Behind the Camera with Andrew O’Toole
Andrew O’Toole is a fashion and beauty photographer who is in demand all over the world. Renowned for his incredible talent and eye for detail, Andrew has built an extremely successful career for himself, and has even been awarded Australian Photographer of the Year. We were lucky enough to have him over to shoot our new campaign, and answer a few questions for us in between busy shoots.
Firstly, can you tell me about yourself and what your job is?
My name is Andrew O’Toole, I am a photographer and live in Melbourne. I shoot mostly hair and beauty images.
How did you get into photography?
I went on a trip to Nepal and India when I was 23 and took my camera with me. When I got back, a friend of mine told me my shots were really good, and said if I was interested he would put me in contact with his uncle who was a photographer. At that time I was studying a law degree at Melbourne University, but I started working with this guy and 1 month later I had left my degree and new what I wanted to do.
What was your first big break in the industry?
In terms of hair and beauty industry, I was fortunate to be around at a time when a photographer was booked in for a shoot, but it didn’t work out and the client needed someone to help out. The client was going to shoot it himself, but he saw the test photos I was taking and told me I could shoot the job. That was a three-day advertising job and it was my first big break, which led to a few other things.
How would you describe your work to someone who hasn’t seen it?
My commercial work is definitely different to my personal work. My commercial work is quite beautiful, maybe feminine in a way, there is more of a feminine sexuality rather than a male gaze. My personal work is a lot more raw, textural and dark.
Can you tell me about the biggest struggles you faced wen starting out in your career?
I think personally one of the big things was finding my own style. It’s one thing to be able to take a nice photo, but owning something because you do it in a certain way and having people respond to that and see a flow in your work is something else. Also, when I first moved back from London and first really starting assisting I seemed to think I was going to come back and pick up lots of work in Australia, but I didn’t. So it was all about perseverance after that.
What do you love most about your job?
I think it’s the teamwork on the shoots, like it’s great taking beautiful pictures, but I really love working in a team and creating something special.
Why fashion and beauty?
When I first started off taking pictures I wanted to shoot architecture and landscapes, just because I thought fashion was a bit of a cliché as a photographer. As it turned out I was given a few opportunity’s to shoot catalogue and beauty stuff in the early days, just because they were jobs, and I found I really enjoyed it
What advice do you have for someone following his or her dream?
I think it would be you have to work really hard and persevere. It’s all about connecting with the right people and mentors and getting the right advice. But certainly hard work and grit is the basis of all of that.
What photographers, from the past or present, influence you the most?
I guess there are a few. I pick up inspiration from everywhere. There are certainly a few older, iconic photographers like Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon and Haust that were all very classic. When I was younger the strength of female sexuality in Helmut Newton’s work was quite influential, more so because even though he shot a lot of nudes, or risqué nudes, all of his women were really powerful and had a certain strength in their look. So that was quite influential in the type of women I like to shoot.
Who is someone you would love to work with?
I would have loved to work with Alexander McQueen. Models like Kate Moss, who I have actually met but never worked with. People like that would be great .
What has been your favourite shoot to work on?
There is probably to many to mention. I don’t shoot on location that often but I had a great shoot in St. Petersburg a couple of years ago. I think my favourite ones are shot in iconic locations, like recently with Eleven Australia we just did a shoot in Spain on a Yacht. I think being with your mates and doing what you love on a beautiful yacht in the Mediterranean is about as good as it gets.
What is your favourite look at the moment?
In terms of hair, certainly cool, dark hair, verging a little bit more on the beautiful punk side.
What made you want to get involved with Eleven Australia?
I had worked with Joey Scandizzo for quite a few years previously and we had a few discussions about possibilities, gaps in the market, what we do and the people we know. Our business partners at Ozdare are incredible business people, as well as great friends, so it was a pretty easy decision to get involved.
Do you have a favourite product from the Eleven range, and why?
The only Eleven Australia product I use consistently is our body wash, having a lack of hair my self that’s certainly my favourite, I absolutely love the smell. If it was my wife answering this question, she would definitely say, without a doubt, the Miracle Hair Treatment. That’s the one she uses every day and when she goes on holiday that would be the only product she would take.
Too see more of Andrew O’Toole’s work you can follow him on Instagram at @andrewotoolestudios