Inside this issue
Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.
This issue we're featuring a photographer local to both myself and Joe - Nigel Clarke also went on a one to one workshop with me to discover the pleasure and pain of large format photography. Since then he's been delving into platinum palladium too, to great effect.
Can you tell me a little about your education, childhood passions, early exposure to photography and vocation?
Much of my education has been directed by the National Geographic.
My dad used to subscribe and I remember coming across the underwater shots by David Doubilet and being amazed by the underwater world. I subsequently sought out as much of his work as I could and that made me dream of following in his footsteps…. this included studying Marine Biology at Newcastle and York Universities.
Unfortunately, I simply lacked the funds to get all the necessary underwater housing and strobes, so whilst I had my Nikon 801, it had to stay dry and I really only took occasional snapshots - although one of those did appear in the readers photo review section of a photo magazine and is to this day, the only one of my photo’s that’s made it to print!
Nowadays I run an agency the helps teams solve challenges, to innovate and work more effectively together. I work with a range of organizations from Formula 1 teams, schools, global firms like Unilever and even Lawyers. The one thing they all have is that they are full of people who get stuck in a particular way of thinking and need help to work more effectively as a team to do what needs to be done.
Whilst my photography hasn’t changed the world, defined an era or saved a vast tract of land from being built on, I can say that us photographers are a fortunate bunch as we get to see the world around us, whilst everyone else just looks and having flipped that switch in my own head is important to me.
I remember once being on my knees capturing the reflections of some golden trees in a pond. A woman walked up behind me and said there was nothing in that pond but a few newts and I was wasting my time. I simply said, “I can see the whole forest in here”. She turned her nose up and snorted at such silliness, but her ‘poor’ husband wandered over and his eye’s widened as he saw what I did. He gave me a wink and wandered off.
In most photographers lives there are 'epiphanic’ moments where things become clear, or new directions are formed. What were your two main moments and how did they change your photography?
I’ve had a few ‘Ah-Ha’ moments. Two main ones are:
1: I always felt disappointed that my shots never captured the grandeur of the places I visited. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I really got the photo bug and I read David Ward’s, Landscape Beyond. In here he described exactly what I had been frustrated by – the fact that photography cannot capture the sounds and smells of a place and how this leaves many people disappointed by their images. The way he articulated it struck a chord with me and in a sense gave me permission to stop making ‘postcards’ and start focusing on filling rectangles with the essence of a place.
2: - Secondly, I watched Sally Mann’s documentary on Youtube. It’s one of the most penetrating and engaging documentaries I have ever seen. Her use of the light in and around her home, plus the fact that she photographed the things she cared about most really galvanized another of my frustrations…. namely the one where I thought I had no good shots because I never went to Yosemite or Scotland or Iceland etc etc. I was stuck on the same patch and blamed this for my lackluster images.
Ha – silly me. I now love the fact that I work 3 or 4 places, all no more than 10 mins from home in the flattest, most boring, least glamorous area near Selby! The thing is, I know these places better than anyone. I watch them change and grow and that’s as much of an epiphany as any.
I also know that I am far too overwhelmed by new places to do them justice!
Tell me about why you love landscape photography?
As much as I’d like to give myself a title like landscape photographer, I don’t think I can. Yes, I enjoy the countryside and capturing it is great, but I also enjoy making photo’s in cities (I travel a lot for work) and I find street photography an adrenaline rush (it’s really out of my comfort zone) and it really helps me in developing a sensing when a ‘situation’ is developing.
For me I’d go back to the seeing point I mentioned earlier. I really enjoy the way that photography helps lift the scales from your eyes and encourages you to search within yourself, to let your sub conscious find things and be open to everything around you.
Could you tell us a little about the cameras and lenses you typically take on a trip and how they affect your photography.
If I’m off to a city I might take an Olympus Trip (that’s a camera that punches well above its weight!) and also a Mamiya 7.
I have a Yashica Mat 124G which I bought second hand from Jessops age 19 – it sat on a shelf as decoration for years – what a waste! Some of my favourite photo’s have been made with it in recent years.
However, since I looked onto your TV screen of a ground glass Tim, during my one, and only, trip out with another photographer, all I wanted to do was use Large Fomrat. That came true about 8 months ago and I use an Arca Swiss F Metric 4x5, with 90mm, 150mm, 210 and 300mm lenses and the usual schmorgersbord of filters.
What sort of post processing do you undertake on your pictures? Give me an idea of your workflow..
I develop all my own stuff in a Patterson tank, be it E6, C41 or black and white. For me, being the one who finds the deer, catches the deer, butchers the deer and eats the deer is really important!It’s something that I really enjoy doing and I learn so much from it – especially in the black and white work I do. Then, the films either get scanned on my drum scanner or get siphoned off for platinum printing.
I use Photoshop on the scanned photo’s. This is where I can get a bit out of control and have in the past made every mistake under the sun. I realised a little while ago how overly contrasty most of my pictures were and being colour blind I can really struggle with colour balance, but I’m finding new ways to cope with that.
Do you get many of your pictures printed and, if at all, where/how do you get them printed?
The only printing I’ve done has been contact printing platinum prints. I am working on a book though, really just for me to have at home – but it’s slow progress!
I’m inspired by images people have made along with ways of working rather than just photographers per se. Some unknown person might produce an amazing shot which can inspire as much as the ‘big guns’. That said, I have a few people that I think really set a standard:
Robert Doisneu (website) – he tells a story with his photo’s in a way few manage to do and they make you feel something! His thoughts on composition and picture taking/making are also hugely insightful.
Peter Dombrovskis – thank you Tim and Joe for introducing me to him!
Jan Tove has a wonderful eye and I love Beyond Order.
Blakemore – for being Blakemore!
Mark Citret for his wonderful composition and reading of light.
David Loftus, best known for his food photography also has great images and a website designed around colours.
Andy Goldsworthy – his use of everyday objects is very inspiring and again shows that art is all around but it has to go through a creative mind.
And a hundred others, famous, a not so famous. I think On Landscape has done an amazing job of showing off some incredible talent so there is never a shortage of inspiration!
On the flip side, whilst there are many who inspire me, there are also many things that I am disillusioned and in a way, stifled by.
What stifles me is the instant access to millions of other people’s images which causes such turmoil in oneself that it can be hard to find out who you are as a photographer.
What disillusions me is the sheer volume of ‘photographers’. Everyone I talk to is a photographer! I was up early walking round Derment Water recently and counted 27 guys, and some ladies, all with their DSLR’s, on tripods, pointing their cameras at the same damn thing. Depressing.
Tell me what your favourite two or three photographs are and a little bit about them.
I must say that I am a little bored by most of my photo’s ….
Flood Water: This one was taken after dropping the kids off at school and shows the need to be open to potential images all the time. I’d spotted it’s potential on the way into school and go this on the return leg.
Grass 2: Taken in the field opposite my house, this is just the sort of image I would have simply missed in times gone by. It also goes to show how there are images literally on your doorstep. I do think that because we’re all pretty bad at ‘seeing’ the things we are most familiar with, so forcing yourself to look in and around your home can be a very positive exercise.
Enclave (Platinum / Palladium Print). Something of a technical challenge (it was a 4 min exposure in fading light), this little print is wonderful ‘in the flesh’ – it doesn’t do it justice looking at it on screen.
If you were told you couldn’t do anything photography related for a week, what would you end up doing (i.e. Do you have a hobby other than photography..)
Ummm – I quite often don’t do anything photography related for a week! In these times I’m running a business, being a dad and building new bits of the house.
What sorts of things do you think might challenge you in the future or do you have any photographs or styles that you want to investigate? Where do you see your photography going in terms of subject and style?
For me it’s more important to be different, rather than try and be better at the same thing everyone else is doing. I’m going to carry on pursing my platinum printing because that’s genuinely good fun.
I really think black and white is where my heart (and my eye) lies at the moment so I just want to see where that takes me. I’d love an enlarger (and someone to show me how to do it) to do some wet work’!
Oh – and someday I’ll either learn either not to bother to submit to LPOTY or to get an image through the first round (I hear compositing is the way to go?).
Who do you think we should feature as our next photographer?