BY TRACY RISUCCI
Simon Needham’s professional history is fascinating, and if there’s a common thread throughout it’s the pursuit of art.
As fate would have it, a decision to study graphic design at the Batley School of Art at Kirklees College at the age of 15, led to a friendship with James Sommerville, which led to the creation of their own creative agency named ATTIK (as that’s where it got started) A €2,000 grant and fortuitous partnership with the Prince’s Trust Business Program soon followed (see? even Prince Charles is a fan!) The story gets better… In an effort to drum up business and create some buzz, Simon and his team produced Noise5 – a compilation of experimentation in graphic design (everything about this slays us!). The idea originated with a desire to push his team creatively, inspire new design ideas, and give prospective clients the ability to appreciate ATTIK’s creative chops. Talk about a solid PR piece. The Noise5 publications (5 in total) gave ATTIK instant street cred, opening doors to record labels and other cutting edge businesses on the London scene at the time. Before long, demands started coming in from around the world. The client list grew and so did the business.
After 25 years in operation, ATTIK grew to an agency w/ 350 employees, seven offices, in six countries. It was sold to Dentsu in 2012. Simon was 43 years old.
An early retirement wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so Simon did some soul searching to plan his second act. Creating art and seeing the world were priorities. Armed with an eye for photography, good equipment and a chance invitation to travel to Nepal (in collaboration with One Heart Worldwide) his next chapter in life began. The images are breathtaking… (please see a small sample below and a more comprehensive gallery on Simon’s website.) Photographing indigenous people in the worlds most vulnerable populations often means sleeping on dirt floors, dealing with bed bugs, exposure to germs, the list goes on… Ironically, the more horrific and extreme the conditions, the greater the satisfaction Simon derives from the work. He claims you learn to adapt quickly, and is now driven by those unique experiences to continue pushing his artistic, humanitarian impulses.
Simon’s conservation work is equally impactful (and our personal favorite). His initial trips were taken as an opportunity to travel. However, the privilege of being up close to these majestic animals in their natural habitat immediately struck a spiritual cord. As the images below attest… (The “prehistoric and such a beast” rhino is Simon’s personal favorite. He finds lions the most “scary”, and considers “feeling the energy and the beauty of a leopard a magical moment” (we’re jealous!)). Simon may take 10k images on a trip. The files are given to the charities to use for their promotional purpose. Simon sells his favorite images on Instagram and shares the profits (forever giving back…) with the organizations who have underwritten his trips.
Simon explained that little wild life is actually left and most animals are in “parks” where they are fed by humans and are often never able to return to the wild as the instincts needed to survive (namely hunting) aren’t honed. These ecosystems are incredibly sensitive, and running the parks is costly, however critically important as they protect a large majority of Planet Earth’s creatures. Imagine? We were especially dismayed to hear that some park owners allow hunters in to hunt these innocent animals for the sole purpose of raising money. Can you imagine actually doing that? It’s a tragic reality which generous donations help to mitigate. Please consider donating. A few of Simon’s charities listed below…
Simon talked about death being a more accepted way of life in Africa, and that cultures hunting solely for survival still exist. Yet, how ironic, that the American’s “hunt” for food is much more barbaric. It seems, the more “civilized” we are, the more detached we actually become. The lack of care for endangered species in general is staggering, not to mention all of the Animal Kingdom and Planet Earth. Simon is working to help shift the conversation…
When not behind the camera, Simon sit’s in the director’s chair: a part of his artistic journey that has its own challenges and thrills. After 20 years of directing (including a Super Bowl spot for Lexus!), Simon’s creative confidence continues to grow. This means a stronger point of view artistically, a greater ability to collaborate creatively, and understanding that surrounding yourself with talent is a bonus not a threat. Experience and maturity bring a greater capacity for robust collaboration. Now Simon works with a creative vision, an open mind and puts his ego aside. Originally, directing meant having full control. Now it means knowing how to ask, direct and lead other creatives while not allowing professional jealousies and ego to derail the process. Work that fuels him creatively and sustains him spiritually.
Ultimately, Simon is happiest simply doing work that he genuinely loves versus chasing money. His dream collaborations are with charities doing humanitarian work in far away lands. He also aspires to create more spots for the big brands in the athletic and wellness industries. (Some very cool work… A few recent images here)
At this stage, Simon wishes every American could do a humanitarian trip to give them perspective, as his experiences have made him more grateful and aware – a shift in his life over the years based on his travel experiences. He remains committed to continuing his work to bring awareness and support to the world’s endangered species.
Today, Simon resides in LA, and as a lover of nature takes inspiration from the beauty of the state and good friends while steering clear of the fake, self absorbed crowd. Concerned the proliferation of technology is leading to the demise of print and creativity, Simon works to keep his creative juices flowing. His creative sparks typically get ignited from an image and he prefers the printed page when possible, but he too loves Instagram and Pinterest, making folders and collecting favorite images until they eventually give way to an idea and the creation of new art (we have a similar method!) A dream escape is sipping Piña Coladas on a Hawaiian beach! (and we definitely hear that!)
Simon’s ultimate goal is to build a fund for charitable purposes through the sale of his photography. Forever driven by art…and forever working toward the greater good. This is the world of Simon Needham… #thepeoplebehindthemagic
To contact Simon, please visit:
Saatchi Art: Simon Needham