Meet the Photographer - John Mills

In our latest meet the vendor interview, we get to know more about John Mills the "Artographer". John joined Designed in Dorset last month and added his fantastic selection of work which has us spellbound. Integrating art with photography, John utilises the inherent rich textures, multiple layers, weathered surfaces and tactile nature of his subject vessels, to transform the ordinary into works of art that are visually stunning, abundant with ambiguity and individually unique. We asked John a few questions about his work, his passions and the future to get to know him better. It is a fascinating read and the story of how he got to where he is today is will keep you gripped and more in love with Dorset than ever.

The joy of his work in our opinion is the story behind each piece. Not just the photograph but the boat and the seas in which it has travelled, where it has been and more. You don't just buy a piece of art, each one has a unique story to tell.

What got you into photography?

I first got into photography while studying on my graphic design course at UCA (University for the Creative Arts). I loved how photography created an ‘instant’ image. I answered many design briefs using the medium of photography, applying graphics to create interesting visual solutions. It was while working on one particular design brief, exploring boatyards with my trusty Pentax K1000 camera that led to me to formulate the concept for 'ARTOGRAPHY'.

What were you doing before?

I worked as a Concept Development Director in marketing, advertising and sales promotion consultancies across London and the South for over 25 years. It was a great time. My days were spent generating ideas and delivering strategic creative solutions, for a variety of clients including: American Airlines, Douwe Egberts, Sky and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, to name but a few.

How do you like working for yourself?

I couldn’t think of doing anything else. I love having the freedom to make my own decisions.  I went ‘freelance’ in 2003 and established a ‘virtual’ creative marketing agency called SPROUT.

John Mills Photography

Tell us about your photographs and what makes them special?

 My inspiration and subjects are found among the many marinas and boatyards along the Jurassic Coast. I specialise in creating abstract seascapes and landscapes with a fusion of art and photography - 'ARTOGRAPHY'.  I create my images by utilising the inherent rich textures, multiple layers, weathered surfaces and tactile nature of my subject vessels, to transform the ordinary into works of art that are visually stunning, abundant with ambiguity and individually unique. Somehow it seems only natural that vessels, which had previously sailed on the sea, are the providers of stunning images that encapsulate the beauty, energy, and intensity of the ocean itself.

Where are you based in Dorset?

I am based on the beautiful island of Portland. I am very fortunate in that I wake up to an amazing view of Chesil Beach, Lyme Bay, the Fleet Lagoon and Portland Harbour and marina. I am inspired every waking day!

What is your favourite place in Dorset?

I’m not sure I have any one ‘favourite’ place. I love discovering new places all the time, especially when I’m exploring the coast and countryside in my classic 1980’s mini.  But if push came to shove, I think I’d have to say my island home. There’s nothing l like more than walking the island: the views, the wildlife, and the quirky nature of the place. There’s always something new to be discovered. It really is truly stunning.

Dorset Photographer

Why do you love Dorset?

Every time I go back to Surrey, where I moved from in 2013, to visit my mother, I am reminded of why I love Dorset so much. The pace of life, the people, the variety of places to discover, the distinct lack of potholes! There are so many reasons to love Dorset. But for me, the main reason was what drew us here in the first place. My son was just 10 when we moved to Portland, and I wanted him to have the freedom and independence that I had as a kid. And I knew he wouldn’t have that in the busy suburbs of Surrey. Here he had the chance to swim, rock climb, explore the quarries, learn to sail, scuba dive and so much more. Pretty much every day! What‘s not to love?

What would be your best tips for starting your own business?

Of course, there are many. But whether, like me, you want to start working as a freelancer, open a shop or offer your services as an accountant or a photographer, starting your own business should be one of the most exciting and rewarding things you’ll ever do. That’s why my best tip for any budding entrepreneur is always to follow your passion and go for it!

If you're going to take the leap and start your own business, everybody knows it's going to take a lot of energy, time, and sometimes money. So, the best way to keep yourself motivated through the ups and downs is to do what really matters to you and go all in. Of course, there are no guarantees that your business venture will work, but when you follow your passion, you know you're always going to give it your all. And enjoy the ride along the way.

Dorset Seascapes

What is your favourite walk-in Dorset? 

As I mentioned before, I love walking around Portland. But there are so many great walks. One I do love is above Ringstead Beach, nr Osmington Mills. You can park the car on the hill above the beach and watch the paragliders soaring overhead before walking across the fields to the old coastguard houses on the cliff tops. There are stunning views of Weymouth Bay and along the coast toward Durdle Door and Lulworth. Walking back you can take a slightly different route down toward the beach. Walking across the field and through a small wood brings you to St Catherine’ church. The tiny, timber-built church on the slopes of White Nothe, is blessed with stunning sea views. A beautiful, tranquil setting to just sit, relax and reflect.

What does the future hold?

I have to say I am really excited about the future. Like many people, lockdown has given me the opportunity to ‘re-assess’ my life - what I am doing and where I am going. As well as continuing to develop my Artography business and looking for more bespoke residential and corporate commissions, I have also been looking at how I can offer my creative expertise in a new, innovative and exciting ways - that’s why I am pleased to announce the launch of The Creative Counsel.

True to my own advice, I am following my passion. I realised that what I love to do is to generate ideas for businesses. It’s what I do best. And it’s what I have been doing for over 25 years. So, whether you are a budding entrepreneur, a new start-up, an SME or an established business, I work with you to generate ideas and solutions that will help define your business purpose and grow your brand.

What’s innovative about The Creative Counsel is that I work on a PAY WHAT YOU THINK IT’S WORTH (PWYTIW) basis. There are NO Set Charges, NO Project Fees and NO Hourly Rates. If you don’t think my ideas are worth anything. Don’t pay anything! It’s that simple.

But any amount you do pay, 10% goes directly to helping empower young people in Dorset who have‘ fallen out’ of education, or are no longer in education, employment or training, through an innovative new initiative designed to develop creative thinking and problem-solving skills and bridge the gap between education and employment.

Thank you John for your words. What an interesting read and life you have led thus far. If you are interested in commissioning John, get in touch via his website.