There have been many influences on my work and inspiration comes from many sources. I can be inspired by the human form, music, the landscape, the enthusiasm and actions of others, music, to name but a few. The photographer Robert Adams has been both for me. An English language academic in the U. S., turned photographer he has for me all the right qualifications as a guru. I have tried to read Sontag and Barthes but for me they don’t speak the right language. (Notice that they don’t get a link here you’ll have to Google ’em yourself) Adams’s book ‘Why people photograph’ is a seminal work. It is a collection of articles and critiques. Adams once said “Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other peoples pictures too – photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny but that carry with them a reminder of community.”
Over the years I have developed a visual signature, a creative personality. How did I do it. Influence. I took lots of pictures. I looked at millions of pictures to discover the photographers and artists that I wanted to emulate. I studied their work. I bought books. I have never tried to copy other’s work. I know some teachers think that’s a good way to learn. For sure one of the biggest influences has been Ralph Gibson and for me it is obvious in many of my pictures including the one of the woman in the header above.
However although I don’t copy, often a picture is or almost is a pastiche of something else, for example the picture here of Chloe climbing stairs. When I took it Marcel Duchamps Nu Descendant un Escalier‘, was definitely in my mind.
On another occasion I was overtaken by a black dog in snow I quickly snapped a shot which reminded me so much of this one by Joseph Koudelka. Koudelka has been an influence for sure. I am fascinated by white lines at road junctions because of this shot.
A few words about books. Art and photography books can be expensive and the chances of finding a bargain in a charity shop these days are slim. You can of course view work on the internet. However the Photofile and Photopoche books are really good value for money. New they are 8 or nine pounds new and can be bought second hand on Abe or Alibris. The new ones can be bought on Amazon. The Photopoche ones are written in French. I have around 40 of them and they do fit in your pocket. They are from the same stable and are identical in size.
I bought a Kindle Paperwhite because I thought that the bright screen of my iPad might be hindering falling asleep. In practice there is little difference in screen brightness when reading in the dark. The page refresh thing that Kindle does is really irritating and the page size annoyingly small. The refresh means that as you change page the screen goes black before you get the next page….every fucking time, I find this very distracting.
The Kindle is also limited in its connectivity, no browser, just Wikipedia and one dictionary. Using an iPad or Android phone (Huawei p20 pro) the world is your lobster. I like being able to look up references on Google instantly. Just hold your finger on what you want to research and you are away. Murakami for example has loads of references to classical music and jazz which I can listen to in a beat.
I still read paper of course I have received 2 books this week.
Here are some pictures that I have taken over the years involving the written word. I find that too much explanation spoils what I am looking for in my work. I like people to enjoy interpreting what I do, most of it is capricious. Yet I feel there always an echo there of something else.
Please let me know what you think of this blog, the art or the ramblings about Kindle. Click the pics to big ’em or slide ’em.
Last year at Shrewsbury Festival, music teacher and musician Diana Buckle asked me if I would take a few shots of her mandolin workshop. The weather was absolutely foul, my duties as steward weren’t particularly onerous, so I agreed.
Having the consent of the facilitator means that no one complains about being photographed in my experience. I grabbed a few introductory shots of the weather and the empty tent before people arrived but most it of happens by instinct. Much of the storytelling happens in the editing. How do you decide which is the right shot? Not easy. Years ago I bought a book called ‘The Right Picture’ by a photographer Ken Heyman and John Durniak a picture editor. Its probably time I read it again but it has made editing easier over the years. Its still available new and used. I edited this down to 9 shots from around 50.
It was an interesting exercise. I was using a Panasonic Lumix G9 micro four thirds camera and an Olympus 17mm f1.2 lens. Both are weatherproof. I have used this outfit in heavy rain and snow for several hours without any problems.
The G9 is not my favourite camera I find it heavy and cumbersome. The shutter release is a real hair trigger job and not recessed to prevent accidental operation. If you leave it switched on whilst carrying it accidental operation is inevitable. I can’t fault the image quality, the extra pixels of the 20mp sensor are evident. I miss my old Lumix GH4R’s they were light and a delight to use but their 16 mp sensors were outdated.
The Olympus 17mm f1.2 is again a heavy piece of kit but indispensable in wet weather its f1.2 maximum aperture gathers lots of light in very dark conditions.
My preferred lens is an Olympus f1.8 which is minute in comparison but doesn’t have a built in raincoat. Combined with my GX9 body(also 20mp) they will fit into a large pocket. I shall be publishing a blog about the 17mm lenses I use soon.
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I have been fascinated by this painting since I first wandered into the Scottish National Gallery. It’s of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw by John Singer Sargeant who was born in Florence of American parentage. It was my favourite work of art for a long time but other favourites are creeping in which I shall write about some other time. You really have to go and see her in the gallery. There are nuances that aren’t apparent in reproductions. I have stared at her for hours and now I can see an enigmatic smile I think. The raised eyebrow, what’s all that about? Click the picture above for more information about the painting.
Of course I am in love with her.
One of the best bits for me is the bracelet. When you see the original close it’s just a few simple brush strokes of gold coloured paint which are rendered metallic by his skill.
I went to see her once and to my horror she had been loaned to the Australians! I was distraught. A while later I happened across an Edinburgh prospect on a dating website. Tongue in cheek I asked her to go look to see if Lady Agnew had returned. She did and she had. I suggested we go see her together. We did. I am still single. Interesting conversation though Irvine Welsh had been her neighbour for a while.
Has this painting had an influence on my work? I believe it has for example in nudes. When I first used a model for nude work I wondered what would happen. I had photographed people I was close to. My favourite nudes up to then were probably by Ralph Gibson. What happened with my pictures? Portraits of the model is what happened I have done a few more and the same thing happened. I will write a blog with examples soon. If you are reading this and would like to be photographed please get in touch. I will provide images and pay reasonable expenses.
Here are a few snaps I have taken of the painting at the National Gallery of Scotland who welcome photographers. They were all taken with Lumix cameras and an Olympus 17mm f1.4 lens. The national galleries of Scotland are much better looked after than the English ones, generally the cafés are clean. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is a delight, there are two of them on opposite sides of the road with a choice of caffs. Their portrait gallery is in a magnificent red building. I will have a root around to see if I have enough snaps for blogs. If not I will have to go back 🙂