​Languages graduate-turned-photographer and graphic designer Joseph Lebus on founding charitable photography network Faces in Focus in his final year of university.

What inspired the idea for Faces in Focus and how has the project evolved since its launch?

I was obsessed by Humans of New York and always thought how amazing it would be if people could have a more active role in changing the lives of the people in the stories, beyond just liking or sharing it on Facebook. As important as that is, one should always be thinking of ways to make the relationship between subject and viewer as direct and engaged as possible. Faces In Focus was a response to this. The photography we display at exhibitions and on the website isn't just for looking at. Every story gives options for buying prints, donating or volunteering at a charity or organisation that has a positive part to play in his or her life and community.

How would you describe what you do and what does a typical working day look like for you?

Pretty hectic! The nature of running these events means that there are so many things that you have to juggle at the same time, from organising, printing and curation, to making sure all of the photographers are happy, and keeping them in the loop, through to liaising with the owner of the space, deliveries on the day, timings, door and bar work. And then there's the actual promotion of the event itself, which occupies our time in the months leading up to the show. It's a lot of work but, like anything, it just gets easier the more you do, and the end result is always really satisfying. 

"One should always be thinking of ways to make the relationship between subject and viewer as direct and engaged as possible."

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Photography: Joseph Lebus

With no formal background in photography and design, what or who made it possible for you to set up Faces in Focus? 

My mum was a documentary photographer back in the day, before she had me and my two brothers, which made it harder for her to travel as regularly as she did. But she kept a sack of old film cameras in the attic, which I learnt to use. That was where the initial spark came from and I think Faces In Focus was just an extension of that interest and passion.

How did you approach the design of your brand and what have you learned along the way?

I'm three weeks away from graduating at Shillington Design College, so the design of the Faces In Focus brand is something that will keep changing throughout my career I think! The logo was originally inspired by the concept embodied in the name; the thinner 'o' is (we hope!) a subtle but considered hint at the focus placed on each and every subject of the photographs on the website. The website was actually the first I have designed, so while we're really happy with it, there is still a long way to go! We're currently working on a section of code that will hopefully allow us to make the submission process far more dynamic. 

"There's an infinite amount of things to learn, even the best photographers and designers are still learning new things every day."

Photography: Joseph Lebus

What tools do you use most often in your work?

I use Lightbox for my photography, and then Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator for all things to do with design. There's an infinite amount of things to learn. Even the best photographers and designers are still learning new things every day with their software and equipment. I think it's what makes both fields so exciting!

What have been the main obstacles and highlights you've encountered in establishing Faces in Focus?

Because we all have our own day jobs, it is sometimes difficult to keep momentum going. Hopefully, soon we will all be able to leave work and focus on it full time!

What is the best piece of professional advice you have received? And what would you say to aspiring creative students?

Ray Kroc, the man who took McDonald's to where it is today, once said: "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." 

Despite mixed opinions about the man himself, I think the quote is really powerful and optimistic: anyone can achieve anything with enough determination. Definitely something to live by! 


"Anyone can achieve anything with enough determination. Definitely something to live by!"

Photography: Joseph Lebus
Photography: Joseph Lebus
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Photography: Joseph Lebus


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