Who is Jas Sansi?
I am a freelance photographer based in Birmingham. I work with 30 different clients in Birmingham. So I do award ceremonies, conferences, launches, weddings. I take photographs and put them on social media. Also, I am a columnist for Asian Today magazine once a month. That’s what I do. I am married and have been for 21 years. I have two teenagers. One is 16 years old and the other is 14 years old. One is doing A-levels. The other has started GCSEs. A very important time for the kids.
Now before you became a freelance photographer what were you doing before that?
I went to university so I went to Business school and did my degree in business and when I finished there mid-nineties I’d say 1996. I was looking for jobs and all I ever saw was IT roles. So I thought I really need some IT skills, rather just a business degree. So I went back to University to do my postgraduate in IT which was funded by the EU. Which is why I am a big supporter of the remain campaign. That was a 6-month course, 6-month placement and the 6 months to finish my masters. What I found was after I did my placement I found there was a lot of jobs in IT at that time. I spent the next 10-12 years working I didn’t think I would finish the masters as I was so busy working. I was working in IT developing databases. Not far from where we are sitting. I started at the Forensic Science building. At the time I was a junior, they were working on the National DNA Database. I was in the department but I was learning and I’m not going to oversell myself but I was a junior at the time. So that was what I was doing before going into photography. One thing I do remember is at 11am and 3pm they used to do a morning and afternoon tea break which is the most civilised thing I’ve seen (laughing)
I know people know you as a photographer and I first met you at an event where you were happily photographing. How did you get into that field? Do you do all types of photography?
After 10-12 years of working in the IT field, I really wanted to start my own business. I grew up in a family business. So it was always in the back of my head. I literally spent 2 years researching what business to go into. What was I good at. What was the demand back then? At the same time, I was losing my enthusiasm for IT. I was getting fed in working in that field. I never used to meet anyone as I just sat in an office. From the age, at 9 years old I had a camera in my hand. I automatically used to take photos. At that time I was giving family and friends disks of images of photographs I have taken. What was happening was they were looking at the photos saying these are the pictures you have taken and these are the ones I have had professionally done. They were just as good. So it didn’t occur to me that you could make a living from being a photographer.
So I remember approaching the Chambers of Commerce in Birmingham and they were having a big annual dinner and they have it every year. I approached the Asian business chamber. I asked do you need a photographer for this event. They asked me if I was a member and I said no. They told me once I was a member we will talk. So I joined. They told me to come along and take some photographs and we will see from there. I literally came home with 30 business cards and I thought wow this is a great way to get your name out there. 9-5pm during the week I was still in my day job of IT and then evenings and weekends I was photographing. It says you need 10,000 hours to do what you do really well. I was networking so much. I joined the Civic Society, Asian Business chamber and the press club. I was networking in Birmingham I got to know a lot more people and your name gets out there.
You have a large twitter following how did that happen?
Yes, that’s another thing, when I first started photography, Nikon had just released a brilliant digital camera and it was one of the best ones out there at that time. There were problems with the film camera were the batteries were running out or the photo quality was not great. Social media was starting and my nephew set up my Facebook and Twitter. I built my entire business through social media. I am more on twitter. I am on twitter and sometimes I tweet 6 times a day. But with Brexit, I tweet 10 times an hour (laughing)
What made you want to become a photographer?
There are a few reason’s is that I wanted to become self-employed and the other is I love photography. Whatever you do in life you have to be passionate about. If you are not passionate then you will struggle. The technology was there. I was good at IT. Social media was growing. Birmingham as a city was finding its feet and becoming bigger. Bill Clinton had come into Birmingham with G7. The city found itself on the map. The common thing I heard was it’s a great city but we don’t shout about ourselves. We assume that Manchester and London are the cities be at. There is a need for people to talk about the city. The challenge was to sell Birmingham. I grew up here and you will probably bury me in Birmingham (laughing) I work closely with Love-Brum also. Birmingham has changed as a city if you look across the road that Chinese shop used to be a Tailors where I used to go and buy trousers from there also. New street station has changed I mean what a great gateway into the city.
Did you struggle when you first started out in photography?
Any business struggles when they start. But what I have learnt is that if you are determined you can do anything. I was lucky as I wasn’t a spring chicken I was in my mid-thirties by now. So all the equipment I bought was from the wages I was earning from my job. So I didn’t have to go to the bank and ask for a loan for £10,000 which is basically what you need nowadays. For the software and other items. I slowly brought what I needed. I was married and got into my family home. So all the important things in my life were sorted. Just it was my career. If you were starting out as a photographer and then you would have the challenges of starting a family, getting a mortgage etc. Its different for everyone as well.
You made things happen for you, you were really going out and talking to people to get things moving, didn’t you?
Yes, this is true. You know sales, I grew up in the family business and we were selling women’s clothes and sales does have a bad reputation of people saying no to you. But the more no’s you get you more closer to getting a yes. That’s the philosophy you need in sales. I made loads of cold calls. One call I remember was making to Brindley Place and they had an arts event. I remember asking if they needed a photographer and they asked me how much I charge. I can’t remember how much. It was a low price. They agreed and needed a CRB clearance which I had due to my own job. I still work for GVA and some projects with them.
Now you have photographed some major events which were the one that really stands out to you?
When the conservative party comes into the city every 2 years, they come for 4 days and Birmingham becomes a mini London. It is an unbelievable experience. The city is buzzing. I mean for the last 10 years photographing the Tories Conference that’s been an eye opener. This year it will be in Manchester. Out of all the events the Tories conference is good whether you are a Torie or not. The security is mad also, you get snipers on the roof. A lot of police presence. You get people who are protesting also.
But as a business graduate, every CEO of any business will be there at the 4-day event. It gives you the opportunity to sell yourself especially to these companies and they have the authority and they are the ones who will invest in the city.
I have photographed the Rolling Stones as well.
Short video of Jas Sansi Work for the 4 day event
Is there any event where you have photographed where you wasn’t treated well?
I mean that’s very rare, to be honest. As when you are photographing an event, there are people who rely on you and people you rely on also. So you have to work as a team. Even with the workshop organisers and the serving staff etc. You have to work together. If someone is rude then it sets a vibe in the room. So it’s very rare, to be honest. I am old enough and wise enough to let it go over my head anyway. But it’s rare. I like to think I’m the go-to photographer in Birmingham. I love to promote it on social media. There is an event I’m photographing in ICC about ticketing for concerts about the business and science. It’s interesting.
If there was anyone or any event you could photograph what or who would it be?
I would love to photograph Paul McCartney is brilliant. I have a signed photo from him and this is my prize possession. I’ve never met him and i have seen him live a few times. That would be great!
In terms of an event, i enjoy photographing them all and i just enjoy doing them! I really love the 3 day conferences they are fun and you can contribute to it also. What i offer now which is very popular, is live tweeting. With the hashtags. I also tweet live. You take a photograph live and then you upload it straightaway and then adds a buzz to the room. Its brilliant and people love it as it happening at the precise time of the event. It’s very effective and good wireless coverage.
Have you had any negativity when you are doing your role in photography maybe via twitter or even face to face?
Yes, I have had a few I am a massive supporter of High Speed 2. I think its a fantastic initiative. Also the remain campaign. Also Andy Street campaign. So those are 3 controversial topics. If you are a photographer you take photos and go home. But when you put your head online as start talking about controversial topics then you can start getting negativity. Then people start trolling you. What I do is I never engage in the conversation and I just don’t bother. It’s their problem and not mine. So I instantly block them. I don’t waste a second of my life replying to them. With the remain in the EU campaign that’s not dead in the water. I don’t get that much negativity with that as I do with HS2 campaign. As with the Andy Street issue, I was getting people saying aren’t you Sikh isn’t about everyone being equal. That the conservatives aren’t about what they are about helping the rich. It was never about being a Torie or anything like that. It was about supporting an individual I thought would benefit the West Midlands. No one complained about cross rail one but now cross rail two is launching they are. I had people say how can we spend billions of pounds in regards to this. Brexit will cost a lot of money. It’s my opinions.
Also, you have a word press blog site which I only recently came across its brilliant, putting me to shame. What made you begin this?
Blogging was a way to support the images. You take the images and supporting the clients. It gets seen by people but then people just move on. So I wanted to give a link to the pictures so people can see what it’s about. It was something new to give to the conversation. Word press is really good and gives you a map on where people are reading it. Could be America or anywhere in the world. People are also reading it in Vietnam. Places I have never been. It’s fascinating. I wish I had more time for the blogs I’m not a natural writer. I do love the food bloggers!
The events i do go to where I’m not photographing i take my iPhone and take some photo’s. I went to a launch recently with my wife Anji in Birmingham.
If someone wanted to get into your field what advice would you give?
Be passionate about what you do. Don’t give up.
I first met Jas at an event where he was photographing. His work was brilliant the way he was capturing each angle. The way he was interacting with members of the public. I went over and spoke to him about his work. I wanted to write a blog in regards to himself due to the fact that he is a go-getter and he made things happen for himself. Jas is confident and know’s his shit with his work.
The event was the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli and was marked at an event in Birmingham city centre on Saturday, April 25th 2015. This had taken place in Centenary Square, with a wreath-laying service at the Hall of Memory, attended by Lord Mayor Cllr Shafique Shah, the Lord Lieutenant, the Dean of Birmingham and members of the Gallipoli Association and the Royal British Legion.
The Battle of Gallipoli had been marked as part of an ongoing, five-year programme of events in Birmingham commemorating World War One. A stage programme had taken place at Centenary Square from 12-5pm