My Fine Art Photography is a process, a series of several stages. The aim is to produce my personal interpretation of the scene before the camera, reflecting how the scene and lighting made me feel at that time.
Before exposure, I have pre-visualised how I will want the finished fine art photograph to look. The developed film negative is just the beginning for the Interpretation stage, where I creatively craft an image from camera’s output into a Fine Art Photograph, one that aims to be both artistically inspired and also technically excellent.
The Interpretation stage would be near impossible if the film negative didn’t contain all the information I need in an accessible form. To achieve this I work with Ansel Adams’ Zone System. This is a means of controlling the negative’s characteristics by jointly choosing the camera exposure and the film’s development time. This system was very hard to grasp at the beginning, but all became clear when I attended a workshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan run by photographer Howard Bond.
I tend to like photographing in softly diffused light, either waiting for a cloud to be in front of the Sun, or at that special time after sunset or just before sunrise - I prefer the light after sunset as it allows me time to set up and focus the camera in advance.
My primary camera was made by the English firm of Gandolfi, and is a large format, field, view camera. It is rather like a plate camera from a century ago, and is both very challenging to use, but also equally rewarding. My camera is constructed of Black Walnut wood combined with black metalwork – and at those times that I use my second camera, an excellent Mamiya, I find myself missing the Gandolfi. I get interesting resposes to this camera. One group of retired people who were walking nearby came to investigate, and remarked on the similarity to cameras their grandfathers had owned. Another time a young boy asked me if the camera was just for show, and whether I had a proper camera hidden inside!
One aspect that usually becomes clear to me before I make the camera exposure is whether I want the image to be midly rectangular, or more square-ish or alternatively a long and skinny panorama. I aim to use the appropriate lens, and be positioned as close to the scene as possible, so that as much of the negative is used.
I usually follow the convention adopted by most large format photographers, in that everything in the photograph should be sharply rendered. For something that would seem quite straightforward, this is actually quite a challenge to achieve.
Gandolfi exposures have been from a “short” half a second, up to lengthy times in excess of an hour. Unlike some fine art photographers, who are prolific shooters, shooting thousands of images, I produce a small number of carefully taken negatives. The vast majority of my negatives are “keepers”.
My process has changed over the years from printing in the darkroom, to scanning the negatives in a special film scanner, and then performing the “Interpretation” stage on a computer. The tools I used in the darkroom have the same names as their equivalents on the computer – dodging; burning; contrast control; and Unsharp Masking. I believe in making very subtle changes, and building up the effect slowly. It’s very important to me that the changes I make are not apparently visible to the viewer of the finished Fine Art Photographic print – this is in accordance with the tradition of “straight” photography followed by Ansel Adams and his followers. The typical “Interpretation” stage for my Fine Art Photographs is two days.
The completed image becomes a Fine Art Photograph by printing with Pigment inks on heavyweight, 100 percent acid-free, cotton rag paper. I love the feel of carefully holding my fine art photographs – the substantial weight of the paper combined with appreciating the detail, clarity, and tonality close-to is very satisfying.
1966 Born in London, UK
1979-84 Edgware Camera Club, entry and success in numerous competitions
1984 Attended Photography workshop in Scotland
1984 Start Oxford University degree course in Engineering Science (St. John's College)
1985 Winner Oxford University open camera club competition
1988 Mother dies after lengthy battle with illness
1988 MA(Oxon) awarded
1988-90 Project engineer
1990 Father dies after lengthy battle with illness
1991 Overseas Experience (New Zealand, Australia, S.E. Asia)
1992 Application for New Zealand Residence
1993 Emmigration from UK to New Zealand
1993 Marriage to Julie
1994 Decision to pursue fine art photography, largely self-taught from books and teachings of Ansel Adams
1995 Gift from wife Julie of inspiring book of Ansel Adams' photographs
1997 Membership of Auckland Society of Artists
June 1997 Attends eye-opening Howard Bond workshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
2006 Switch from darkroom to computer-based "Interpretation"
June 2007 First exhibition of work, Quiet Light, 2 - 18 June 2007, Art By the Sea Gallery, Devonport (solo)
Aug 2007 Exhibition, Quiet Light, 14th August - 2nd September 2007, Lake House, Takapuna (solo)
Mar 2008 Exhibition, Devonport Exposed, 15th March - 3rd April 2008, Art by the Sea Gallery, Devonport
Jun 2012 Exhibition, By Land or By Sea, 7th June - 3rd July 2012, Artrium Gallery, Thorndon, Wellington
Jun 2013 Exhibition, A Glimpse, 1st - 23rd June 2013, Farmgate Gallery, Clevedon, Auckland (solo)
Fine Art Photography; travel; reading; walking our dog