Nick Fewings was contacted recently, by one of the world’s most read online Street Photography magazines. They contacted him after seeing how popular his photos were becoming. They asked him to do an interview for a forthcoming issue of the magazine.
Below is the interview, which tells the story of how Nick has combined his passion for people development, with his pastime of taking candid street photographs.
Life In Front & Behind A Lens
Few Peeps is the pseudonym of Nick Fewings, an amateur Street Photographer from the UK. His unique street photography is catching the attention of those in the industry and receiving plaudits from many, for a style which some have commented has parallels to the famous US 20th century painter Norman Rockwell.
So how come you’re used to being in front of a lens?
In my day job, I’m a highly-regarded team-development facilitator and conference speaker. My business, Ngagementworks partners with organisations, to deliver cutting-edge experiential learning programmes, that engage individuals and motivate teams and in doing so transform them and enable them to achieve greater success. I have been working in the learning and development sector for many years, and have had the opportunity to work with teams and speak at conferences around the world. At conferences, there is always an official photographer and hence me being in front of the lens. It’s interesting though how quickly you forget the photographer’s presence. When I first spoke at a conference almost 15 years ago, it was a different story, as I’d always be conscious of the lens of the photographer pointing at me.
When and how did you get into Street Photography?
Purely by chance. My wife Belinda and myself have both been keen amateur photographers for quite a number of years. Photographing in general, vacations, family gatherings and our pets etc. In my opinion Belinda has a better natural eye for taking a photograph than myself. Whilst her shots are naturally great, I, on the other hand was always, as she jokingly put it “tweaking ” mine. This is where my creative side kicked in, as I liked to explore new styles of post-processing to produce something a little different.
We had just come back from a vacation on the island of Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa. As my job is all about people and their behaviours, I was drawn to taking photographs of the local people as we explored the island. When we came home, I started to play around with my photo-editing software and after quite some time produced a style that both Belinda and I thought, “Wow, that’s different.”
How long have you been creating this style?
Not that long at all. I started May 2013. Once I’d decided that taking shots of people and giving them a unique processing twist, was what I was passionate about, I first started sharing them with friends via Facebook and then via Flickr, which I had joined in 2008 but never used. Almost immediately, I was getting good feedback from people, which led me to post another, then another just to see if it was a one off or more than that. It wasn’t long before quite a few had been selected for Flickr Explore, to feature in their daily top 500, which continued the snowball of people giving me positive feedback. This is when a theme emerged regarding my style and it was mentioned that it was similar to the famous US-artist Norman Rockwell. I checked out his work and was very flattered that people mentioned my work had a similar look.
How many photos have you produced in this style?
To date I’ve produced just over 200 photos that have been shared on Flickr. I have had approximately 600,000 views with over 20,000 being favourited. 1 in 10 have been chosen for Flickr Explore’s Daily 500, out of the estimated 8.2M photos uploaded daily. Flickr use a secret ‘interestingness’ algorithm based on a combination of views, comments and favourites and other factors to select the daily 500. I’ve been told the ratio of my photos chosen to the amount I’ve uploaded is very high.
How Do You Process Them?
I’d like to say its a secret process, handed down through my family from my Great Great Grandfather! But no, it’s one of those things that I like to keep to myself, so my style remains unique. It’s a bit like the recipe for Coca Cola, if they told you what it was, they’d have to kill you!
What’s with the name Few Peeps?
It’s simply a play on words. The first part of my surname, Few and Peeps is a colloquial name for people. I just thought it would be a bit of fun, a bit like the UK Graffitti artist who is known as Banksy, so rather than just signing in under my own name, Few Peeps has stuck and I use it as my watermark. I also add a bit of interest by placing the watermark in different parts of the photo, so people have to search for it.
You give your shots interesting titles?
Yes, I like to try to give them a catchy title and my take on the shot, to prompt people who look at them to think and comment on my photos themselves. It could evoke a childhood memory, a social comment, or just a thought, however the interaction and their replies are great. I always try to respond to each comment albeit, more often en masse these days, to keep up with the them.
Things appear to be going well with your business and your photography, how does that feel?
It feels great and I am thankful for having a wonderful career and pastime, both of which I hope people gain benefit from. Whether it’s enhanced relationships and success through the learning and development that I facilitate with teams and through my conference talks, or the pleasure of looking at my photos. Like many people in life, I’ve been through good times and bad times, however I’m a big believer in Karma and grateful for where I am and what I am doing right now.
Yes, on occasions, when the opportunity arises, I will take a photo that I can use in a tweet or a blog. Often, I will add my own inspirational quote to it. As human beings, we are very visual so combining a photo with an ispirational quote can be an extremely powerful message. Also speaking at conferences and running learning programmes worldwide, it gives me a great opportunity to visit new places and take photos of people from different cultures.
What gives you personal fulfilment and motivates you?
Simple, family and friends, helping others and collecting memories. Whether it’s my family, friends or delegates whom I meet at conferences, or on my learning programmes. If I can say or do something based on my knowledge and my life-experiences that helps others to move forward positively, that in itself gives me immense satisfaction.
In addition, I love the phrase “Collect Memories, Not Things” as I think it is so true. We rarely enthuse about the new car we’ve bought after the initial joy has waned however, we always remember good times, either when we’ve been on vacation, at family gatherings, supporting our sports team, or having a good meal out with friends. So for me, collecting as many good memories as I can, also fulfils me personally.
So what are your plans for the future?
To be honest, who knows. As I say to my business contacts when I blog, it’s about enjoying the journey and I’m excited where my journey will lead me next.
Both my business and photography are going well, so it’s trying to find a balance between both at the moment. The success and exposure regarding my photography has been overwhelming and in such a short space of time. People have already started to ask to buy my work and at present I haven’t had the opportunity to set up a website, although I do own the domain names, thanks to some advice from a lawyer friend of mine! Like artists, I’m looking to produce limited copies of each photo with numbered authentication. Once the stock is gone I will de-commission that particular photo. I’m also looking into, as a one-off for each print, making both the original and processed one available to one person.
Finally, any advice for other street photographers?
Only one thing, which has nothing to do with the technical aspects of photography, this is to do with your own safety. I would suggest whenever possible, try and have a partner or friend with you. I very often have my wife Belinda with me, who has in the past, and no doubt will in the future, stop me from being run over, falling down potholes and having various other accidents.
I expect, like many others, I get into the zone and then the world shrinks whilst I focus on capturing the street shot.
If you wish to follow his blogs on Twitter, please check out NgageingNick