Paul Hempstead’s photography is inspired by 90s cartoons
By Ella Joyce | Art | 22 November 2023
This article is part of HERO Framed

HERO Framed is our ongoing series platforming up-and-coming photographers capturing the world around them through a unique lens.

Glaswegian-born London-based photographer Paul Hempstead has dragged his favourite camera across a multitude of terrains, basking in the midday sun and capturing the burning passions of his subjects. Distinctive for his off-kilter angles, abstract lines, saturated tones and fish-eye lenses, this aesthetic was born from an early career working as an illustrator in comic books and cartoons. And Hampstead still cites 90s cartoons as key inspirational points – the likes of Ren & Stimpy, Hey Arnold! and Cow and Chicken.

Name: Paul Hempstead

Instagram: @paulhemstead

Age: 31

Location: SE, London. Originally Glasgow, Scotland. 

Camera of choice: It’s got to be my RZ! I’ve dragged it all over the place, up trees in the Mojave, through fast-flowing rivers and lochs in the highlands, dropped it down sand dunes in Mexico, dangled over the side of a rib in the Irish sea, hung it out of cars, trekked it up mountains, all over the place – and it has never let me down.

Preferred subject: I love to shoot people who are masters of their craft or are incredibly passionate about what they do and if it’s in some way related to the environment or a unique space that they inhabit, even better! That said, a good model in a good look with a good location can get the excitement levels peaking. 

Favourite time of the day to shoot: Any country’s West Coast at sunset, but I do like high sunshine. Shooting mid-day with the high sun is where I’ve taken some of my favourite photos, contrary to most. 

Most recent photo you took: On my phone of my hairline, I’m worried it’s starting to go…

How you first became interested in photography: My old man always knocked around with a camera and still does! The house was filled with boxes of 35mm shots, so he was a big inspiration. I remember my brother and I would spend hours going through all of the pictures. I’ve also got to shout out one of my closest friends who sparked my interest in it when I was a teenager through his love of photography, so I have a lot to thank him for.

Biggest influence: It’s a tough one but probably old films, cartoons and weird shit. I love a lot of photographers new and old and love all kinds of photo work, but I trained and worked as an illustrator in comic books and cartoons for years. I have a passion for 90s and 00s cartoons and comics, it would 100 percent be my mastermind topic – I think I subconsciously or consciously draw a lot of inspiration from these. I am drawn to photographs that have odd angles, vibrant colours, painterly lighting and abstract compositions. Then working in fashion for years post-comics gave me a better understanding of how to shoot clothing and models, so I married those two backgrounds to make it what it is. I guess that’s why I am so drawn to hand-printing my work, I love to have something real and tactile like a comic book.

Favourite photography series/book: That’s a tough one, I recently came across a knife crime photo series by David Gillanders that a friend recommended, it’s specifically about Glasgow gangs back in the 00s similar to where I grew up – I was very drawn to that. Otherwise, I have a bunch of photo books from the greats like I’m sure most do, but again comic books and toons. Always inspiring! Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Hey Arnold!, Pinky and the Brain, Batman, Ren & Stimpy… the list goes on. I’ve always particularly loved the really detailed close-ups in Ren & Stimpy, I think that’s why I love close-up fisheye shots now.

Current project/s: Oh I can’t tell you that! But lots coming out so keep your peepers peeled!

Check out Paul on Instagram here


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