The man is back. Until recently, it was unusual to see anyone venturing outside wearing anything that wasn’t a tracksuit. However, after five months of stasis, Mr. Ferguson has returned to doing what he excels at; taking photos of fashionable folk.
“I actually just got back from London the other night,” he says, sporting Civil-War-esque facial hair and a Madras Plaid shirt in front of a typically photogenic olive-green wall. “It’s funny, you think you’d have just one shoot and then nothing else will come along, but now everyone is starting to line stuff up again”. We’re only two minutes into the interview, and Jamie has already given himself away; he’s just a nice, humble guy who downplays his success, or, perhaps more accurately, he’s so in-demand because he’s a nice guy.
Scroll through his Instagram feed, and you’ll see rows of smiling faces belonging to the great and good, captured in all their sartorial elegance. It’s part of his practice to put those he’s photographing at ease, joking around with them before taking the perfect, pastel-hued shot. “I hate to characterise my photography in one certain way, but the fun is certainly what I’m aiming for,” he explains. Whatever it is that he’s doing, there’s no denying that a quiet ebullience occupies his work.
Of course, it helps that a lot of his subjects are people he knows personally. Jamie is a living reminder that the menswear scene can feel more like a tight-knit coterie than an industry. Rather than having an expanding fashion network in tandem with the the opening of new labels, Jamie argues that people working in the industry have come to know each other better as dialogue between brands has intensified. In this game, acquaintances quickly turn into colleagues, and colleagues into friends. In fact, I speak to Jamie shortly after his coming off shoots with two of his pals, jeweller Alice Walsh and journalist Simon Crompton. As Jamie is such a mainstay of menswear circles, it is perhaps easy to forget that it was far from guaranteed that he would take stylish people’s pictures for a living.
He was neither interested in photography when he was young, nor trained formally. He studied Law at the University of Aberdeen, but didn’t enjoy the degree. So he picked up an old camera and just started to do his thing? Not quite; there are a couple more twists to this tale. At university he realised that – wait for it – he wanted to go into acting. The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama came next, and he lived for a while as a jobbing actor, working in bars when he wasn’t on the stage.
It was economic necessity which finally brought him to the menswear industry (he couldn’t afford to buy a wedding ring for his partner of six years). Through interning with a uni friend’s wholesaler uncle, he began working at fashion house DAKS, but was disenchanted by their indifference to using then-nascent social media as a marketing tool. He was soon seeking a brand which embraced the rise of photo-centric digital platforms. As a consequence, he applied to men’s haberdashery, Drake’s. Working as Online Editor and then Marketing and Content Manager, Jamie travelled with the company to menswear meccas all around the world, taking photos at trade shows such as Pitti Uomo in Florence for the brand. All the while, regardless of whether he knew at first or not, he was honing his craft as a fashion photographer.
So, with Pitti Uomo as just one fashion calendar event that has had to be put on hold indefinitely, what’s next for this social creature whose career is based literally on making friends? “I see it as an ever-evolving beast,” he says of his photography. “It’s playing round at home, trial-and-error, just trying different things” which Jamie has been focusing on as of late. “And that’s something I was able to explore more when I was shooting for my book, ‘This Guy‘.” Dear, dear. We’re well into the interview now and I’ve forgotten to mention the photography book he published last year. You know, no big deal, just a major milestone of his career I managed to gloss over.
But nice, humble, successful Jamie mentions it in his characteristically low-key way. It doesn’t feel like a warning shot aimed at my amateurish journalism, and more of an avuncular nudge to help guide the conversation. Despite my inward cringing, it is nice to interview this mustachioed man who talks to me like I’m an old mate.