“I’ve always been hyper-visual, remembering scenes from movies, a detail from an old football shirt, tearing pages out of old magazines and drawing them, so photography was a natural progression,” says Andy Barrow, as he takes in the surroundings of Amsterdam, a place that he has called home for over a decade.
Originally from Manchester, Andy’s early years were in his mum and dad’s pub, where he would spend his days with his older brother, immersed in a world of movies, watching everything from Rocky to Big Trouble in Little China and Karate Kid.
Those are memories he looks back on with fondness when his mind drifts back to Manchester, a place he retains a great deal of affection for. Life in Amsterdam is good though, having moved here over ten years ago with his wife Helen and two daughters Grace and Zoey. “It’s super family-friendly, with great parks and events. It has all the benefits of a big city like New York or Paris, but equally, it’s small, almost like a village. It has the best of both worlds.”
For over 14 years Andy has been involved in photography, developing a deep passion for exploring cityscapes, sun-drenched sands, and silhouettes across the world. “Travel definitely provides a spark and generally gives you that energy and creativity. I love Paris and New York. But also little Spanish villages that may be off the beaten track or Surf Towns like Byron Bay. They have this almost indescribable energy all of their own. You can’t help but draw some form of inspiration from them.
“I’m lucky that my work gives me a chance to travel, and over the next two or three years, I’d love to go back to New York, and Paris, explore Miami, take a Key West Road trip, and maybe experience Mexico.”
For Andy, photography started as a way to document his young family and quickly developed into something much more. It soon became an obsession and a need to capture his surroundings. Everywhere he looked, he would see these scenes appear in front of his eyes. Everything represented a new and exciting opportunity to shoot something interesting, or even cinematic. Just like the films he would sit and watch with his brother all those years ago.
“Storytelling for me is what makes photography so brilliantly unique. To be able to capture a singular moment in life and hold it as an image forever and tell an entire narrative around it is something quite special.”
In 2023, Andy released his first photography book – ‘Sophomore’ a collection of prints, capturing life, art, architecture, light, shadows, textures, and scenes. Bringing his work to life in such a way was something he had dreamt of doing for a long time and he’s keen to do it again soon.
“This year I’d love to do a hardback version of the book, and I’m exploring the idea of a second book as well that would focus on cinematic scenes and colour. A big one for me as well in the next year or two would be to have an exhibition of my work.”
As the cold chill of an Amsterdam evening sets in, we sit down with Andy to talk about his love of movies, photography, what inspires his work and his ideal dinner party.
it made sense to capture these moments.
I got into photography by using my camera phone initially. I would take a lot of street scenes, and shots of places I loved visiting in Amsterdam, and anything visually appealing, capturing a variety of different moments.
My Brother said he felt I might have something but I didn’t take it seriously. But then about 10 years ago I got a ‘proper’ camera when we were about to have our daughter, as I thought it made sense to capture these moments.
When I eventually got one I just started snapping away, taking more and more shots of my kids and all our adventures together. Plus my work allowed me to travel to a few places, so it developed over 10 years as a cool documentation of our lives and a fun hobby.
I’m inspired by several different things. I love that feeling of something stylish, with a timeless or classic quality to it. Music, sports, movies and fashion, are big passions of mine. So it could be a scene from an old movie or something from magazines like GQ or National Geographic.
I love brands like Ralph Lauren or Tenue de Nimes in Amsterdam – that Aesthetic. I also love old shots of Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, Ali or stills from behind the scenes of movies. Vintage shots of New York are something that I find super inspiring too.
Then there are photographers like Greg Williams and Chris Burkard. I love Kit Young, and Riley Harper too, so, I started to study their approach and images. Plus, I was lucky to get the advice of several people such as Kenny Thomas, and Legacy Shooter
Most of what I shoot is a combination of street photography, travel/architecture/reportage I guess – if that’s a thing.
I like to under-expose my shots to create more contrast, loads of bold shadow and drama.
I use a Fuji XSeries. I started with a standard kit lens and a zoom one for architecture and detail. Then about 2 years ago I got a fancier prime lens (35 mm). About 18 months ago my wife also got me as a gift, an Olympus Trip 35 (analogue camera) which ties into what I said earlier about that cinema/timeless aesthetic.
I’m always looking for frames within frames, leading lines, something cinematic, something you hopefully would see on your wall or in a magazine. I love black and white for sure. I like to under-expose my shots to create more contrast, loads of bold shadow and drama.
My approach is quite funny. I start quite trigger-happy, firing off loads of shots. It’s a compulsion, finding those “scenes” around me, then slowly I find my range and I’m more selective with what I’m shooting, taking less and less. It’s like boxer finding their rhythm in the first 2-3 rounds – then bam you’ve got the jab working.
focusing on people, places, and perspectives – all about chasing shadows and light
I love coffee table books and I was getting some good feedback on my images – I was longlisted in VAO last year and was selected as part of The Holy Art Gallery’s “Art on Loop Europe” exhibitions last summer. So the idea for my book came from there.
I could envisage it in my mind and I wanted to share it with others – it is called ‘Sophomore’, and it’s self-published, over 180 black and white images focusing on people, places, and perspectives – all about chasing shadows and light with shots from around the world.
I would say that I’m not a super technical photographer, I still have trouble with ISO and shutter speed/low light. But with composition, I have an “eye” for finding a shot. So my advice to anybody getting into photography is to look up! Most people have a camera in their hand with their phone, and there are probably lots of cool things to shoot in their everyday commute if they just look up!
One of the challenges I think photographers face is the idea of creating lighting in a bottle. Like on a football pitch or basketball court – you can’t force it, it won’t happen. Follow the process, be patient and trust yourself. Plus have fun with it!
Stanley Tucci could make us all Negronis as a pre-dinner cocktail.
Away from photography, I’m interested in all kinds of different things, and find inspiration in the movies I watch, the songs I hear and the books I read.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read The Hobbit and Dracula so many times! Non-fiction I am obsessed with coffee table books, and biographies – ‘Leading’ By Sir Alex Ferguson and ‘Legacy’ about the All Blacks are superb books.
In terms of music, Dreams by Fleetwood Mac and If I’m in the gym old school hip-hop all day long. Films are a tough one for me. But you can’t look past Godfather, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, Bond, Start Wars, A New Hope or any of the Rocky movies. Love them all.
As I said earlier about travel helping my creativity – I feel the same way about cinema, books and music. It makes you feel alive. I think we all need passions in life to make us think. It would be great to be able to get the opportunity to sit down over dinner with people you admire or who interest you, or even from the past and discuss all of these passions. I think that would be fascinating.
I’d have the likes of Roy Choi and Theo Randall in the Kitchen cooking up some sort of sharing platter, Italian or Tapas – lots of sharing dishes, a few kinds of pasta, a big piece of fish or meat and loads of great sides! Stanley Tucci could make us all Negronis as a pre-dinner cocktail.
Can you imagine how amazing that would be? Frank Sinatra singing, and other guests there like Muhammed Ali, Matthew McConaughey, Sir Alex Ferguson, Billy Connolly, Spielberg, and Robert Downey Jr. Just to sit down with people like that and hear their stories and what it is that made them tick.
I’d have to have Anne Hathaway or Emily Blunt there as well, as my wife really likes them. My daughters would also be so excited to have someone like Rey from Star Wars there as well.
With all out thanks to the wonderful gentleman that is Andy Barrow.
You can follow Andy on social media here.