on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Peter Scammell

Featured Photographer

Peter Scammell

Peter has lived for many years in London working in the film industry as a music video director. A move to Devon and inspired by a beautifully blurred photograph of a bridge by photographer Bill Schwab he picked up a camera.


Michéla Griffith

In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.


Peter Scammell has been cited as an influence by – Chris Friel and Valda Bailey among others – so I know that for some of you this is a feature long overdue. Peter’s journey encompasses a varied career – from art school to working in graphics and as an art director and then back to school for a degree in film making and onto work as an editor and director of music videos. Although he has always taken photographs, a move from London to Devon gave his photography new impetus. His images are frequently monochromatic and are characterised by blur and movement. Each one inspires the next, with the result that his web and flickr portfolios do not always keep pace with his creativity.

Can you tell me a little about your education, childhood passions, early exposure to photography and vocation?


I gained a degree in Art and Design at Southampton Art School, then a degree in Film at the London Film School.

Apart from occasional family snapshots with a Kodak Brownie my first exposure to photography was at Art School. I bought a Russian made Zenit SLR camera and I remember shooting these abstract type pictures in Southampton docks and discovering that if I stopped down, the sunlight on the water would sparkle like diamonds - brilliant! What else can I mess with I thought? It kick started my lifelong connection, and experimentation with the photographic image.

WAVE # 190AA

After Film School I started my film career as a film editor working in London for a variety of production companies and directors, working mainly on documentaries, commercials and drama. I then co- founded a film production company with some friends, one of which was the photographer Anton Corbijn whose work has always been a big influence and inspiration to me. Here I started to direct, working mainly on music videos and commercials and winning MTV and D&AD awards along the way.

What is, for you, the appeal of (landscape) photography?

I like its visual simplicity - sky, sea, land, the frame split into three rectangles in whatever combination, allowing everything from complex to minimal composition and a range of textures as a form of visual expression.

Peeling back the layers of a landscape via the camera and photographic technique. Stripping it back to reveal its soul. Seeing and showing it in a new unworldly light rather than the worldly one we normally view it in.

Peeling back the layers of a landscape via the camera and photographic technique. Stripping it back to reveal its soul. Seeing and showing it in a new unworldly light rather than the worldly one we normally view it in.

Does your background (childhood passions, education, and career / vocation) influence your photography?

I think they have, certainly in respect of my directing music videos and commercials. Way back in the day when directing music videos I would shoot hand held super 8mm film myself to obtain a more edgy, abstract “shooting from the hip” feel to the images to contrast with the more controlled 16mm / 35mm footage and I’ve taken that hand held “Intentional Camera Movement” (ICM) technique on board with my photography.

Who (photographers, artists or individuals) or what has most inspired you, or driven you forward in your development as a photographer?

Blimey, a huge cross section has inspired me over the years. Some I’ve probably forgotten about, but ones that spring to mind that I would take to a desert island would be
photographers –

Joseph Koudelka, Anton Corbijn, Bill Schwab, Chris Friel, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Michael Levin, Kikuji Kawada, Werner Hannappel, Fay Godwin, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander,

And artists –

Howard Hodgkin, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Mark Rothko, Frank Auerbach, Bridget Riley, Leon Kossoff, Franz Kline, Gerhard Richter .... and on and on.

Have you had any moments of revelation in your development as a photographer where things become clear, or new directions were formed?

WAVE # 194A

Yes, I was looking through my attic one day when I first moved to Devon when I came across a print of the Ambassador Bridge, Windsor, Ontario by Bill Schwab. It was just so stunning, so visually lyrical, it bowled me over and I just wanted to produce a photo like it. It really made me pick up a camera again (I hadn’t taken any photos for years). It really inspired me to take on board all the things I liked about the picture and apply it to my own interpretation of a landscape. It hangs on my wall - it still inspires me.

How does your film and video experience inform your photographic technique and vision?

 I still tend to see my photographs as stills from a film - a frozen moment, where something is about to happen or has just happened.
I guess working with a lot of great cinematographers over the years has rubbed off on me, especially on the music videos and in particular the indie record label bands who were more open to creative ideas, allowing me a lot more visual experimentation which definitely has found its way into my photography. I still tend to see my photographs as stills from a film - a frozen moment, where something is about to happen or has just happened. And of course it also works in reverse. Sometimes when scripting for a music video or a commercial I would take the scene in a photograph that I liked and turn it into live action.

You say that you also like to keep your images ‘real’ rather than totally abstract?

Yes, I can alter and mash up an image to create texture and movement and atmosphere but I still like to contain the resulting imagery in the landscape format - so the framework of the landscape is kept no matter how minimal.

Which cameras and lenses do you typically take on a trip and how do they affect your photography?

Very basic really, I use a digital SLR, a 50mm prime lens and an 18mm – 55mm zoom. I’m not sure how they affect my photography bar the fact that they adequately cover the frame size I need.

This article is open to paid and unpaid subscribers so requires at least a free subscription to access. Please take a look at the subscribe page for more information.

On Landscape is part of Landscape Media Limited , a company registered in England and Wales . Registered Number: 07120795. Registered Office: 1, Clarke Hall Farm, Aberford Road, WF1 4AL