Neil Raja | Capture Your City with Footpatrol & Vault By Vans

For our World Photography Competition in collaboration with Vault by Vans, we highlight our in-house photographers who take us through their love of photography, their favourite projects and their dream photoshoots… Kicking things off with Neil Raja.

We have extended the deadline of our World Photography Competition in collaboration with Vault by Vans, until Friday 30th September.

Footpatrol: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your role within Footpatrol?

Neil: Hi, My name is Neil, I’m a Creative Photographer at Footpatrol. I’ve just finished my first month here and really loving that. Prior to this i was a freelance photographer, specialising in portraiture, mostly working on commercial campaigns and within the music industry. 

FP: What first drew you to the world of photography?

Neil: Whenever I travelled, I always had a camera with me. My family often told me it was something I should pursue, so after I graduated from my design degree, I left my job and went into photography full time. I got a lucky break with a hip hop magazine and began working with some of my favourite artists. I loved photographing them behind the scenes and backstage and began getting noticed for my journalistic approach to portraiture. At the same time I also used my photography as a way to give a voice to charitable organisations that didn’t have budgets for big campaigns and through this i produced some of my favourite and most notable work. 

FP: How do you visually express yourself via photography?

Neil: Photography is a great way to show people things from an angle or viewpoint that they otherwise wouldn’t usually see. This is what I think about whenever behind the camera. As everyone has a camera nowadays, I use more composed shots to tell a story, to bring to light an issue that society doesn’t think of or to portray a subject in a way that the viewer wouldn’t otherwise expect. I think this contrast is what describes my style best too.

FP: What would you class as your dream photoshoot? 

Neil: As I have a real deep love of music, i think my dream shoot would have to be with artists and musicians that are no longer with us. I’d have loved to have been on tour with Hendrix, capturing him live and backstage. One artist I’m a huge fan of but never had thine chance to work with would be Nas. Getting to shoot an album cover for him would certainly be a dream come true.

FP: Tell us about your camera set up, do you have anything on your wishlist?

Neil: I’ve used so many different setups in the past and try to keep my kit utilitarian. When i photographed musicians early on in my career it was with a rather basic set up, a Nikon D50 (which i still have). Last year I shot a portrait of Mo Farah using a Pentax 67 and my digital kit is mostly made up of Sony gear. I love shooting on film and my favourite camera I travel with is a Nikon F3.

Footpatrol: What’s been your favourite project you’ve worked on, Footpatrol or not? 

Neil: My favourite projects to date have probably been a campaign is shot for National Centre of Domestic Violence. It was to show how abuse rates rise during the world cup, the images for which were shown around the world before each game and has since been adopted by Fifa and other bodies to highlight the issue. Another campaign which means a lot to me was one i shot for the charity ETC education which had built the first and only secondary school for girls in the Masai Mara. I spent months living in the Mara, getting to know the teachers, students and villagers to capture images and footage of the impact the school has had. These types of projects mean more to me than any celebrity i may have worked with.

FP: Quick fire question… digital or film?

Neil: I love shooting on film as it slows down the process and what you get is what you get. It’s my go to when I travel as I never have to charge my camera and it doesn’t take me out of the moment. However I do appreciate the flexibility digital gives for certain projects and love what’s possible in post production.

FP: How do you think this opportunity with Vans and Footpatrol helps the next generation? 

Neil: I think this is a great way for people to see the breadth of what can be done in photography. Our team is so diverse with skill set, I feel genuinely honored to be on the roster. As a brand, Vans has a deep heritage in underground culture, from skate photographers to hand held film makers, they’ve always championed creativity of this kind. I hope people feel inspired with our stories and look to tell their own with whatever medium they choose.

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