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Getting the Measure of Percy Dean

Worldwide photographer, video maker and now seriously impressive potter. Neil caught up with our GOOD friend Percy to chat all things from his travels with work to MMA fighting and ceramics.

 So Percy, how did you get into photography and when did it officially become your job?

''I hated school, nothing seemed to resonate aside from sports and art. When I got to make my choices I just chose an option called ‘Modular Art & Design’ which basically got me out of doing real lessons.

I didn’t know at the time but there was a photography block in there and the school had a small darkroom. I’m not sure why it all clicked into place in there, maybe it was simple words of encouragement, maybe it was the medium itself. Maybe it was teachers being genuinely enthused about images of my own world. I shot the bands I was into, my friends and skateboarding.

In that cloud of teenage - unbridled selfishness that was all I cared about back then and so to have a teacher understand and care, well it changed everything for me.''

You work with some incredible people and brands, can you talk us through some of the highlights of your career so far?

 ''I've never been asked that before and damn it's hard to do. Shooting a book for Carhartt in Mongolia was such a beautiful trip, then travelling on a boat through the tributaries in Myanmar with Bill Nighy for Oxfam meant a lot, but really the hundreds of skate tours made me who I am. Touring with John Cardiel, Heath Kirtchart, Keith Hufnagel RIP, waking up in the Arizona desert surrounded by Coyotes with Geoff Rowley.

I think there’s always highlights  when you work hard with a good crew and make something that resonates with everyone there. When you sit in the dust & dirt at the end of the shoot, trip, tour whatever and you know you’ve made some new mates, it's the absolute best, I've been very lucky.''


For Carhartt, Mongolia.
 For Oxfam, Myanmar.


How was shooting Bez? Was he difficult to keep still?

 ''He was great, no weirdness or acting up a nice genuine fella from the outset, strangely enough he was probably the most ’normal’ person in the room.''


Bez for Palace.

What’s the key to taking a really great photograph?

''I think a good picture arises from a few different things -

You have to be able to connect with people, you have put your emotions on the line and engage with whoever's in front of you. An image is a collaboration, so make sure you and they understand that.

Be decisive, if it's not working move on. Don't try and force an image from a situation or place that you or the subject isn’t comfortable or enthused by. Just take a deep breath and call it, clients or no clients there will be something better within a hundred yards of you.

Put the work in before-hand, you’ll never be good at something you don't love. If your camera's not with you all the time, especially at the formative stage of your career you don't love it enough.

Money or no money, if anyone else sees what you make it or not, you have to be driven. It wont work any other way.''

Have you got a personal favourite shot that you’ve taken?

''No, it changes so much. I’m still not 100% happy with them. I don't have any of my own images up in my house. I’m far too involved.''

What type of kit are you using at the moment?

 ''I’ve been Nikon since I was 18 for stills. I also use a Mamiya RZ 67 pro and some point and shoots for analog work. Then for moving image I use Black Magic Design cameras exclusively, I'm just addicted to their look and usability.''

Who would you say is the most photogenic member of the Good Measure crew and why?

 ''Fred’s old dog Wilf (RIP) had the looks, there’s no one there now that will ever replace him.''

Part of the reason behind these ‘Getting the measure of..’ interviews is to reveal something that might surprise people about the person we’re grilling. With you we’re kind of spoiled for choice as you’re also an MMA fighter, trail runner and have been turning your hand at making some very impressive ceramics recently. You do realise that you’re really showing up the rest of us with your wealth of talents don’t you?

 ''Ha ha when I get into something I go full bore. I started pugilism as a way to get some sort of escape from a life almost too entwined in skateboarding. Fell/Trail running came in a kinda stubborn way when a  surgeon told me I’d never play impact sports again after I broke my hip cycling.''

Tell us all about how and why you got into the art of making ceramics.

''My wife got me a six week taster course about 2 years ago now, it was something I'd always fancied. I think at that time my work life balance was way off and I needed something to de-stress. The best thing about it is because my hands are leathered in clay for 5 hours I can't check my phone. The pots soon started piling up in the house and my wife forced me to make a little site to try and get rid of them, my impostor syndrome was going through the roof and I still honestly can't believe how crazy it's gone, sold out 3 times in a row. I really appreciate all the comments and encouragement I’m receiving. Thank you.''

What’s your favourite type of item to make?

''I like making the Beer Cups, and small Bud Vases. I love going for a walk and grabbing a few grasses or flowers - just a fist full or so then seeing what they look like in the vases at home. My work is wholly influenced by where I run in the peatland bogs and hills of the North West. The colours and tones all reference the mists, the heathers and the hues of the grasses as they change through the seasons. I also put a lot of sand in the clay to add a texture that sits with the Northern Gritstone you find in these hills.''

Where can we buy your stuff?

'' I’m working on having a new shop, it’ll open up soon. There's a mailing list on there if you’d like a heads up.''

Do you still have time for choking people out in the octagon/running up and down mountains? How’s that side of things going?

''I feel weird about the MMA thing still, people will think I’m a meathead or some kinda jock, but MMA is like my footy, I’ll  always follow it, but it's not something you can dip your toe in and out of, you can't go once a month an expect to play still. I did it for 15 years, probably 3/4 times a week then I stopped after my hip broke. I went back for a few private lessons maybe a year ago now and gave myself a double hernia from kicking too hard and not warming up.

Running is not even a pastime anymore, I’m at a stage in my life where I need it. I need that time alone, my lungs need that pain of running uphill. It's pure, its clarity. To be able to access those truly wild places on foot - at speed really builds confidence & gives your brain space to breathe.''

What have you got lined up for the future? 

''I just want to run, be with my dog and wife and focus on happiness. If work brings that then so be it, but i’m open to it all!''