Too Much, Too Much, Retouch, Retouch.....

I popped into the AOP (Association of Photographers) the other day, which I do from time to time as I wanted to see the 'Awards' images. So much has changed from 'back in the day' when as a student the AOP awards night was a big big thing, where as now it just seems to come and go... I was a member for a number of years but left because I never won anything, of course this is only slightly true, it was more to do with the repetition and what seemed to be the same names and style of work year after year. My be I was just jealous like an out of work actor. But this post is not about that.
Today I want to write about retouching, or as people call it these days 'Clean Up' Don't worry I am not going to rant on this one, but simply tell you how I see it.
Of the retouching of an image has always been around, as has image manipulation. Back in the day (again) I would retouch actors black and white head shots using a scalpel to scratch off the emulsion surface
taking out various lines, spots, nose bogie's, that sort of thing. This would have been much easier today with a little help from mr. photo shop, but because it is so easy we are bombarded with images of perfection left, right, and perfectly in the center.
Can we really call it a photograph if there is no original part of the image left...?
I believe AOP to be a good gage as to what is going on in the commercial world of photography and I understand that if you are advertising something that may make millions of pounds then it has to look pretty much perfect. But regarding 'real life' and personal projects, why alter the reality if thats what you are trying to put across. All I could see in every award category were images so 'over done' they had lost any substance and feeling and just looked clinical. I could mention a fair few German photographers at this point from the Becker tradition, but that's something very different I wont get into at this point.
For me personally I hate the desaturated, high contrast images that are flavour of the month at the moment, a feeble attempt to replace content with post production technique.

When I was putting together my website and book dummy I had to digitise all my images. When I came to getting rid of the dust and matching the original prints there was a huge temptation to take out bits here and there and alter contrast, colour etc... Some would argue that I could improve the image somewhat, but then where do you stop. I want my images to look like they did on the day/night and I don't think endless tweaking would necessarily improve the shot.
I just think the most important thing in photography (for me at least) is the idea, not the after thought.....


Just One More...

Now that I have done my shot of the week I just had to mention Joel Sternfeld and cant believe I didn't mention him earlier. I have been familiar with the work for some time now and may be his biggest fan. If you managed to see The Genius Of Photography there was a short piece on him which was great because I dont think there is much stuff of him around like that, unlike Shore, Meyerowitz and Misrach. He talks of the images from his book American Prospects (published first in 1987 and recently made into a second edition) claiming that he limited himself to shooting two sheets of 10/8 film a day on his trips across America due to lack of funds (now thats editing). Of all the photographers I have mentioned so far I think Sternfeld has left the biggest impression on me. His timing, methods and unique view of America have influenced me greatly.
Strangers Passing (see cover shot) is always worth a look and is as remarkable as his landscape images. Its interesting to see how much influence photographers like Sternfeld create. A good example is the work of Alec Soth
Which is not surprising as he used to assist Joel Sternfeld. I believe Alec also has a nice blog and although his work quite wonderful I don't think he holds an edge quite like Sternfeld.
I think thats enough of the great American masters for now. Next week its an all British addition, with a few European thrown in for good measure....

It Should Be In My House (Shot Of The Week)

So here it is, my first It 'Should Be In My House' image, or my be I will go with 'Shot Of The Week' (who cares)
I was going to show some Joel Sterfeld (I know, another American photographer) but I just had to show this.
Just a crumbly old picture of a leaf you might say, well turns out this may be the oldest photograph in existence (actually a photo gram, so in negative). There is more information here
At first it was thought to be the work of Willy the Fox Talbot but turns out the 'experts' believe it could be either; Thomas Wedgwood, James Watt or Humphrey Davy and made as early as 1790, a time when the great hairy Mammoth roamed the earth..
People are saying this could change photographic history forever. But you just know that some French man is going to find a photograph of an onion dated around the 1600's.
Still working with Ink Jets.............


What ever happened to The Fiber Base..?

Rather than enjoying the beautiful weather today I decided to spend my time in complete darkness printing up a consignment of work for my new gallery in LA
I guess I should mention now that I took to black and white printing for commercial clients shortly after leaving college. It was something I was naturally good at and thought it would be a good way to finance personal projects. Three years after working for a commercial lab I set up on my own in North London. Basically the printing for clients thing became full time and then some. I found myself working day and night just to get by and was unable to to produce any of my own work. So I packed up the lab after two years to concentrate on my own photography, I have to say I caused a little ripple among my clientele, some of them even wept...
The only work I print now is my own colour and find that the fundamentals of colour printing are not that different from B&W.
I did have a lot of fun in those early days and met some extraordinary people, but the printing for photographers did drive me a little nuts sometimes, especially when someone might say: "I know I shot it at night in a tunnel, but I think its a little too dark"......
I do sometimes miss the stinky glow of the safe light and remember those days every time I put vinegar on my chips, but I'm glad there over..
Above are some Terry O'Neil images I printed from his book Legends. He was kind enough to sign a few 'spare' prints for me which are now on my staircase wall.
As for the title of this segment, The Fiber Base was the name of my lab. People always thought I sold cereal.

A beautiful morning today, so a couple of beautiful images thanks to Stephen Shore.
There are just so many great American Landscape Photographers I could do a blog on just that, but of course my Britishness will not allow me.
Having lived in the USA for three years, and having done projects myself, I got to understand how all these photographers made such great work. America is vast and the landscape so diverse, it really is a photographers ideal. But the main difference to anywhere else on the planet is that you can drive the whole of America. You can set off (in your big camper van) In my case it was out of California, and an hour later you can be in the desert, totally alone waiting for the sunset. Another hours drive and you could be in three feet of snow surrounded by the smell of pine trees.. Nowhere else offers this amount of photographic freedom. Even with all the new paranoia and threat to national security, It is still the most open country to photography, as long as you don't photograph federal buildings or cross the No Trespass sign, your ok...Of course there where times for example when I forgot my Visa while crossing various State Borders, but thats another story...
I would be very interested to see what one of these American greats could do in the UK with our small roads and dodgy weather. I will look out some examples, if there are any and come back to this subject. Meanwhile enjoy the weather, while it lasts...


The Money Shot.....

I realise my blog has been all landscape images so far, well thats about to change.
I bring to you the work of Sarah Dunn. A true and beautiful talent who also happens to be my wife. She puts up with my moods, my daft ideas, and my inability to read maps...
There is a link to her website on this blog but I especially wanted to share this
You need to click on George Lucas section.


I sure this has being covered a million times (I think that's a Whiggle Byte in digital terms) But I would like to explain my reasons for still shooting film in this Digital made overseas in poor countries world...
I do tire of people going on about which is better Film or Digital, and before I begin this rant I would just like to say that I don't think either is better than the other, they are just different and full fill different criteria. But here's my case....

There are many reasons I shoot film. The first and foremost is that I need something permanent, something that I know will not change. For example, I have projects I started seven years ago shot on film. Now if that had been on a digital camera it would probably of been 3 to 5 mega pixels. They even have phones that do that now. The technology is moving so quick people cant keep up. I know that if I scan a 5/4 neg the quality will knock the socks off what can be produced by Canon and Nikon.
The second main reason is regarding exposure. Most of my work consists of long, long exposures and this is something which is just not possible with any digital camera due to the amount of noise build up and heat produced. I have shot in -20 degrees and +120 degrees, again something I am not sure all those micro chips could handle. Its a bit like an old Land Rover and a new Range Rover. If one of those chips fails the whole car shuts down and reliability for me is a must. Just a box and a lens thank you.
I should also mention print stability. All my work is C-Type. I know this will last some time because of all the Misrach and Meyerwitz vintage prints I have on my wall (of course I am joking) my point being there is proof that this process lasts (at least a couple of decades) What I do have on one of my walls is an inkjet print that was done a month ago and looks like a faded haircut portrait in a barbers shop..I heard the other day that the Toys 'R' Us image of Mr Gursky has begun to deteriorate, not good considering the staggering costs involved. This would be like buying cold bullion and discovering it was foil covered chocolate...What I have been dong is scanning my negs and getting the image projected digitally but using the C Type processing which is in my opinion the best of both worlds.
Here is something to think about. When photography first began (I would like to think this was by the English and not the French) people used huge cameras with big glass negatives. Over time the format got smaller, 10/8, 5/7, 5/4, 120, 35mm , 110, James Bond, and now there is no film at all.
My final point is this, in a time of 'Can you make her have less pores on her skin' and 'I lost six stone in a day' images. I believe there is a certain honesty with shooting film, what some would call 'A Purist', however, if I had the chance to look more handsome (an impossible task) I would probably say absolutely..
I almost forgot. The picture at the top is by Gustave Le Gray shot in 1857. I believe its printed from two negatives, one of the sky and one of the sea...Is nothing sacred.....


Good things to come....

I have a lot planned for this beautiful blog with things like 'shot of the week' otherwise known on B-Mode as 'It Should Be In My House' I will do this at the end of each week...This will consist of a favorite image/s which I am hoping to source from plenty of British talent (and some overseas no doubt). I don't think I will be doing poems or interviews like some of the big boy bloggers, but I may quote some quality lines from somewhere.
I am also very open to any contributions in terms of projects and images, essays etc you may want to share with the world even though I still don't think anyone knows this blog......But they will...
I will also be showing new project images of my own work and appreciate any constructive criticism, but not plagiarism.


More early influences, Michael Kenna.

I still consider Michael Kenna one of the daddy's of landscape photography and I believe him to a heavy influence among many other photographers. I was a big fan of the work he produced in the late eighties/ early nineties.
Admittedly his style is easy to copy, or so I thought. Lots of ND filters, slow black and white film and a good tripod. I tried on many occasions to do my own versions of a Kenna, but they were no where near as good and had none of the magic. I should of known that no one does it quite like Kenna.
The one thing that did surprise me was the size of his prints in exhibitions. There tiny. But exquisite and jewel like.
There is a very interesting video here regarding technique and thoughts on his work and its just great.


Wim Wenders

Still on the subject of Easter, I thought it would be nice to mention Wim Wenders. The image above is from his book 'Pictures From The Surface Of The Earth' and is the road to Emmaus in Jerusalem. I seen the exhibition for the book in London years ago and it blew me away. But the one image that I remember best was 'The Mount OF Olives' with the dumped washing machine in the foreground.
I have always liked things out of context in photography, especially regarding the landscape and I am always on the look out for anything 'out of place'
Although I do like this series of work by Wenders it was not an inspiration like Written In The West
The interview in the book is a true insight into a photographers way of thinking and an added bonus that Wenders uses his photography as a visual aid for his films, in this instance Paris Texas. Wenders is most certainly another early influence on my work as a photographer and I cannot recommend his books enough, even if its just for the written text.

Happy Easter..

Some say that Easter is the start of spring, so it was a little odd when I woke up to snow this morning and in London of all places.... Some will say its climate change, the more sensible ones will realise that Easter is very early this year.
I have taken this opportunity to include the work of Lisa Robinson
I bought her book a while back just for the cover alone. There are some beauties in there, however, I think it would of made a much stronger collection if there was not so much snow which may sound daft considering the book is all about just that. It all starts to look the same after a while and I cant help thinking that they all could of been done in a day, of course nothing wrong with that, just my opinion.


Early influences, Richard Misrach

It was this particular image of an empty swimming pool that inspired me to travel to the Salton Sea and do my own project some twenty years after Misrach. Its one of those places where everything comes together once the sun goes down.
Misrach's images haunted me for years and I often wandered how such work was possible. Of course the light quality was one thing but the key factor was the large format, this was something I would eventually discover myself years later.

So there you have it. Two of my biggest influences. But with both of these celebrated artists it is the early work I am most fond of. I personally believe there is a period in a photographers career when they produce there finest work, there masterpiece if you like. I would like to think that my masterpiece is still to come......

Early influences, Joel Meyerowitz

Before I started taking my landscape work seriously I was heavily influenced by two key photographers (to some this may be quite obvious). Richard Misrach and Joel Meyerowitz where to me the pinnacle of modern landscape photography, even more than Stephen Shore who I never really understood until later on..
What fascinated me most was the quality of light in there pictures. This was something I had never really seen before living in the UK. Meyerowitz was my first inspiration and Cape Light remains my favorite collection by the Artist.

How dare they compare me to Burtynsky...!

A few months ago I was touting the work and looking for a gallery to represent me here in smokey old London. Since my return from the States (I will share this adventure some other time) I am still with American galleries which serve me quite well but all this weak dollar business I may as well get paid in magic beans, so I thought representation here would make sense. Little did I know that in the space of three years a lot of the 'approachable galleries' had either down sized or disappeared completely. It was very disheartening. But that was nothing compared to what was to come.
I got myself in to see one of the 'big' galleries, you know the type, one in London, one in New York, one in Tesco. They flicked through my work like it was a phone directory and then told me:
"Its just too Burtynsky for us, try somewhere else" Now I am a very calm patient person, I have to be with these hour long exposures. But I also lift weights, have a good strength to weigh ratio and have no hair to pull (a bit like an Ultimate Fighter). I could of flattened the both of them, but no, I just told them to do there research and left without an arrest. What bothered me the most was how little these people knew about photography and how if they had actually looked at the work they would see no resemblance to EB at all.
I have tried my best to find a few comparisons regarding EB and myself MD but it was very difficult (see if you can guess which are mine and which are Burtynsky from the selected images) And Mr. Burtynsky, if you are reading this which I am sure you are, I just want you to know I am an admirer of your work, but some may say its just too similar to mine.


my first, but important link...

I don't really intend this blog to become too political but thought I should include the above link regarding photographers rights when photographing in a public place.
I gave up trying to photograph public spaces a long time ago and took myself and my camera to the fields, deserts and tundras in search of isolation....

early days...

As I don't even think anyone has discovered my blog yet I could write any old nonsense but I thought I would share a little bit of background, just in case.
After college in 1995 I concentraited on nudes for a while before moving onto the landscape. (There was a whole black and white printing thing too with my own commercial lab and all that which I may mention that another time).
I became very absorbed in abstract nudes and spent many hours in the darkroom producing fine prints only a few of which I still have. I remember the work selling quite well but over time I started to run out of ideas, and models....
I came across this book the other day, Nudes, see pic. Thats one of mine. There is also a few inside. Its a real mixture of work by various photographers and always nice to stumble across when your browsing books.


My old college friend Rik Pinkcombe

I bumped into my old college friend Rik Pinkcombe the other day at the lab (as you do). We hadn't seen each other for several years and we had a chat about what we had been up to. It always fasinates me how a photographers work developes over time. I did mostly nudes at college (I will write about this at some point). Rik portraits., and there we both where in the present with our landscapes.
I find Rik's work quite remarkable and have no idea how he does it, but thats what I enjoy about the work. There isn't too much online (which isn't really a bad thing) but he does exhibit widely. He has a show on at the moment at The Focal Point Gallery in Southend.
I will hopefully look up some of my other college contemporaries and post them here as there are some real talents among them...

From first photograph to first book.....

In 2005 I had my first book Night Vision, or to give it its full title: Night Vision Intimacies of an Unblinking Eye, published.
Its incredible how much work goes into producing a book and what a thrill it is to receive those first copies in the mail. But after an hour or so, its not enough and you immediately what to do another. Since that humble day and for the past three years I have been working on my latest book project.
The images are edited, most of the text written and the dummy books sent to all the publishers, so now I must wait to see the response. Its amazing how precious a book project becomes. To most people it means nothing, but to the artist its everything. Its not about showing it off to people, or even making money. Its about finishing a body of work that makes it possible to move onto other projects. A book makes it permanent... Well thats how I feel anyway...
This latest book Urban Safari (working title) is a project I started about seven years ago. Basically It explores the Urban landscape that surrounds us, nature and the man made, that sort of thing. Most of the images are on my new and improved website.
I thought it would be good to have a written interview in the book with an insight into my way of working. I will put this on the blog once it is finished....

A twelve year old could of done that.........

As this is my first post I thought I would share my first colour photograph. This very image was taken 23 years ago on the night of my 12th birthday with my new Canon AV1. Not much has changed regarding my technique and subject matter over the years although the camera I use now is much bigger.
Hopefully I will share many more moments like these within this humble blog and also share my views on aspects of photography...