I’m very excited to introduce you to Vincent Starr today. This top photographer has had a successful career capturing elite sports people including premiership footballers, rugby players and Team GB athletes. He has even worked with Annie Leibovitz on a shoot with David Beckham in Milan.
I met Vince earlier this year at a motivating HIIT workshop with Kim Ingleby; he photographed the event, while the class was put through Kim’s high intensity workout. I was inspired by Vince’s energy and outlook on life. He certainly has a lot of knowledge to share and passion for helping others.
Opening to yoga and meditation, his direction is changing to involve more photography and videoing of yoga retreats and workshops. When we spoke over the phone, Vince was out connecting to nature and enjoying the English countryside with his black Labrador, Harpo.
Let’s meet this talented man. Welcome Vince.
You have been a professional photographer now for 15 years. What was the most challenging part about starting when you first went out freelance?
I completed my Degree in Photography, Film and Video at the University of Westminster, and then moved to Spain to learn another language as well as get into a studio and gain experience from other photographers.
After a year I went freelance and started assisting a couple of photographers who shot sports campaigns for the likes of Adidas and Pepsi etc. all over Europe, which was quite exciting. After five years I moved back to London to get stuck into building up a career as a sports photographer.
Going freelance was a bit daunting because you feel like you’re going to lose your regular pay packet, but that’s just the first leap you have to take. You have to trust that you’ll get more work and be better paid. It went quiet for the first month, then it worked out okay and I was earning more money straight away.
You know you can do it. Within you is the opportunity, so trust yourself and just go for it.
You know you can do it. Within you is the opportunity, so trust yourself and just go for it.
What are three of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt since running your own business?
My life’s changed a lot in the last two to three years where I’ve got more into yoga and looking at the rhythm of life as a whole, not just the day-to-day.
I shoot more yoga and lifestyle photography too now as well, which is really interesting. Career path wise you realise you have to look within yourself to see who you are, what you’re good at and where you can excel instead of relentlessly attacking everything and hoping it comes off.
So three things I’ve learnt, especially recently;
1. Mindfulness. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is being more mindful of your thoughts and actions. The more clear you are with these, the more the Universe gets an understanding of those vibrations and gives it back/returns them to you.
If I walk around with my career, stressed because I haven’t got as much work as I want, in a way, I’m telling the Universe that’s what I want. I’m giving out those signals like I want to be stressed and not have much work. You’re projecting that and creating that reality. So thinking a more positive version of that would be much more beneficial.
The Universe is giving you everything you want every second of the day. Almost like you step out of your body and you are the whole Universe looking back at a small tiny version of yourself and trying to help it (and it’s generally confused).
We have to be clear and exact with our actions, energy, mind, thoughts and emotions as these things are us telling the Universe what we want and who we are. We can’t sit down for an hour and plan what we want and expect that to happen. It’s all day, every day that our vibration is being felt.
2. Success doesn’t exist. Sometimes it feels like the desire for being successful isn’t natural, almost like its created in us from an early age through school and education. You can be successful just by planting a flower, or by smiling at someone in the street. It doesn’t have to be in the business world or to visually exist in the shape of an object (car, clothes, gadgets).
Survival of the fittest, dog eat dog, gotta fight to survive; being a success feels like the wrong attitude to have in life. Almost like everything is running out and we have to scrabble around to get a piece. “There is enough of everything for everyone” feels like a more true, natural way of living. If you live and believe there is abundance on the planet of everything, then you have a completely different mindset and you’re a lot less stressed too.
3. The work I get doesn’t prove who I am. I’ve changed the way I think from just hanging on for the next big shoot, as if it defines me. As if I’m not complete until I have a big shoot. I’ve given up being hungry for those big shoots because it doesn’t define me as a person.
Every day I wake up, I’m a complete, perfect human being. I don’t need any other external thing to to make me happy or to prove I exist. Believing this gives me back control of my life and my feelings.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt is being more mindful of your thoughts and actions. The more clear you are with these, the more the Universe gets an understanding of those vibrations and gives it back/returns them to you.
Who inspires you and why?
People that help other people.
I think our brains tie us up in knots and it’s sharing knowledge that unties those knots, enlightens us and helps us all on the path to happier everyday lives. Those kinds of people inspire me and that’s more where I’d like to drive my career these days.
Sure, ages ago it was world famous photographers that inspired me, but I would beat myself up that I’m not as successful as them (yet) and I found that unhealthy. Also in a way I was hijacking their dream. Copying their dream and fighting for their dream. Externalising my happiness into something that’s already been done and not being happy until I got a similar version of it for myself.
I’m 39 years old and the second half of my life is going to be all about open mindedness and unlimited possibilities. Using my photography as a vehicle to move my life around and not as something that limits or contains me.
I’m not as stressed about getting big advertising shoots anymore – I mean they’re awesome fun. I love the buzz of big lighting set ups and that’s always what I’ve wanted to do as a photographer, but the more I learn about myself and this creative path I am on, the more I think maybe there’s something more I should be focusing my creativity on.
As you take this thought further you realise you’re putting a lot of your energy into the possibility of getting advertising shoots, with email marketing campaigns, phone calls, trying to set up meetings, portfolio drop offs etc. etc. Then when you do get a job, those images make people want to buy more products for them to be happy, which is creating a synthetic, false version of the world and happiness. Also making you unhappy until you get the work. So you step back from that and see the very strange bigger picture for what it really is.
It’s not real. It’s not natural. I’m not helping people on the planet be happy. I’m contributing to a system that makes people happy only when they’ve bought something. I guess that feels wrong. I should be re-connecting people to the natural, real world and to themselves. As a creative isn’t that my responsibility?
It’s always good to question things. Stop and think. See things in a different light. Even everything we’ve just spoken about isn’t written in stone. It’s just a thought process, some ideas. Some wrong, some right. Advertising seems to be convincing people they need something outside themselves. I guess it’s really irresponsible, but it’s also the way the western world is wired; consume, consume, consume.
I think our brains tie us up in knots and it’s sharing knowledge that unties those knots, enlightens us and helps us all on the path to happier everyday lives.
What was key for you growing your business?
Giving the best quality of work you could possibly achieve and giving that to the client. Also getting the most out of the athletes on shoots.
Do you have a major career highlight since starting as a photographer?
The first Adidas shoot was pretty amazing, because that was quite a big deal. It ran me ragged and stressed me out no end with the budget and production the shoot involved, but it was my first juicy six day shoot with premiership football players, so I loved it.
Then there was the Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres shoots. Double front covers for FourFourTwo magazine and Nike. That was pretty awesome fun. Speaking Spanish with Fernando was a nice little reward from five years in Spain too.
And then, I think more recently it feels like a highlight to be finally aware that I have the chance to really knuckle down and work out what is the best thing I can possibly create and give instead of just thinking and striving for my own ‘successful’ career.
I guess a highlight of this energy developed into photographing and filming a yoga teacher training retreat in Tuscany. That was loads of fun because in a way it was my first yoga course. As well as filming in a beautiful location with amazing teachers and students I fell into the wealth of knowledge the 5/6000 year old yoga philosophy has to offer. Very inspiring. The opposite of the western way of life maybe. That really blew me away.
There’s 30-40 people on set and you’ve got all these lights on two or three different sets, crisp quality lighting, an amazing photography team and equipment with you – and you’re producing it, it feels great.
What made the Adidas shoot personally rewarding? Was it the fact that you succeeded in such a large shoot with big names?
It just felt like it had been everything I wanted to achieve: to become a big photographer shooting big lighting set-ups.
Shoots like that where you’re in a big studio – there’s 30-40 people on set and you’ve got all these lights on two or three different sets, crisp, fresh, amazing quality lighting, your best hand-picked photography team and equipment with you – and you’re producing it, it feels great.
But then, the Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres were smaller, but a bit more fun because they both just nailed it. It was quick and more relaxed with a lot less people on set. Maybe four or five. I’d done quite a few shoots by then, so that was a bit more of a buzz. Fernando Torres just jumped up and did this horizontal kick perfectly in the first frame (obviously I took more frames but I was smiling to myself as I knew he couldn’t beat that shot).
Torres just jumped up and did this horizontal kick perfectly in the first frame (obviously I took more frames but I was smiling to myself as I knew he couldn’t beat that shot).
What was the turning point that got you into meditation and yoga?
I remember sitting down at the dining table in our flat in Balham in January a few years back and saying to myself “What more I can do? What more can I put in to get me more work?” I’d been giving 200-300% in everything and it wasn’t giving the same energy back.
I was holding my head in my hands. I was frustrated and I was thinking, “What more can I do?”
Later that year I was hanging out with my sister who’s into loads of sport, meditation, yoga and writing etc. and she got me into a few science and spirituality workshops and meditation techniques. I’d tried meditation before, and was a little into yoga but second time round it was different and something just clicked.
Meditation can be just closing your eyes (well a very simple version of it anyway), shutting off external inputs, slowing your breathing to half it’s normal speed and just being. It’s really amazing when you get the hang of it. You kind of find you connect with your true inner self. The real you. Then after I got the hang of it slowly loads of things and energy just opened up to me. I began to ‘see’ more of what was really going on. What was driving everything in my life and in the world around me. Where I was going. What I thought I wanted and why I thought I wanted it.
When you have a moment of inspiration for example, really I think that’s you connected with your higher self. The more enlightened, less weighed-down-by-every-day-life type person and through meditation, yoga and balancing your life you kind of get more in tune with that side of you and stuff like that. You connect to that more.
You become less weighed down by the stressful things in life like money worries, what you haven’t got, the news, people in power etc. etc. and focus more on the positive things. Beautiful and simple.
When you have a moment of inspiration, really I reckon that’s kind of you connected with your higher, more enlightened, less weighed down by every day life self and through meditation, yoga and balancing your life you kind of get more in tune with that side.
Starting a new venture can be equally exciting and scary. Do you have a way of overcoming personal fear and self-doubt?
Yes, just go for it!
There are two books that re-wired my thinking this year.
There’s one called The Power, which is the second book after The Secret. The Power is a bit more business based and creative I think. It’s funny, I never got into The Secret. Someone showed me that, and I wasn’t into it at all. That just shows how closed off I was then I guess.
The other one was Ubuntu Contributionism by Michael Tellinger. Amongst loads of other topics, it speaks of a better version of the world where people contribute four hours of work a day to their community doing whatever they want to do, then they are free to do anything they like. They don’t need money etc. In a way money is a controlling mechanism I guess.
Amazing, amazing books. Funny that I was reading them both at the same time.
Things I took from The Power are; it’s all to do with our sub-conscious mind. In the space of a minute you regenerate like a million cells in your body. In the space of a week you regenerate and replace all the trillions of cells in your body, so you’re constantly changing and are more like a wave is the sea than a static object..
Then also, things that are scary, are good for you. That’s what you should be attracted to, but your sub-conscious brain is trying to protect you, so if you walked out in front of a car it will jolt you back, which is good. It’s a failsafe, but also it stops you exploring more and going for other things in life.
Every day there’s things that you think, like “Oh, I can’t be bothered to do that, I just want to stay at home all day”, or “If I did that, how will I make money to pay the rent?” It’s you’re sub-conscious just trying to stop you doing stuff to protect you. To keep you ‘safe’. You’ve really got to push yourself through that barrier no matter what.
You’ve got to take yourself out of your comfort zone. What’s the worst that could happen? Even though it’s scary and daunting, just do it. Go for it, because you’ll become more alive and then more and more opportunities arise from that energy.
Give yourself affirmations to read to yourself everyday – telling yourself what you should be doing and thinking really – they’re really cool. “I am a successful photographer”. “Money is flowing to me from expected and unexpected sources”. “I am alive, happy and at peace with myself”. “I love myself”. Anything like that is great and really good for you.
Our brains are so tied up in a knot, that it really helps to tell ourselves these affirmations or positive things because the niggly voice in the back of the brain does the opposite. You know like “my job’s crap”, “I can’t cook anything”, “he/she doesn’t understand me”. Automatic negative thoughts can run our lives and we sometimes don’t even notice they are there. We have to be aware of them at least, that’s half the battle.
All these things add up to distract us and slow us down, so we’re less enlightened like a low hum and we need to be a higher vibration. A higher frequency.
With a daunting new thing; go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? Would that worst really be that bad? You’d get through it, even if it did happen – which it won’t, so go for it!
With a daunting new thing; go for it. What’s the worst that could happen?
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow their passion and create a career out of what they love doing?
The most important thing is try not to do something to be successful because you may find out that that success isn’t a real thing. Do things for pure passion and because it’s who you are inside.
That’s really positive.
What adds colour to your life?
To me it’s all the tiny little accidents that happen that seemingly no one really notices that I think are massively important.
It’s like accidentally smiling at something funny that some does or that happens in the street and a moment later you catch someone’s eye and they also found it funny. Those simple small sparks in life are awesome.
Like miniscule dust mites of energy floating through the Universe that are lost everyday, but you catch one and it gives you a spark. Those little bits of magic. They’re not marketed, or on a billboard and they’re not sold to you. They’re just under the radar that no one really knows about and they’re little things that tickle your fancy and keep you going.
Like gold but in a currency nobody knows about.
You’ve got to take yourself out of your comfort zone. Blind faith. What’s the worst that could happen? Even though it’s scary and daunting, just do it. Go for it, because you’ll become more alive and then more and more opportunities arise from this energy.
Quick fire questions: London, England
Best breakfast/brunch spot: La Suite West Hotel London. Nothing is more British than afternoon tea in London.
Favourite place for coffee: Shoreditch Grind.
When you’re not busy working, you can be found: Lost in the countryside or researching someone’s weird and wonderful work.
Favourite travel destination: Glastonbury or Valencia.
Finally, getting a lot more into the yoga, your direction is already changing. How do you see your business evolving over the next five years?
The biggest thing I want to do in the next five years is give more to others, not to myself.
I want to use my creativity to help other people get more out of life, unwinding their minds if needed – unlocking any limiting belief systems they might have as opposed to concentrating my creativity to try make me money and ‘prove’ myself. Connecting my creativity more with the natural world.
What a jam packed interview! Has Vince’s advice or philosophy resonated with you? Let me know what you enjoyed in the comments.
To see more of Vince’s impressive portfolio, or to connect with him, check out his social media below.
All photographs courtesy of Vince Starr.
Live more free,