of mentors. These mentors have helped guide him and show and teach him how to listen to his inner voice.
Now 29, Pratley has developed a style of portraiture that has been awarded in various contests from Head On, Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize, and the National Photographic Portrait Prize. “I believe my portraits grew organically out of encounters in daily life with people – a reminder that people you walk past every day often hold valuable experience,” he says. Pratley credits much of his success and the milestones he’s achieved with is failures – “of all shapes and sizes, and lots of them!” It’s his view that “‘success’ can soften you up. Failure is under-rated, and so is persistence in this line of work.”
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