Paul Thurlow has travelled the world working on big engineering projects. But wherever he has ended up, his trusty camera has always been by his side. Because Paul always wanted to be a professional photographer – and today he’s living his dream.
The 47-year-old still runs a geo-technical company, involved in jobs ranging from the tallest tower in Hong Kong to the Hindhead tunnel. But he’s happiest when looking through a lens and capturing people and landscapes.
The Portsmouth-based photographer has just won the Professional Travel Photographer of the Year award in a national contest run by Professional Photographer magazine. His winning photograph is a striking image of an elephant and its mahout before a religious ceremony in Kerala, India.
Paul’s parents, Maureen and Brian, have retired there and Paul was on a visit to see them last year when he captured the image.
He says: ‘We were on the second day of our holiday when we came across a ceremony involving 12 of these elephants and I just started taking pictures. This was one of many.’
It was his first trip to India and left a deep impression. He explains: ‘Hopefully I will retire there too one day. It’s a fantastic place. There’s a certain karma about it. It’s quite hectic but there’s such a beautiful landscape and the people don’t have much really but are so nice. Nobody shouts or swears.’
Paul is originally from Yorkshire but now lives in Fratton, Portsmouth after coming to the city with his family – Polish wife Kasia and their daughters, 17-year-old Olivia and Marika, 13 – six years ago.
He says: ‘I wanted the kids to grow up somewhere nice and it was near where I was working at the time. I love it here. I’m always out at weekends taking pictures of something and my favourite place is Old Portsmouth and the harbour. I never get bored down there.’
Paul adds: ‘Even with my portrait and wedding shots, I like to include a Portsmouth landmark.’
He is a particular fan of the sea and is often down on the seafront getting shots of the waves, saying; ‘There’s just something about the water. I’ll often take the dog for a walk down there and take my camera along.’
He combines his passion for photography with ground engineering, saying: ‘Photography was a hobby for many years, but I always wanted to do it professionally. When I came to Portsmouth I had an opportunity to use a studio across the road from our house and it has all grown from there.’
Today he shoots mainly portraits and weddings, but still loves recording his journeys around the world whether it’s through his engineering work or on holiday. As well as India, he has visited the Far East, the Middle East and most of Europe.
Paul says: ‘I always make sure I’ve got my camera with me. I used to paint on my travels, but it got a bit much carrying everything around. That’s why I switched to the camera.’
He adds: ‘I think you can convey so much with photography, whether your subject is a person or a place.’
n For more information, go to paulthurlow.com