Based in England Commercial Photographer Tim Wallace is the driving force and creative thinking behind the company AmbientLife that he launched in 2007.
Since the first moment that he got his first 'proper' camera at 11 years old he has been totally in love with photography. Within a month he started to learn how to develop his own films while sat in his bedroom wardrobe at night, to ensure no light leaks of course, and from there he has spent a lifetime exploring the medium.
Shooting for agencies and brands globally he has carved a strong reputation in vehicle photography shooting campaigns and editorial work both in studio and on location. His work is sometimes dramatic and he always pushes to be ever more creative through his use of light to enhance the beauty of reality.
His work is well known within his industry, as is his ability to make a 'really decent' cup of tea on those long studio days...
Tim's view on what he does is pretty straight forward, he is always pushing himself and is well known for his down to earth attitude, and quirky sense of humour.
Spanning the commercial and advertising sectors working through our transport-based clients and agencies he has been at the forefront of his field for over a decade.
"For me photography is a completely creative passion, the ability to use light and form to capture a single point in time through what I see with my own imagination…"
Tim has received many awards over his career, most recently he was awarded Commercial Photographer of the Year 2021 at the British Photography Awards in London for his work with our client McLaren. Previous awards have included Professional and Commercial Photographer of the Year Awards as well as Car Photographer of the Year at the UK Motor Industry Awards, Sapphire Pegasus Business Aviation Award, and Best Creative Business Awards in the UK.
Tim -"I'm 50 something but apparently 50 is the new 40 so it's all good, I plan to live forever, so far so good! I don't sleep much because I'm always thinking about what I can do to create something new, on a morning I just wanting to get out on the road and get on with it.
People say I have a wicked sense of humour, wicked, twisted, something like that! I would say that you'd probably remember me if we met...
I have the most amazing lady in my life, Angela, my wife, she has always been there believing in me no matter what, and is totally my rock when I need the World to stop the spinning for a little while. In our house we use the term 'Team Wallace' a lot which always makes me laugh especially when our youngest son reminds us at the most unexpected times that "Team work makes the dream work…!" We look out for each other and we pull together through the laughs as well as the not so funny stuff. My two amazing step sons are Ben and Charlie, the latter being the youngest but he's most definitely not a push over even if he is the 'little legs' of the family while Ben is growing quickly, as they do, and pushing forward hard himself to start forging his own way in life. I am so proud of them both, they are great boys and they totally understand the value of hard work and respecting the people around them.
Our home can be a very busy place at times but almost all the chaos there is a harmony and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As we often say in our house ’there are way too many 'mood hoovers' in the world already so it’s better to be kind and just move forward with your life no matter what it throws at you. Lastly there are our two dogs, 'Eddie' our old faithful if not slightly eccentric dog that firmly believes that he is a small child, and Cooper, the latest addition to the family, a very manic and bouncy Cockapoo, who is we believe crossed partly with a kangaroo given the amount of jumping that he does on daily basis for any reason what so ever. That makes up the gang and all that is important in my World. We work hard and we know that life is for living, I enjoy living mine and do everything I possibly can so that they can do the same. It is a busy family with busy lives but it's what we do."
"I plan to live forever, so far so good..."
"To me photography is a process, you'll never hear me mutter 'it'll be fine' as that's simply not enough for me. Life is short and I aim to make mine worthwhile and interesting with work that I hope reflects this. My goal in life is to be myself always, be creative, be true and most of all improve just a little part of people’s lives with images that both entertain and sometimes invoke the feelings that I had when I shot them. I've won awards and I'm always of the thought that maybe they got the wrong Tim Wallace, hey I'm grateful always but never take myself or any achievements too seriously, life's too short and people will forget you quickly."
"I was a young boy when started my love affair with photography after spending much time in the summer holidays from school teaching myself how to process film. At the ripe age of 11 years old I met a man who worked in photography and he used to load up the cameras in the planes that patrolled airspace, I became good friends with him and he made a deal with me that if I would teach him how to print black and white better then he would supply me with as many bulk tins of film as I wanted.
This was amazing for me, previous to that I had been saving and doing any odd jobs for people that I could to save up money to buy rolls of the precious stuff, now all I needed to do was beg as many empty canisters from labs as I could before they binned them. I soon had my own little production line going to load up 25ft of Ilford HP5. All of this of course was done under strictly controlled conditions, which basically meant sitting in my sisters’ wardrobe for long 2-hour sessions with a sign hanging on the door saying 'loading in progress, GO AWAY!' I would have my scissors, little straps of sticky tape and a bag of cans all ready to go. I would often come out of the wardrobe after a major 'loading session' with the resemblance of a startled mole, but it got the film loaded and that meant that I was able to shoot more.
It was during this time as a teenager with an annoying habit of locking myself away in wardrobes that I began to have an equal interest in actually lighting and shooting rather than just the developing and printing. I guess in many ways I came to photography the wrong way around to most people, I think it was normal for people who developed, excuse the pun, a passion for photography to then go on and teach themselves how to dev and print, but for me it was the other way around.
Looking back now I think it served me well because even today when I shoot a scene and light, I still look at it in terms of contrast and tone, working out in my head how much or how little contrast an area needs and the creating that using position and light. This is just the way I think that I wired my head back then when I was young and I think I am lucky that I did that because it has served me very well through my years of shooting. All these experiences early on have all impacted greatly on what happens in my brain when I shoot these days, yes there is a brain in there, somewhere...
All through my early years I spent a lot of time both taking pictures and indulging my love for printing and developing film, in many ways it was a central part of my childhood and as I grew older, I watched the world grow through my lens.
I can still remember my very first picture that I ever took, it was a scene from a roof top looking across to a dockyard across the roof tops and aerials of the houses in front of me. I shot it and was not too sure on the exposure so when I developed the film, I decided to heat that up slightly and extend the development time. I remember the negative being very 'thin' (under exposed) and the grain was significant but I spent a few hours in the darkroom printing various copies at different sizes and variants and from then on, I was hooked totally. I was in love with the fact that I was able to capture the world, or at least a brief moment of it and keep that forever.
Many times when I was younger I was shooting on Nikon and even today I still use Nikon camera's in my commercial work alongside my Hasselblad medium format digital, back then my trusty Nikon F was without a light meter that worked so I used to have to guess the exposure on many occasions, this taught me to appreciate the changes in light and how that impacts not only on a scene from an exposure point of view but also how that mixture of exposure and light intensity from the direction of the light in relation to the camera can impact so greatly on the contrast and tonality of a image captured. It was not long before I was really trying to teach myself who I could mix the light properties in the everyday world with techniques I was discovering with the development stage of the film process. The possibilities seemed endless and it was then I think that I started to gain an understanding of light and how we can use this to create the images that we aim for in our minds when shooting.
A very famous picture editor from years ago once told me two things, you are only as good as your last photograph, and if you see the perfect moment through the lens then you have probably missed it because the mirror is down! Watch what is going on around you, learn to adapt to what is happening and know your camera like it was a part of you so that you can do whatever you need to with the controls without really taking your mind off the 'moment'."
"Over the years I have not only kept all the camera's that I have shot on but also actively searched for camera's that both inspire me and that fascinate me. Sometimes these have been camera's that as a younger man I aspired to shoot, camera's that have 'experienced' life, that have seen things in their own lifetime and have some history to their very presence in this world, such as a particular old and weathered Nikon F2's that served time with a correspondent in war torn areas of the world. For me these hold a fascination in themselves in that they were the very tools used to show the world some of the most important images of that time in our history. It is for me an honour and a privilege to be able to take these and restore them back to full use and once again breathe live back into them by shooting film through them.
Photography for me is a journey rather than a destination and my love of film affair with film will carry on for the rest of my life along with my passion for some of the iconic camera's that act as the gateways between that we see in front of us and what we capture with the light through our lens. For many years my personal statement towards photography has always been that 'out there shooting is where things happen', and this will always be how I view my life, my future, the world, and how I can represent my view of that world through my lens."
Interview with Neale James - Photography Daily Show
At 16 Tim started work in the darkrooms of the Daily Mail Group for The Western Morning News newspaper in Plymouth where he learned the art of printing and had a baptism of fire into the world of photojournalism, working with many great photographers from both the National Press and agencies. He soon took over the darkrooms there and became the youngest Darkroom Manager in the Daily Mail Northcliffe Group.
Tim - "It was a hectic time with many of the press agency photographers using the darkrooms after shooting major events to get their films developed and printed up so that they could take half dry 10x8 prints down to the newspapers 'wire room' to have these transmitted around the world. It was pretty common to have 20 or 30 rolls of film in the 'dev tray' when a big news story broke but thankfully, we did have the ability to use deep tanks to develop those and they could take up to 15 loaded film spirals at a time. All great apart from being back in the dark loading all those onto the spirals! I quickly became an expert in cracking open a film canister in the dark with a bottle opener if the leading edge had been wound back in by accident."
Later Tim joined a freelance agency, and went on to spend an increasing amount of my time behind the camera. His slightly 'different' approach to shooting and his understanding of tone and contrast giving him a potentially different outlook on a scene, mixing this with a more 'contemporary' style to his work, he soon found favour with the UK National Press, having work published in the Guardian, Independent and Times. He went into partnership with a south west mainstream agency and continued building on his successes whilst exploring other area's such as public relations and corporate photography with many large UK company contracts. His time in the south west of England however came to an end as recession gripped the UK and most of the newspapers and mainstream magazines that he had been doing regular work for started to move away from utilising freelance photographers and started keeping the work in-house as much as possible. It was a difficult time in the industry for agencies and freelance photographers all chasing work.
"During those early years in the South West I joined 131 Commando Squadron for a period of time, training with the squadron and learning some important core values about being able to achieve anything if you really push yourself hard enough. If you have the belief that you can do something then you are half way there in your mind and that is the best starting point for any challenge in life. Many of these lessons learned I have taken through everything I do and it helped me personally to gain a confidence in my own abilities. In my work today and throughout my business I push hard to do the very best in my work and for my clients and firmly believe that the disciplines have helped me over the years."
"I have total respect for the men and women of the armed forces and my grandfather, MNE James William Binns, served in the Royal Marines during WWII.
My father unfortunately never got the chance to really grow up with his father as he was killed in action on August 12th 1942 whilst onboard HMS Indomitable, an aircraft carrier that was part of the Pedestal Convoy on route to Malta. Before Indomitable reached Malta she came under attack from German Stuka dive bombers and suffered 2 direct hits to her flight deck killing several men including my grandfather who was then buried at sea as the ship continued toward its destination in Malta. My grandmother was not made aware of his death for almost a year and the photograph below shows her holding the last picture that she had of him."
Tim moved back to the North of England, where he made the choice to follow a more corporate route and change his career, working with blue chip media companies such as Orange where he worked in the Network Operations Division. A few years later he moved onto work with NTL who then were bought out and moved under the umbrella of Virgin Media where he took the role of Operations Manager in charge of their department looking after the Virgin UK data network. He pursued this career for several years and remained devoted to photography but enjoyed that only at a personal level. In 2006 following a company-wide restructure Tim's network department and all 110 staff were put on notice of redundancy pending a relocation of the centre to Liverpool. It was at this point that Tim decided to pursue his passion in photography and make the leap to create and launch Ambient Life to transport his vision forward.
"Over the years I had thought a lot about going back into photography and often spoke with people and friends about it, my career was doing really well in networks and when you are in a position like that it’s hard to make that leap into the unknown. In a strange way being made redundant was very likely the single best thing that ever happened to me. I sat down for 5 long days at my dining room table and created the business plan for AmbientLife, I researched my markets and the industry and used my senior management skills to look at things logically and from a business perspective and not just creatively in what I wanted to achieve. Many people that I spoke to at that time told me that it was next to impossible to achieve what I was aiming for because I was too old, (really!) did not live in London and my work was too much like 'art', ironically when we gain a new client and I ask what led them to commission AmbientLife for their project I am often told by the client that they love the fact that my work is 'almost like art...' "
"I worked very hard and remained focused on my goals, often working 18 hours a day to build my contacts, hone my skills, and train myself to meet the now growing 'digital' side of photography. In many ways I started and built my business my own way, not following on from others but taking my business forward my own way, choosing and walking my own path you could say, this is something that has always been very strong in me, to find my own route in life and follow my heart even when it appears to be a path that is less walked by others."
Over the recent years Ambient Life has continued to go from strength to strength. Tim has travelled around the world talking about his work and helping others to learn photography techniques and lighting. These classes have done extraordinarily well and today he speaks not only about his methods in business and working hard to create a successful business but his own personal beliefs in life and what drives him to always push that little bit further, endeavouring constantly to create something fresh and new within his own industry.
AmbientLife has seen a very healthy growth in new clients, which we believe is testament to the quality of the work that we produce with virtually all our commissions being generated through referral and reputation, something that we feel is very important. We are lucky enough to work with some amazing people within the advertising industry and have been very fortunate to have taken part in some great projects over the last few years, it is always great to push the creative boundaries, look for new approaches and never be scared to try and look at a project or feature through new eyes as others may see it to allow you the opportunity to break away from the main stream and create something that hopefully becomes very memorable for both your clients and their own customers.
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