Sam Wallis, photographer and digital artist based in the northwest of England, has a passion for surreal digital manipulations.

His latest project, Questionable Inedible, creates a visual link between mass produced, polymer-based sports equipment and the food that we farm and consume. With evidence that micro-plastics are entering the food chain, he asks the viewer to question the role in which society plays in the health of future generations. Sam’s series combines photography with stock and appropriated images whilst utilising Photoshop. You can see more images from his project here.

Sam was a winner of our Print Futures Awards in 2017. We caught up with him about his photography degree and career aspirations after recently graduating with first class honours. 

How did you get into the industry?

I’d say I’m still trying! I would consider myself a professional and have had some decent success but I’m always striving for more. I assisted some international photographers whilst studying for my degree, but my aim is to be known as a photographer and digital artist in my own right.

What appealed to you about the industry you are in?

I love to be creative with my photography and I see photo manipulation as a way of taking images that one step further. You only need basic camera skills to take your average photo but mastering the process and creating something unique with post-processing is what really appeals to me.

What does your role involve?

I recently graduated at Ba(Hons) level and I’m about to start my Masters in Photography. In my brief downtime, I’ve been working on some personal project ideas and taking on the occasional freelance photography job.

What is your award going to allow you to do?

I actually won my Print Futures Award back in 2017 and it allowed me to buy some professional lighting and other camera equipment. This set me up really well for starting my degree because it meant I didn’t need to beg and borrow from the College or my peers. It also meant I could work on my lighting techniques in my own time.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of networking with anyone in the arts sector, you never know what will come of it!”

What would you advise other young people trying to get into the same sector?

I’d probably say the cliched lines of ‘If at first you don’t succeed try again’ and ‘it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know’. You have to be able to take failure well and see it as a learning curve but keep a focus and confidence in what you do whilst trying to improve. As for the second cliché, I can’t stress enough the importance of networking with anyone in the arts sector, you never know what will come of it! Lastly, get entering the Print Future Awards. I never thought I stood a chance but going through the whole process gave me more confidence in talking about and presenting my work…the grant was a pleasant bonus!

Where do you turn for support in my career?

In my personal life, it would be my Fiancé Lucie Duckworth (soon to be Wallis). She pushed me to enter the Print Futures Awards and also apply for University. Since then I have built up a fantastic network of international photographers who are approachable and quick to reply with their advice and I can’t ask for more than that.

Do you have anyone you look up to in the industry?

I love visual creators who combine photography with excellent retouch skills such as Swedish photographer Erik Johansson. He’s probably my biggest inspiration but other notable names include Chris Labrooy and Jonathan Beer. I can’t leave out Mandy Barker either, she does some groundbreaking environmental work with her camera.

What are your aspirations for the future of your career?

I hope to keep improving and building on my work whilst completing my masters. I’d love to get to a point where I produce work for some big brands and have the opportunity to turn some down. Whether this will happen remains to be seen, but I will keep trying. 

The 2020 Print Futures Awards are now closed. You can find out about the 2021 awards by signing up to our newsletter.