In 1976 James Cowley left school and started working for an equipment rental/ production company. The first few years were spent sweeping floors and general help with the shooting of commercials. There it became obvious that his passion was with the camera. He spent six years on the rental side and gained substantial knowledge of the Arri cameras and lenses. In 1982 he left the company and worked through from clapper loader through to focus puller on feature films. In 1991 James went to India to shoot a documentary on the Dali Lama in Dharumsala. This was the point when he realized that he had to move into being a DP.