Paul hancock wanstead photographer

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I’ve always lived in this rather lovely corner of North East London and Essex, and I first moved to Wanstead itself in 1997. The family business was a photographic studio and camera shop in Highams Park – it was there for over 40 years. So I grew up in that environment, learning the craft, and I shot my first wedding when I was only 17. (I’m not sure who was more scared – me, or the bride…) But the photos turned out pretty well, and I’ve been shooting professionally for over 25 years now. I think that experience counts for a lot, and I hope it shows in the images I produce. Since the advent of digital photography, everyone with a DSLR seems to think they’re a ‘professional photographer’ – but there’s a bit more to it than that…

‘The Wanstead Portrait Studio’ – a studio without a studio?

Wanstead itself is my ‘studio’ - especially Wanstead Park, and Epping Forest as a whole. These days people seem to want something more natural than the formal style that has been typical of most High Street photographers for the last few decades. And given that we have such fabulous locations on our doorstep, I figured why not use them? I do a lot of family portraiture and kids especially are far more at ease running around outdoors than they would be cooped up in a stuffy old studio. I don’t go for forced poses or ‘wacky’ props: every year or two there seems to be a new portraiture ‘fad’, but that’ll just mean the shots end up looking dated when clients look back on them in a few years time. So I just try and keep things as natural and relaxed as possible – and I can’t see our fabulous parklands and forest going out of fashion anytime soon!

Presumably the weather can be an issue?

Ha! Yes, I do seem to spend most of my time between shoots checking the weather forecast for the next one... Occasionally Mother Nature conspires against me and we have to postpone a session – but fortunately it doesn’t happen too often. But I think working outdoors is worth the effort, as the results are far more natural – and people seem to like what I do. Wanstead residents are rightly proud of where they live, so it makes sense for the photographs I take to not just be family portraits, but a celebration of the area as well.

Is what you do ‘seasonal’?

Well, there are obviously times of the year when I’m busier – I shoot pretty much constantly between April and November. I get booked up several months in advance for ‘Bluebell Sessions’ – they’re very popular. And ‘Autumn Shoots’ get booked up pretty quickly too, because there’s only a limited number of sessions I can do during the couple of weeks that the forest colours are looking their best.

What other services do you offer?

Other photographic services include newborn portrait sessions (which I do at clients’ houses) and corporate headshots – plus weddings of course, and pretty much any and every kind of social function you can think of. Anything involving people, really. And for the last couple of years I’ve been delighted to offer my services for free to Christchurch Nursery, photographing the kids with Santa in their Christmas party grotto – it’s a nice way to finish off the year!