Friday, 31 January 2014

Friday, 24 January 2014

Love the Square

Sometimes I just have to get away from people, I need silence. Although in my photography I like to make pictures of people, there are times when I just want to be on my own. On these occasions, I often pick up my old Hasselblad, a 30 year old camera that was made in Sweden. A big heavy awkward box of a camera, that uses roll film that has only12 frames, the negs are square, and for these reasons it slows me down. I really enjoy composing in a square, I love the square.


Sandcastle Bigbury-on-Sea

Jug on Windowsill

No 4 Birdhouse

Friday, 17 January 2014

Healing Hands 

I used to love finding my own stories. No editors breathing down my neck, more freedom and time to do what I want, and shoot the way I feel. This is one such story. My wife at the time was working for a surgeon who specialised in plastic surgery, and she told me about
children who suffered from Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) sometimes called 'Skin-blister children.' It's a rare skin disorder  in which the top layer of skin doesn't stick properly to the lower layer, therefore the slightest knock can bring the child up in blisters. Fingers and toes can fuse together. More information at the charities website here

Samantha before the operation to separate her fingers which have become fused together

Trust is so important with stories like this. First of all the surgeon had to believe in the reasons why I wanted to do this story, believe in me as a person, and trust me with his patients. I then had to gain the trust of the parents and their children.

Robert preferred to keep himself to himself, staying on the family farm. Animals do not seem to worry how we look unlike humans!

It was such a privilege to do this story, and a huge honour to be allowed into an operating theatre and to see the skill of the surgeon and the team.

Samantha's hand being operated on

Doing a story like this without a commission always carried the risk that nobody would publish it. By the time I travelled around the country photographing some of the children, plus the film and processing, it could get quite expensive. But I believed in the story and thankfully so did the Observer Magazine who published it over three pages. 

If I remember correctly, all shot on Tri-X film an a manual Nikon and a 50mm lens. This was my favourite way of working, simple.

Part of the three page spread in the Observer Magazine

Friday, 10 January 2014

Film Is Alive

Alex in his garage darkroom
This is a photograph I made of Alex just over a year ago when he was 18. Alex loves photography, especially film. His passion is street photography using a Leica M6 loaded with Tri-X rated at 1600. Alex has a great eye, check out his blog here

He made a temporary darkroom in his parents garage, and just loves the whole process, and it appears he is not alone, as I've read there is now a steady growth especially in black and white film based photography including papers and chemicals. I gather new darkrooms are opening up in London. I still love film too, the whole digital revolution came in after I stopped being a professional photographer, but I'm sure I would have embraced it  as it is amazing. The above photo was shot on film in my Hasselblad which I processed then scanned and tweaked only slightly in Lightroom. That strange mark bottom right hand corner is actually on his black out material, which I could have removed, but didn't. The digital revolution is amazing, we can now share photos instantly, and I can read your blogs and you can read mine. But, I still love film.

This is the first blog entry I have written for over a year. During that time, I've struggled somewhat with the place of photography in my life. Currently I am a full time vicar which contrary to popular belief is a 6 day a week job not just Sunday's, and it can be long hours. During this last year I've decided to do a photographic project which I have called 'People of the Parish'. Not an imaginative title I know, but nevertheless something I can do whilst I work. The idea is to photography people within their environment, people that just catch my attention, Alex is one of them. Trouble is I've been 'flip flopping' ( A term I use to describe how I constantly change my mind, drives my family mad!) from doing it on my Hasselblad, to 35mm on the Nikon, to even digital and converting to black and white. I have photographed four different people now on a mixture of film types and digital, so my project does not have the uniformity that I wanted.

There is a lot to be said to shooting it all on digital and then converting to black and white. So much easier, no processing, scanning or darkroom work. Thing is, I went into a professional digital printing lab recently and compared some black and white prints I had made some while ago with some prints that the lab had made from digital files, and I  preferred the darkroom prints. There was a depth, a roundness to the darkroom print that I didn't see in the black and white digital prints. But the digital route is so much easier.

I think I suffer from nostalgia. I learnt the craft of shooting film, black and white and colour slide, and processing and printing. I love and grew up with the photography of Eugene Smith, Bresson, Koudelka, Bruce Davidson, and many others. I have their books, I love looking at their black and white work knowing that it has been shot on film. Nostalgia might not be a good and healthy thing and yet I still love film, and how it communicates. I have several Michael Kenna books and have handled his prints, and they are beautiful. I love the fact that he is out there using a Hasselblad like mine, and enters his darkroom and waves his hands under the enlarger light, hand crafting each individual print. It just seems so much more sexy than digital!

There is so much interesting film based photography and information out there on the web, so much enthusiasm. A blog I visit most days which I highly recommend is the online darkroom do check it out.

So I shall share my journey with you, which will include some new negs as well as  some more old negs from back in the day!