Simon Dawson

Simon Dawson

Based
London, United Kingdom
Born
London, United Kingdom
Status
Photographer
“"There will always be a massive difference between someone with a smartphone and a skilled camera operator who understands the complexity of the story."”

Beat

I cover all aspects of editorial photography, with a focus on news, portraits, and features.

One Shot

. London, UNITED KINGDOM. Reuters/Simon Dawson
A member of the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent Hunt crashes as she jumps a fence during the annual Boxing Day hunt in Chiddingstone.
“The hunts are very controversial in Britain because of the killing of foxes. After following the hunt for a few miles, I was determined to get a photo of the horses and dogs jumping a fence. I positioned myself in front of a fence, but the dogs decided to go around the fence rather than over. So I decided to take a different approach. I re-positioned myself with a 50mm lense to try and capture a side angle of the riders jumping. As one of the last horses approached, it was clear it was going too fast; the horse came crashing down nose first (which I later found out is very unusual) and both the rider and horse landed with a big impact. I looked back at the camera and saw I captured the exact moment the horse’s nose touched the ground. The photo was used all over the world, generating a lot of reaction from animal lovers and anti-hunt campaigners.”

Profile

My earliest memory of photography is posing endlessly for family photos, or perhaps my Dad showing me his photographs from a trip across the UK and Europe on his old Lambretta scooter.

I don’t think I have ever stopped learning. Those who think they know it all are probably going backwards. I started to study photography at college where one of my teachers suggested that I enrol in a well-known course in Sheffield that produced many top British photographers. Experienced photographers are also a great source of knowledge, and I constantly asked questions of them when I started out.

I have always had a passion for news. I care about what is going on in the world. Growing up, I remember seeing images from the First Gulf War and those photos gave me an understanding of the power that photography can have in telling a story that is happening thousands of miles away.

My first assignment was on work experience for the Evening Standard. On my first day, I did a vox-pop and then a press conference. I was completely overwhelmed, and I did a terrible job of the vox-pop. Thankfully, I managed to pull it together for the press conference and was rewarded with a photo on the front page that day.

Youthful ignorance can leave you mistakenly believing that you are ready to work for a national newspaper or a global news wire on day one. It quickly became apparent to me that I had a lot to learn, not only technically, but all the intangibles that they don't teach you at college and are vital to becoming a successful photographer.

Many of the stories we cover can have a profound personal impact. For me, the one that stood out the most was covering the aftermath of the Paris attacks. The city was in shock and everyone was on edge. A car backfiring sent people running for their lives. I remember going to one of the bars where shots had been fired. At the window there were three bullet holes, and on the other side of the window was a half empty glass of wine and a beer undisturbed. I'm not sure why but this really brought home to me that these were just ordinary people who may have been killed enjoying an evening drink.

Where words and facts can be quite often twisted, photographs from trusted sources on the ground are harder to discredit.

When you first start, it is easy to think it is all about clicking the shutter at the right time, but the truth is you need to work hard to get yourself in that position in the first place. By speaking to people, you will get closer to them and open up possibilities you might not have thought were possible. You also need to come to terms with the fact that at some point you are going to mess up, it happens to the best - use it as a learning experience. The other thing is timekeeping, sometimes you have to sit around for hours on end for a moment, but if you turn up five minutes late you may as well not have turned up at all.

Since I started working in media, all I have heard is that photojournalism is dying, but I have never really seen it happen. There will always be a massive difference between someone with a smartphone and a skilled camera operator who understands the complexity of the story. In the social media age, a great photograph can have an even greater impact than it did 30 years ago, potentially reaching a global audience instantly.

I love Sebastio Salgaldo and how he explores his subjects and creates these masterpieces of photography. I also love the work of Dougie Wallace: It is funny, edgy and political – the perfect mixture, in my view.

Behind the Scenes

Reuters photographer Simon Dawson covers anti-Brexit march in London.