Ian Hughes: 10 Favorite Photographs

Passengers of cruise ships, stadiums at night, and funny street moments among the favorite photographs of Ian Hughes.
Ian Hughes

British photographer. Lives in Brighton. Studied photojournalism at the University of Brighton. For eight years worked as a photographer at a cruise liner in Miami, FL. Finalist of the International Street Photography Awards in London in 2012. Published his works in The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Stern, GEO, LensCulture, and many other media outlets.

Chester, England, 1986

This was the first color photograph that I ever took. I was 17 and studying photography at an art college near Liverpool. Like most street photographers and students at the time, I was shooting everything on black & white film, but I always carried one roll of color film in my bag because I knew that one day I would find a picture that had to be taken in color. As soon as I saw this colorful lady I reached for that cheap color film and loaded it into my camera. She was enjoying a day out at the horse races and was trying to attract the attention of the TV cameras mounted on the roof of the building opposite when I took this picture.


The Bahamas, 1994

I was a cruise ship photographer from 1989 to 1997. Our job was to take pictures of the American passengers in different situations such as arriving on board the ship in Miami, meeting the captain at the cocktail party, arriving in the Caribbean Islands and so on. We took thousands of pictures during each 7 day cruise — and most of them were very predictable. I remember seeing this lady out of the corner of my eye and thinking that this was a chance to take a more interesting picture. In this picture, the passenger is relaxing on a beach at the cruise line’s private island in The Bahamas. Some people have compared this photograph to a similar one taken by Martin Parr of a lady sunbathing in blue goggles taken in 1997. I took this in 1994 so maybe this influenced the great man!


Miami, USA, 1994

This was taken while I was on duty in the cruise ship terminal in Miami. The elegant lady on the left is a passenger waiting to go on holiday. The man is a baggage handler taking a quick break and resting his tired arms. He and his colleagues had to carry suitcases for the 2,500 passengers boarding the SS Norway that day. It was the biggest cruise ship in the world in 1994. I took this picture because I liked the light, the colors and most of all the contrast between the man and the woman.


Washington DC, USA, 1994

Spontaneous photographs are more interesting to me than staged or posed ones. I took this without having time to think about it first. People seem to find this picture quite funny and I do too but it’s hard to say why. It’s a daft moment. I was crossing the road surrounded by kids being pulled and pushed along on wheels and this man comes in the opposite direction pushing a big lawn mower. I like to think of it as dark comedy.


Palermo, Sicily, 1993

I found it funny to see three almost identically dressed men window shopping for ladies shoes — in a city that had strong Sicilian Mafia connections at that time. I wish I had heard what they were saying to each other. I like pictures that leave something to the imagination. You can create your own story from what you can see in pictures like this.


Miami, USA, 1991

I looked up at exactly the right moment while walking towards downtown Miami — just as a small plane had written this smoke trail in the sky saying ‘DIE’. About a minute later it said ‘DIET’. Five minutes later it said ‘DIET PEPSI’. My advice to anyone who loves taking pictures is to do a lot of walking, take your camera with you at all times and never stop looking.


Beachy Head, Sussex, England, 2006

Beachy Head is an area of spectacular natural beauty where the rolling hills of the Sussex Downs meet the English Channel. An average of 20 people per year commit suicide by jumping off the 162 meter cliffs onto the rocks below, giving Beachy Head the 3rd highest suicide rate in the world. I spent much of February 2006 walking around Beachy Head trying to capture its unique atmosphere. On one extremely windy day, just as the sun was going down, I watched in horror as a tall man dressed all in black marched past me, talking away to himself before standing right on the cliff edge with his head bowed. The police had been alerted and they took the knife away that he had cut himself with. Thankfully they managed to talk him out of jumping.

This picture was the last picture that I took on my final visit there. The drizzly rain helped to create an atmospheric picture but it also caused serious damage to my Mamiya 7 camera.


London, England, 2006

While I waited a month for my Mamiya 7 to be fixed, I borrowed a friend’s so that I could continue with my street photography around London. I was running to catch a train to work when I saw this little alien tapping his (or her?) foot on the pavement, patiently waiting for the men that he was with to finish taking pictures of each other in front of Big Ben. It had started snowing and I didn’t want to take my friend’s camera out of the bag so that it wouldn’t get damaged like mine did. I was also late for the train but this was a photo opportunity that I couldn’t miss.

What I love about street photography is that you never know what is around each corner. A bad day can become a great day in 1/250th of a second.


Highbury Stadium, London, 2005

Since I began doing a normal 9 to 5 job, I don’t have much time to take pictures in daylight, so I started taking more pictures at night. When I was young I was football crazy and I used to love walking to my team Everton’s Goodison Park stadium in Liverpool for a night game when the floodlights were switched on.

I decided to take a series of pictures that captured the excitement that I felt as I approached the stadium. This picture was taken outside Arsenal’s old Highbury stadium while the match was already taking place inside. I had a quick look through some of the windows of the houses on this street and a few people were watching the match live on television while others were watching soap operas. I found it interesting that the big spectacle was taking place at the end of their street and some people had completely shut themselves off from it.

In the year after I took this picture, Arsenal moved to a new stadium so this became a moment in history and I get frequent requests from Arsenal fans asking to buy prints of it. It has become my most popular photograph by a long shot.


Littlehampton, Sussex, England, 2011

I have been taking these floodlit football ground pictures for over 10 years now. In some of the pictures, you can’t see the stadium at all. I look at how the artificial light from the football ground transforms the surrounding environment. I enjoy photographing very small village football grounds more than the big city ones because the lighting can be more dramatic. You just don’t expect to see whole areas of countryside or quiet suburban neighbourhoods lit up like Hollywood film sets. This photograph was taken outside Littlehampton Town’s small ground, where only 41 people were watching the game.


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