Freelancing In Covid-19: An Interview With James Bridle

The freelancing world was hit hard by the Covid crisis and that was no different for photographer James Bridle. We spoke about the industry and his career highlights.

For a lot of us, even with secure jobs, the last year has been a struggle, but a take a moment to think about the freelancing industry.

In the UK alone, there are more than 2 million freelancers, but with many industries shutting down due to the pandemic, it has made the freelancing industry more uncertain than ever.

In this Youth Time Magazine piece, we speak to multi award-winning photographer, James Bridle about his career, the freelancing industry, and how the last year has been one of his toughest.


From Ships To Stadiums

For most of you, photography will be a hobby and for some a passion. For James, he has taken that passion and made a stellar career.


Snapped: James Bridle

Speaking about how he got his start, he explained: “I came out of college and I did IT. At that time, I hadn’t picked up a camera – the best thing I had at that time was a Sony Ericsson mobile phone and that 3.2 megapixels.

“I worked in IT for four years and I didn’t want to spend my career at a desk basically. We had a camera at the shop I worked in and I started taking photos. That is where I developed a love for photography.”


The next step was the one that saw him really take off… or should that be sail away?

“I decided, at 21, to jump on a cruise ship for seven months as a photographer.

“I’d had some experience beforehand, but not at that high level. From there, I met some people aboard and everything flowed from there.”

Another trip on a cruise ship down the line led him into the freelancing world, where he made contacts with Southampton, which then turned into a full-time role.


On The March

The role with Southampton Football Club – where he spent two years with the club – mainly focused on the Premier League side’s youth sides and their women’s team.

And there was a particular highlight from his time with the Saints.

“On pre-season in 2019, I went to Dublin and Ralph [Hassenhuttl, Southampton Manager] joined us and I did my vocals [an initiation song for new members of the squad] in front of the squad,” he says with a rye smile.”


Festival Freelancing

But the rules of Southampton had James yearning for more freedom – therefore he took the plunge to go back into freelancing.

He explained: “Going from freelancing to a career and then back again was a big move.

“I was with a Premier League football club and I had all the kit I could have wanted.

“I was shooting sport and if that is what all you want to do with your career, that’s fine, but I have such a broad spectrum of things that I shoot.”

Bad Guy: Billie Eilish is just one artist that James has photographed

This saw James limited to what he could do away from the club, stemming his other loves in the world of photography.

He continued: “It made it very frustrating as a photographer as I was pigeon-holed into one area.

“The logical decision for me was to move on and do more of what I love.”

“When I left Saints, I was nervous and excited – I knew I could make it work, but in practicality the industry always changes.

“You can be absolutely minted for a month and then realise you’ve got no money for next month. With freelancing you have to be able to roll with the punches, because you don’t know what you’re going to get.

One of James’ biggest passions that has been able to realise is music festivals. He has covered some of the biggest festivals in the UK, including Reading and Leeds Festival.

And it was at Reading that he secured one of his career highlights and a huge win.


Award Winner

Taking up the story, he remembers: “The shot itself (featured image on this article), was not planned out.

“The stage at Reading is shaped like a T, like a runway, and Post Malone was only using the stage, not the runway.

“You could only go left or right of the stage or at the end of the runway. Everyone went left or right for some reason, and I was stood at the end, centre-on.

“I thought ‘that looked like quite a good place to be, I will stand there’.

“Fortunately for me no one was with me, so they didn’t get the same shot as me.

“At that point, all the fire started coming out from in front of him, behind him and to the side, which made it look like he was on fire.”

The shot won him a British Photography Award in 2020 in the event category and was then replicated by other photographers when Post Malone performed at Leeds the following night.


Covid And Freelancing

With more work on the horizon going into 2020, the photographer was hoping for big things. But Covid-19 hit, causing a year of uncertainty.

“It is now thankfully coming to an end, but for those people wanting to make something in photography, it has been a really difficult time.

“If you were looking to get into that type of industry, it would be difficult.”

Back To Work: James is hoping we can be back doing what he loves soon

“I have been developing my brand through LinkedIn and getting work out there still. Obviously music festivals disappeared, so I had to change my brand to focus on me as a person rather than what I do for a job.

“It is now a broader spectrum. I started shooting food and products – more commercial work. Because of Covid that fitted in quite well.”

At the time of writing, things are looking up for James in the UK, with a successful vaccine rollout and the country slowly, cautiously opening back up. He’s hoping it won’t be too long before he is back amongst the atmosphere at a music festival.

For the freelancing industry, many people are in the similar boat as the photographer, but with the world starting to show signs of recovery, it will hopefully not be too much longer when these self-employed professionals can find success again.

Want to find out more about James’ work? You can head to his website or follow him on Instagram.

Photos: James Bridle Photography


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