Dan Wilton, a winner in the last edition of Portrait of Britain, tells BJP how he captures his compelling portraits.
Dan Wilton is a UK-based portrait and documentary photographer who works with clients such as The Fader, Asos, The New York Times, Adidas, Nike and XL Recordings. His portraits of Dizzee Rascal and Stormzy were both selected in BJP’s Portrait of Britain award last year, and displayed on JC Decaux screens the length and breadth of the country. BJP caught up with Wilton to find out more about his approach.
What makes a compelling portrait?
Too many things to list, every shoot is different. I realise the importance of patience on my part. Taking my time allows whoever I’m photographing to either engage with the process or to switch off and forget it completely – both of which I’ve found can really work with the way I shoot. It’s all about connection – about finding some kind of dialogue. Sometimes that can be hard – especially with very short shoots – but that’s one of the challenges and one of the reasons I love it so much.
When did you fall in love with photography?
It’s been a long and winding process. I wish I’d studied it or assisted when I started out. To be honest, I didn’t really realise it was what I wanted to do until quite late. My first memories of it were playing with my Dad’s OM-10 on holiday, on the beach. But it was when my friend Frank showed me around a darkroom at Uni that it first really clicked for me. A few years later I built my own in my mum and dad’s shed – that’s what really got me going.
Could you tell us about an experience you’ve had while shooting portraits?
I’ve been working on a project around Green Bay, Wisconsin for the last few years that’s brought with some interesting (and mostly pleasant) encounters…While I was taking some portraits of some local guys outside of a bar, one of them became convinced I’d been sent by the FBI to spy on them. He grabbed my phone off me (thinking I was recording him with it) and then pinned me up against a wall, screaming in my face. Luckily, my English accent really helps out there, and I managed to talk my way out of it.
What are your thoughts about the Portrait of Britain project?
It’s amazing – I was so happy to show two portraits in it last year, amongst such a strong selection of portraits and photographers. The scale and reach of it is unlike anything else I’ve really been a part of – in particular, that fact that it showed around the country instead of just being concentrated in London.
BJP’s Portrait of Britain competition is open to all photographers – amateurs, students and professionals. We welcome everything from selfies to conceptual images, and they can be shot on film or digital in any format. All we ask is that your portrait was shot in the UK after 1st January 2011, and depicts subjects living in the country at the time of the photograph. The competition is open until 26 June 2017. For more details and how to submit your work please visit portraitofbritain.uk
See more of Dan Wilton’ s work at www.danwilton.co.uk