It's not everyday you get to meet the leader of a political party, nor is shooting them for a magazine front cover. For Jordan Curtis Hughes though, having glossy looking publication covers under his belt and an avid interest in politics, in particular in regards to Jeremy Corbyn are the sort of stuff that define him and his career. With an appreciation of various sorts of creative fields, Jordan's photographic journey has been a varied one and that's not even including the touring along the way too. Here's what he had to say for himself in a chat during the summer this year:
Who inspires you now and who inspired you when you first started out?
"I think my influences have always stayed pretty similar, they've never really differed. I grew up looking to up David Bailey & Annie Leibovitz and it’s never really strayed from there. I feel like the more I progressed, the more I started to work with people who inspired me - people like Andy Ford and Vicky Grout. Different people inspire me in different ways even if I don't know them personally. Being able to see what they're doing as independents and living their dreams, no matter what that is. Even people like Hannah who does the sick embroidery."
Hannah Hill? Hanecdote?
"Yeah, even people like Hannah. I've been following her work for a long time and it's so sick that people are taking notice of it. She's doing what she enjoys and she's not doing it for anything else, she's not doing it to earn money or to be famous, she's doing it because she really likes it. I can go with David and Annie as people who inspire me but bring it back to people that I know personally like Hannah, they all really inspire me."
Hannah's not even a photographer yet you say she inspires you, that's quite out of the box.
"100%, I feel like all art forms of pretty similar."
As a way of expressing yourself?
"Yeah, you're making a decision where you're like "I don't want to do a normal job, I don't want to do this, I don't want to do that so I'm going to be poor for a few years while I set myself up." I don't think if you're a photographer, you should only look at photography. You should go and see painters or you can go and see embroidery or film, it makes you a better photographer."
Talk about your experience of meeting Jeremy Corbyn and doing a press shot of him for NME.
"I've followed his journey for quite a few years now, last year I signed up to the Labour Party so I could vote for him to remain the leader against Owen Smith. I've always liked what he's done, I've been to a lot of his rallies before the general election kicked off so when I got the phone call to shoot the cover I knew exactly what I wanted from it. I felt like I knew him on a different level because I'd been following him for so long and I knew so much about him. I just felt happy and privileged that I was chosen to shot him."
I said to Jeremy that I really wanted him to come across as very friendly and approachable but also look like a Prime Minister. Before I met him, I was looking at pictures of [Barack] Obama and JFK the night before, Obama and JFK were celebrity presidents and I wanted Jeremy to come across as approachable, I wanted people to want to be associated with him. I said that to him and he obliged, he was very good at it."
This election made a man of Corbyn. Labour didn't win but they caused enough havoc to leave the Conservatives in complete disarray.
"Yeah, of course and people can take inspiration from that as an artist or whatever you do in life. Jeremy got battered for like two years to the point where his MPs took the stance of "we don't trust you, we want another leadership election". He goes and wins that but then all the media's bashing him, his MPs are still bashing him and then actually, he kept maybe 10-15 good friends around him and he smashed it, he stayed true to himself, he didn't veer off-course or do anything different, he stayed the same person.
The whole experience with Corbyn was incredible. I've always said in previous interviews when people have asked me who I'd want to shot, I always say Kanye [West] and I always some kind of political figure. Whether it's Vladimir Putin or Jeremy Corbyn, I think they are very interesting figures, whether they're good or bad. It went really well, Corbyn was exactly who I thought he was and more really, he was very lovely and down to Earth."
How cool were NME?
"Great, I've done stuff for them for years. I started shooting for NME when I was 19 so they kind of gave me a platform to start shooting and then maybe two and a half years into it, I got my first cover with a band called Slaves. I shot them first, then I shot Taylor Swift, then I shot Slaves again for the cover and then I shot Corbyn. That's my fourth cover now and NME have always been really good to me, they've always given me a lot of opportunities. There's been a lot of changes at the magazine recently but I think if they believe that I'm good for the job, they'll book me for it so the Corbyn shoot worked out well."
Who have been your favourite people to work with?
"I tour with Slaves quite a lot, they're always fun to shoot. There's two of them, Laurie [Vincent] is heavily tattooed and Isaac [Holman] looks like a Calvin Klein model. They're very interesting people to shoot and work with; they play up to the camera, their live shows are insane, they're thoroughly nice boys as well, I really enjoy spending time with them, even when I'm not photographing them. With them, every night is different, you don't know what's going to happen or where they are going to go in the crowd.
Another band that I tour with are Enter Shikari and I've ended up being good friends with Rou [Reynolds] whose their lead singer in the band. They have really energetic shows, they'll be climbing up balconies in the crowd with their amps and their guitars. That constant change every day definitely make Slaves and Enter Shikari as two of my favourite bands to work with."
Why do you think music & photography go together so well?
"I think a lot of the acts that I've always shot have got a lot of energy. I haven't really worked with many bands who are very static and boring, I've always worked with bands that are passionate about what they doing, they're very energetic, live or off stage.
As music photographers, we offer an insight into bands that other people won't see. A lot of people say my style of photography when I'm not shooting live, when I'm backstage is like they don't know I'm there. I've never purposely done that, I think that's naturally how I work, taking a step back out of the environment that I'm in and documenting what's going on in front of me so rather than being a part of the party. I remove myself from the party and document it and that's how my photos come across.
I think it's a unique way for fans to access to bands that they like because they might feel like they're in the room with them. I think that music and photography have always gone hand-in-hand with each other. Even in the here and now, people still crave those iconic and fantastic live and backstage photos because sure I've got my iPhone and the camera's insane but I can dream of getting the camera I could and equipment and knowing I can frame stuff. I think music and photography naturally go together.
How do you keep yourself motivated when you don't always have that creative spark?
"It is tough, as a photographer, you can be like a lone wolf in the profession and not really see anyone unless you're working with them so it can be quite difficult to motivate yourself sometimes. There have been points down the years where I'm like "I'm not really feeling this, I don't know what to do" but if you just stick with it and believe in yourself, it will come through in the end. People are lying if they're not gonna say it's hard work and you will doubt yourself sometimes but you've got to just roll with it. You've got to go and see some art, see what's happening, watch some films and go to art galleries and hang out with friends or however which inspires you. I think the way I do it is I try to take a step out, I'll remove myself from everything and try to enjoy what I'm doing."
Why do you think photography within urban culture, fashion & music has gained more popularity & respect in recent years?
"I think it's similar to what's happened to Corbyn in the sense that everybody wrote him off. People thought if they ignored it long enough, it'd just go away but it didn't go away. Theresa May calling the election was like Meridian Dan's 'German Whip' and then Skepta's 'That's Not Me' was like Jeremy winning like 30 seats in the election. It really took something massive for people to realise that the artists are serious.
Everyone wants to be DIY nowadays. Skepta went dressed in a postman outfit for Top Of The Pops last year for their Christmas special, it was sick. Jonny Banger styled the outfit and he's got a store in Tottenham, he's got a sick taste. You can probably see Skepta wearing his stuff without you even realising."
How important is it for creatives to get outside of their comfort zones?
"It's absolutely essential. You can get very good at one thing and stay very good at that one thing forever and have a pretty decent life working with guitar bands, singer-songwriters, that kind of thing but my music taste was always more like grime, hip-hop, UK rap so I started shooting stuff that I actually enjoy listening to and then I started to get clients from that place. I was shooting for NME with that DIY, indie sort of feel and then I started shooting for Complex and FACT and getting contacts from there. I stepped out of my comfort zones by working with MCs, DJs, producers and it can be scary at first, it's a new experience. I definitely threw myself out of my comfort zone but I was doing something I really enjoyed. You can only be a fantastically brilliant artist if you step outside of your comfort zone, you cannot be innovative or interesting without doing it."
Got any future plans for this year?
"My summer is really busy. I do Glastobury this weekend then I'm doing the British Summer Time shows in Hyde Park, I'm shooting that for the festival, I'm think I'm doing Phil Collins, Green Day and Justin Bieber, that should be pretty fun. I'm shooting at Wireless, that should be pretty good and then in between Wireless and Lovebox, I'm doing another shoot in Ibiza for a commercial. I'm shooting at Lovebox for a charity called Warchild, I approached a few charities a couple of months ago and asked them how I can help them with my photography basically, I'm going to Lovebox to shot their volunteers. After the summer, I'll probably do a bit of touring and alongside more portrait photography."
All pictures used taken by Jordan. Find his website at http://www.jordancurtishughes.co.uk/