In search of refuge from the bustling urban landscape of Birmingham, England, photographer Adam Bird finds quiet sanctuary in the forests that he uses to create his fairy tale worlds. He brings into focus creative stories from his mind while incorporating deep human emotion. This powerful combination invites his audience into the dreamy, fantastical scenes.
Often pairing surreal post processing with props that he builds, each photograph is as if you are getting a glimpse into the life of a fairy tale character—before they realize they’re the hero of their own story. To do this, Adam’s imagery presents small pieces of magic that maintain a strong sense of reality. We’re able to put ourselves in the shoes of his subjects.
We were grateful for the opportunity to get a Behind The Lens look into Adam’s conceptual photography.
Scroll down to read our exclusive interview with Adam Bird about his conceptual photography.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey into photography?
I started my photography journey back in 2012. My twin sister was scouted by a modeling agency and needed a portfolio put together. We had little money at the time so I took some photographs in my garden and that kind of got the ball rolling! I initially thought I wanted to get into fashion work but after discovering the work of Tim Walker and other artists online I loved the conceptual/fine art aspect that you can create.
What are some of your interests?
Interests other than my photography include reading and walking.
Where do you call home?
Home for me is the outdoors and being somewhere where I can completely switch off from the world.
Your work is surreal and rich with creativity, how do you stay inspired?
The term “keep going” inspires me a lot. Every time I shoot I feel like I learn a new thing, whether it’s to do with my camera gear or just how I go about shooting. I’m also inspired a lot by nature and stories.
How do you choose your models?
I love working with new faces! My photography lends itself to surreal scenes so I like to work with very natural looking girls. I especially love shooting people with long hair as I think it adds an ethereal element to my photographs.
You often use yourself as a model for your creative photography, how do you set up your shoot?
I’ve only recently dived into self-portraits and I’m finding myself liking it more and more. Often I go out by myself with just my camera, tripod and remote. I usually put something in my place such as a backpack to focus on and then set it on self-timer. Sometimes, I’m even lucky enough to have a friend come along with me and press the shutter. It’s very challenging but definitely rewarding at the same time.
To you, what are the qualities that make a perfect shot?
For me, there are many factors that go into making a great shot. I think the subject, lighting, and composition are the most crucial elements. When all of these blend together seamlessly it creates a beautiful image.
How has picking up photography impacted your life?
I feel like it’s made me appreciate life a lot more. It lets me appreciate the small wonders such as watching the sunset.
From conceptualizing to post processes, how much planning goes into a shoot?
Some shoots are spur of the moment and I just work with what I have in front of me. Others I have planned for weeks and I’m just waiting for the right weather to shoot in.
How do you light your photos? Do you use artificial or natural light?
I use natural light 99.9% of the time. I like how it is free to use and you can also use it in different ways to manipulate your photos. I have used studio lighting before but only to mimic the natural light from a window if I need an extra kick of light.
What has been your favorite shooting location?
My favorite shoot location is definitely the woods. I love creating little fairy tales and stories in them.
How would you define your style?
I would define my photographic style as whimsical, surreal and dreamy.
Is there an overall message you would like your photos convey?
Most of my photographs are stand alone pieces and each have their own message. For example, my photograph Closed Doors marked when I closed “metaphorical” doors in my life to different things and wanted to move on.
What challenges have you faced while creating?
I’ve faced a lot of challenges in my work. Mainly, I’ve faced found it hard trying to stay inspired. It is so hard to think of a new concept all the time and if nothing is really going on in my life at that time I find it hard to shoot a meaningful image. I also find it difficult to not critique my own work. I get carried away sometimes thinking it’s not good enough when I should be proud of it.
What’s a must have in your gear bag?
A must have for me is my 35mm 1.4 lens. It is my go to lens for most situations and it captures light beautifully!
How much post processing goes into a completed photo?
I’d say I spend a good few hours editing my pictures. I like to piece them together into one final photograph. It starts with selecting my favorites and picking bits from each photo to merge into one. After getting the composition together and compositing in different elements, I focus on retouching and then finally I play with the color. I’ve started to come back to it after finishing it and thinking how can I improve this. If this was a painting, what would/wouldn’t be here. I find that squinting your eyes at an image helps you see distractions clearer.
What are your plans for the future? Do you have any upcoming projects?
I have quite a lot of commissioned work going on at the minute. In January, I’m planning on starting a 52-week project to keep me occupied and to also make me create work more often.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
I do! Keep practicing and even if someone doesn’t like what you’re doing. Still do it. Art is very subjective and personal, If you like it, then that’s all that matters.