This is my second ‘muse as artist‘ interview (the first you can find here). For this interview I have chosen to chat to Joel Hicks whose website says he is a full-time professional model/actor/presenter/performer. He also has a degree in biochemistry, as well as a graduate diploma in law, and, as a qualified barrister, was called to the Bar in 2009. He is a qualified teacher, both at primary and secondary levels, and a fully trained masseur in multiple techniques. In 2003 he was awarded a commission in the Royal Marines. He’s also a photographer in his own right who take some pretty mean ‘selfies’, see below for some examples (all images are copyright Joel Hicks Photographic and used with permission).
So, a man of many, many talents and not just your average, everyday model! Where to begin?
You are clearly a man who has tried many things career wise. The first thing I have to ask is where do you find the time to do all this stuff?
I’m a big believer that if you have a passion for something you will make time… and I guess that I’m just very passionate about a lot of things in life!
When I go into schools or universities, or when I give speeches to industry, I often reflect on the fact that my only real fear in life is that I’m breathing my last breath and the thought “I’d wish I’d have done that…” runs through my mind. We only have one life to live, and too many people don’t make the most of it…
What is it that makes you so restless and want to do so many things do you think?
I don’t think it’s about being restless… I’d turn the question around and ask ‘why wouldn’t you want to do so many things?’ – surely, isn’t that what life is all about… experiences… moments… actually living?!
In his book Drive the author Daniel Pink says that truly motivated people typically have three characteristics: autonomy (the desire to direct our own lives); mastery (the urge to get better and better at something that matters); purpose (the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves). You clearly have all three of these, would you add anything to Dan’s list?
I think Daniel’s assessment probably hits the mark with his first characteristic, but I wouldn’t agree with him on his other two points… though I wish it were the case. Today, the biggest motivators seem to be money, fame and greed (contradicting his second characteristic) and people do it for themselves (challenging his third pillar).
I forgot to say in my introduction that you also founded the charity ‘Always with a Smile’. What motivated you to do that and what are the aims of the charity?
The charity has three aims… Firstly, to raise money and awareness for charities and good causes. Secondly, to inspire people to do something that they had never before considered. And finally, the third and most important aim, is to raise a smile on the face of as many people as possible.
And what motivated me to do it? What motivates a photographer to take pictures, a doctor to practice medicine, or a pilot to want to fly… it’s just who we are.
Turning to your photography, where do you get your inspiration from?
Creatively, whether I’m modelling in front of the camera or shooting behind it, I always try to develop my own inspiration. I’m not from an artistic background, I’m more science, mathematics and law, and so I haven’t been schooled in the conventional artistic doctrines. Everything I’ve done and do I’ve self taught, and to be truly innovative in your craft is what separates those who push the boundaries of peoples thoughts and ideas from those who simply say ‘take nice pictures’.
Who are your photographic role models (on both sides of the camera)?
As above… I have none. There are people who I admire who I’ve worked with, but true role models (especially looking at it from a modelling perspective, which is where I mostly work) are hard to find in this industry. There are some extremely disturbing traits that manifest themselves within the photographic/modelling worlds (particularly freelance) which wouldn’t and shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere else.
I first became aware of you from an image you posted on a modeling site called “The Crucifixion“. It contained multiple images of yourself carrying a cross down stone steps in a temple. Where did you get the idea for that shot and how did you create it?
I was working with an extraordinary creative talent called Jam Sutton, based in Coventry, who owns the brand ‘This Is Not Clothing’. He is not a photographer, nor a photoshop wizard, he is simply an amazing artist. This year, for his new collection, I have worked with him on a really cutting edge 3D project… which will be out over the next few months. It’s very exciting!
You also have your own studio, tell me more about that and what plans you have for it?
The studio is there to complement the 13 acre location that I have available to me. As a male model, there is no freelance market… and so 98% of my work is agency-based. As such, the studio and location is there mainly to facilitate freelance female models and photographers, and to enable me to practice my own creative skills both in front and behind the camera.
What would you say is the most rewarding thing amongst the many things that you do?
I live each and every day with a massive smile… happiness is the simplest of things, but one of the most difficult mind sets to attain.
What advice would you give to models who might be looking to move to the other side of the lens or at least would like to give more creative input to the shoots they do?
Go for it! I trod on a few toes when I first started, but now I think most people can see that I’m able to hold my own as a photographer in my own right. It will always play second fiddle to my mainstays of modelling and acting, but I don’t do photography to earn a living, I do it to express myself.
What plans do you have for the future, any more dramatic career changes do you think?
Never say never… The future is simple really – to keep doing whatever it is that makes me happy!
Thank you Joel.
For other interviews in this series see here.