The History of Photography Through the Lens of Collecting
Given the monumental changes driven by new technology in the last twenty years it’s easy to forget that photography is still a relatively new art form.
Collecting photography therefore is still in it’s infancy and continues to develop with The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) at the forefront, with one of the biggest photography collections in the world.
It might be something of a surprise therefore that The V&A have only just opened their first permanent photography galleries, or Photography Centre, home to the national collection of the art of photography.
Although a relatively small display through two galleries the breadth of display, from the earliest experiments with light sensitive materials to newly commissioned works marking the opening of these new galleries, is extensive and given the size of The V&A’s collection one can only assume that the display will develop & change over time.
Entering the exhibition I was immediately struck by how photography has always been on the steepest of development curves and the controversy and misunderstanding we see today is a pattern that has been constantly repeated throughout it’s life.
An early photograph shows Don Quixote in his Study by photographer William Henry Lake Price from 1855 which caused controversy when it was first displayed, viewers felt the realism of photography compared to Victorian painters was inappropriate.
Don Quixote in his Study by William Henry Lake Price
The exhibition majors on the theme of story telling through (the new medium) of photography and this is no better illustrated than through a pair of images produced by Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) in 1873. Lewis Carroll was an enthusiastic photographer, exploring the theme of story telling in still pictures and regularly had his models dress in foreign costumes, acting out stories.
The exhibition includes early examples of photographs used to tell factual stories, Francis Frith’s photo from 1858 of the Pyramids of Dahshoor bought a new level of realism to biblical scenes for a Christian Victorian audience whilst Herbert Ponting’s photo of Captain Scott’s final expedition to the South Pole from 1911 serves as a memorial to the unsuccessful expedition and illustrates the treacherous territory encountered.
Two further displays caught my eye in terms of putting modern photography into context;
Dieter Meier’s 29 Pictures in 5 minutes from 1970, in an era long before social media photography & selfies, shows a run of the mill street scene where the subjects slowly become aware of the photographer and react in various ways, some moving away, some playing to the camera and some seemingly responding angrily &/or uncomfortably, maybe some things never change!
The second display of particular note is that of Mark Cohen’s True Color. We have such easy access to high quality, colour photography that we take it for granted and it’s difficult to imagine a time when rich, dynamic colours weren’t available but this collection, taken in the early 1970’s serves to remind us that colour photography was only recognised as fine art in the 70’s.
When compared with similar, earlier black & white collections the effect of the colour, the added depth, detail and interest makes me wonder how it’s artistic merit could ever be doubted.
In a time when the entire future of photography, as a serious art form & valuable medium is doubted by some, the opening of the new Photography Centre at The V&A reminds us that development is cyclical and we can continually learn from history. Photography has progressed so far in such a short time, who knows how these galleries will look in twenty years time.
For now the enduring ability of a single image to create an instant & long lasting impact is a welcome reminder and the opening of a permanent display reinforces the value of the medium as an important art form as well an influential medium in recording social history.
I look forward to the exhibition developing, changing and continuing to push the technology as well as the perception of photography collections.
It’s a sure sign Christmas is just around the corner, the book presses are running, the calendars are being bound and the gift market is well and truly in the sites.
Yes, it’s the “Photographer of the Year” season, brace yourself for endless debates, cliched images, controversy, questionable choices and the odd good photo.
This week we’ve had the Landscape Photographer of the Year and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year announced with the usual fanfare, breakfast TV analysis, full page spreads and accompanying books, calendars, prints...
It seems every year the weeks following the announcement of winners in these competitions are marked with controversy; animals lured to locations unethically, the use (& over use) of editing techniques, composite images passed off as single captures, plagarism etc etc. As a marketer I tend to be a bit jaded by all this controversy & can’t help thinking there’s no such thing as bad publicity. As a photographer I have very mixed feelings about photography competitions in general and these high profile competitions in particular.
I won’t critique individual images - others have already done that and deemed the winning images to be the best. I’m always reminded by other photographers that it’s a subjective art-form and whilst that’s broadly true we all know a good & bad photograph when we see it so we know that any competition of this profile will be full of good photos. My concern with The Landscape Photographer competition is that in it’s thirteen years it has developed it’s own look or style. This year’s gallery is just as expected, beautiful vibrant, punchy views that look very much like previous years. Don’t get me wrong, as a collection, as a book that will make a great Christmas gift to be passed around the tipsy relatives on Christmas morning the photos look great. There’ll be lots of discussions before the Queen’s speech about how the photographer created those starbursts, where those vibrant, saturated colours came from and how they made those waves all milky and blurred.
I don’t see development, I don’t see cutting edge, new styles or the boundaries of landscape photography being pushed forward. Of course, this is where subjectivity really lives and taking risks, setting new styles doesn’t sell books & calendars.
Enjoy the images, take inspiration and plan your own journeys to discover this beautiful country through your camera but the best landscape photographs of the year? I’ll let you decide.
At the same time, over on the truly awful National History Museum website (a site clearly never planned to display image galleries) we have the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. It strikes me that the Wildlife awards have stuck to their guns of showcasing the very best from around the world. These photos are not just images but the stories behind them and consequently they’re far more compelling. We see the story of endangered species, epic journeys to encounter animals in their own habitat and unique behaviour never before recorded.
Compared to the Landscape competition these images are far less attainable, you’re not going to pop down the local park and capture equivalent images, they remain no less inspirational however. Whilst improvements in technology and the ever expanding eco-tourism industry widen the possibilities of creating these types of images these wildlife photographers are pushing the boundaries, not only of what they can photograph but how they do it.
Take the winning image “The Golden Couple” for example; perfect location, vibrant & saturated colours, cute baby, etc etc but look carefully. That’s at least one & possibly two off camera flashes (the second may just be post processing) a pose that’s more human and a synchronised distraction that has caught the attention of both subjects at the same time. That’s a portrait that would grace any professional studio.
The lengths photographers have gone to in entering the Wildlife competition have drawn criticism and no little controversy in previous years, pushing limits to develop style is often uncomfortable and people don’t like change.
Whilst you can buy the book here too it’s clearly not the driver for the Wildlife Photographer competition and so you sense they’re not seeking to satisfy an existing, repeat customer.
Subjectivity I would suggest is less in the eye of the photographer and more in the eye of the audience. There’s no harm in satisfying a loyal, regular customer base but ultimately I don’t believe this feeds creativity & development, it simply becomes a commercial process like any other.
I know which book I’d put on my Christmas list.
I must confess I last visited Lincoln's Arboretum many years ago. Yesterday however I had arranged to meet a portrait customer there, at their request, so had he opportunity to re-discover the park.
The Arboretum was originally designed & formed in the 1870's by one of the most celebrated Victorian gardeners of his time, Edward Milner and has apparently seen something of a regeneration in recent years.
In my mind the park has suffered through reputation in recent years and I confess to being a little surprised at the suggestion to meet there. Stories of anti-social behaviour, maintenance budget cuts and, here's the photography bit, some truly awful photos shared on social media by 'photographers' have all had me avoiding a visit with my camera.
So to yesterday's visit. I arrived early with the intention of exploring the park, checking out locations for the shoot but also just to re-discoer The Arboretum generally. As we're experiencing one of the hottest & driest summers for many years the park was parched & dry with very limited colours throughout so I was attracted to the detail, the shapes and patterns in the landscape.
The more I looked, the more I discovered subjects to photograph as well as opportunities to view subjects from different angles. The Arboretum is a sloping, terraced sight which is great for gaining elevation and shooting from unusual angles. Even some of the anti-social behaviour has offered opportunities (I assume the dog sculpture below wasn't originally created with a moustache!)
The fountains within The Arboretum are the focus of those 'photos' I refer to above and they are undeniably photogenic but just like the park as a whole, offer so much more to discover, particular in detail, colour & texture. Maybe, just like me, people need to take time to explore, open their minds a little and discover the unique charm of this park.
The park was quiet when I visited but I couldn't resist including some of the people using it to add a little colour and animation.
The Arboretum is on the north side of Monks Road, Lincoln & below the County Hospital. Car parking is on street in the Monks Road area or (as I did) on Lindum Terrace above the Arboretum. Parking here allows you to walk down into the park but does mean you have to 'climb' back up via the steps or steeper paths. There are lots of buses running along Monks Road and the park is only a short walk from the City Centre.
The Arboretum is a surprisingly beautiful space within a very busy, populated area of the City but one which deserves to be visited, explored & enjoyed. I can't wait to visit again but hopefully next time there'll be a little more colour to see and perhaps more people to bring the space to life. Maybe I'll see you there next time but if you visit please take your time to discover your own unique details, views and images, you'll be surprised at what you find and you'll leave with images full of personality.
Here's the photo I've been waiting to share for 8 months. That's how long I've been training for my first 'half ironman' triathlon the Nottingham Outlaw Half.
We all know photographs can be special for all sorts of reasons, not always obvious. When I first started taking part in triathlons I was four & half stones heavier and certainly wouldn't have shared a photo like this! It's an official finish line photo and I'm mid-sprint finish (no, really I am sprinting!).
What really makes this photo special though is it encapsulates 8 months of training & preparation, being part of an incredible team (100%Tri) and the whole race which lasted 5 hours and 46 minutes. There's one last thing about the photo though, that no one else would see ... see that face in the background by my right elbow, the face wearing sunglasses and looking towards me? That's Karen my wife. Karen came out to see me throughout the bike leg & then travelled to the finish to see me on the run & finish line. What I didn't know until about 5 seconds before this photo was taken was she'd gone back to Newark to pick up my oldest son who'd secretly travelled down from York early on the morning to see me at the finish, he's stood next to her.
This is why photography's so special - every picture tells a story - and we get to write that story and put it in front of our 'readers'.
I competed in the Nottingham Outlaw Half in support of The Nomad Trust. If you can, please support them to provide vital services to those less fortunate by sponsoring me here
Through the Lens Photography are supporting The Nomad Trust as our chosen charity. Adam, our lead photographer and keen triathlete is racing in the Outlaw Half triathlon on Sunday 20th May. 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike & 13.1 run all hopefully within 6 hours!
We're into the last two weeks of preparation for the Outlaw Half Triathlon and I'm now 'tapering', a technical term for taking it easier now to conserve/build energy & avoid injury.
My last preparation race was this weekend at the Clumber Park Duathlon, a 10km run, 40km bike and another run for 5km. After last week when it was so cold at the Lincoln Triathlon coming off the bike I was struggling to unzip my helmet, this week I got sunburned!!
As well as finalising my plans for the race I'm also making the last push to support The Nomad Trust with sponsorship. If you haven't already sponsored me and are able to do so you can here; https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/awinf1
It's ironic that I seem to be in the right place at the right time for decent race photos!
Race organisers will shortly be providing race details including a spectator's guide. The Outlaw is a spectacular event to see with approximately 1600 athletes swimming, cycling & running and there are some great viewing spots, I'll share the guide as soon as I can.
The race is also a great opportunity to practice your sports/action photography!
I'm racing this year as part of the fantastic 100% Tri team. A fantastic chance to receive the type of professional coaching and support normally only available to sponsored teams and top-flight athletes. If you're interested in taking up triathlon check out 100% Tri here
In just over six weeks I'll be taking part in the Nottingham Half Outlaw, an 'IronMan' triathlon race and will be doing so in support of Lincoln's Nomad Trust. If you can support me with a donation here's my Just Giving Page
The Nomad Trust is a local charity which provides welfare services in the City of Lincoln for those who are homeless or otherwise in need. They are currently raising funds to develop a new centre for the homeless in Lincoln. Their current facility is only open from 8:30pm till 8am everyday, meaning, those in need currently have no where to access during the day to receive support and guidance. The Nomad Centre aims to provide 24/7 support where homeless people know they can access caring, professional help to rebuild their lives.
The Nottingham Half Outlaw is based at Holme Pierrepoint and incorporates the local roads out to Southwell & Bottesford. It starts with a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike & concludes with a 13.1 mile half marathon. All as a non-stop race where I hope to be finished within six hours, or there-abouts.
I began to compete in triathlons eighteen months ago as part of a personal fitness 'kick' & have completed a a handful of short distance 'sprint' races as well as a slightly longer 'olympic' distance race since. Competing in the half Ironman distance though is a whole different level & has involved a tough training programme throughout the winter.
The amazing coaches at 100% Tri have been instrumental in my preparation and the whole team membership & coaching has been a fantastic experience.
This weekend, April 7th sees me compete in my first race of the season after a couple of false starts due to the weather. I have races in Lincoln, Clumber Park & Southwell coming up as part of my preparations for the Outlaw so watch out for more details & photos.
I hope you'll feel that The Nomad Trust is a worthy local cause and if you do please think of supporting me with sponsorship at my
In advance of Saturday's WorldWide Photowalk at Doddington Hall I thought I'd share some photographs to provide some inspiration, some ideas and a preview of our location for the morning.
The Kitchen Garden at Doddington is a very traditional, busy garden which has found new life supplying the incredibly popular cafe, restaurant and farm shop on site. It's full of interesting colours, textures & patterns, perfect for a photographer.
The Fish Pond is a semi-formal pond with a 'Monet style' footbridge. Walking around the pond opens up a variety of back drops, from trees to views of the estate.
The yard contains a collection of wooden carts which offer a range of opportunities for detail studies.
The WorldWide Photowalk, Lincoln UK has been fully booked for some time but you can still find out more and register on the waiting list at http://worldwidephotowalk.com
This is World Champion & World Record holder Jayne Paine.
I met Jayne whilst photographing the Lincoln Grand Prix cycle race. I was stood waiting for the Ladies race to pass by and noticed a rider had “paused” on a previous lap, she had clearly battled hard and I felt her exertions were written across her face.
I went across and asked if I could take her photograph, this is the result.
What I didn’t expect was then to be told that Jayne is a reigning World Champion & World Record holder, how cool!
As we chatted Jayne (or probably more accurately her companion) told me she was the World Masters Pursuit Champion, she had also set a new age group World Record on the way to the title. Additionally she was the oldest entrant to the Ladies race that morning and proceeded to describe just how hard the Lincoln Grand Prix course had been and how shocked she’d been during her reconnaissance ride the day before.
When we photograph an event, location or even just a subject we come across we approach it with pre-conceived ideas. I confess, my plan was to photograph the racers streaming through Newport Arch with all the speed, colour and atmosphere I could cram onto my sensor. I got those shots & loads more great ones during the day but the one thing that struck me was how, even getting close to the riders, they remain anonymous beyond the grimaces, pained expressions and odd expletive muttered during another endless climb of Michaelgate! Taking a moment to spot something on the periphery, to go over and chat, ask to take a photo, opened up a whole new story and produced a unique image that I'm very proud of and stands out amongst the day.
Don't be so focussed on a primary objective as to be blinkered to everything else. Ask yourself what the story is and importantly where the supporting stories are lurking, you might be surprised by what what you find, you'll definitely have fun looking and if all else fails your primary objective will still be there for you.
I'm delighted to have been admitted to Licentiateship of the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) in the Commercial Photography category.
Unlike many other institutes & societies, the BIPP maintain a strict entry criteria involving portfolio review by an expert panel, rather than simply paying an annual fee.
The recognition of excellence by an expert panel of my peers is really important to me. It validates the hard work in striving to provide the very best quality of image and level of service. It also provides confirmation of the positive direction the development of my photography is taking.
For my Clients, both current & future, it's a powerful, impartial assurance of the quality they are guaranteed when they utilise my services.
Being a professional photographer sometimes feels like swimming against an ever stronger tide in maintaining the highest of standards and so receiving recognition is important in maintaining that effort, especially when it's by experts within the same field. The sheer accessibility of good quality cameras (from smartphones to dSLRs) and the ability to instantly reach a huge audience has resulted in an acceptance of reduced quality. How many times do we see mediocre or even poor photographs receive praise from an audience that knows no better?
I'm very proud to receive positive feedback and glowing testimonials on an almost daily basis as well as work with a range of Clients with whom I continually work to develop & improve my imagery.
Admission to Licentiateship therefore reinforces and validates the feedback and confirms I'm going in the right direction. Find out more about The BIPP here
click on any image to see full size
During the summer of 2016 I visited the sculpture exhibition at Doddington Hall, Lincoln. Doddington hosts a sculpture exhibition every two years within it's extensive formal gardens and clearly it has become a very significant event attracting noteworthy artists and impressive works of art.
I live close to Doddington Hall, visit it regularly and know it well but this is the first time I had visited the Sculpture Exhibition, it left we wondering why I hadn't been before, it was spectacular.
Photographically speaking, living close means my social media streams are full of photos of the sculptures over the summer and this maybe explains why I haven't been more motivated to visit in previous years. Sculptures are displayed in a very careful manner to show them off at their best so the majority of photos are very similar, photographed at eye level from the 'obvious' viewpoints.
Trying to photograph in a unique manner is extremely difficult in this situation but I approached my visit with an open mind and spent some time on a beautiful late summer afternoon exploring the exhibition, the environment and trying to discover the personality of the overall event.
Whilst the sculptures are very beautiful, fascinating & at times very thought provoking the aspect that I felt makes this event unique is the environment & location of each item within the landscape of the gardens themselves. It becomes very clear that the exhibition is very carefully & expertly curated and the sculptures draw so much from their surroundings, including those surroundings therefore provides a unique context & takes simple photos of the sculptures to another level.
The challenge to producing good images at times is separating a subject from it's background and when sculptures are produced from or created in the form of natural materials this can be difficult. This collection of winged figures makes a perfect triptych but in order to maintain consistency of image, they needed 'lifting; from their background with a wide aperture.
Its an indication of the success of the exhibition that wandering through the gardens you can't help but spot the inspiration that nature provides. Shooting these details closely cropped with just a hint of surroundings allows the viewer to fill in the space with their own imagination, the phrase 'less is more' is one I use often.
The 'Doddington Dragon' was a stunning welcome to the exhibition and a real demonstration of accessible art. A willow creation by Carole Beavis, visitors were encouraged to take a swatch of fabric and attach it to the sculpture. Over the duration of the installation the Dragon came to life with colour & movement as the swatches intermingled & fluttered in the breeze.
Choosing a high contrast black & white conversion enhances the texture & pattern of the woven willow, exposing another dimension to figure otherwise 'hidden' behind the distraction of colour.
all photographs taken on Canon 7d with 18-55mm f2.8 lens set in aperture priority at all times, ISO100 and processed in Adobe Lightroom.
In December 2016 I was commissioned to photograph a Corporate Reception within The Palace of Westminster. Held in The Strangers Dining Room, a reception room for The House of Commons, the event bought together industry experts from across the country for networking, discussion and speeches by MP's & a Government Minister.
Entering the Palace of Westminster via heavy security at Portcullis House was an experience in itself and we were quickly whisked through Westminster Hall and the stunningly ornate St Stephen's Hall to Central Lobby to wait for our room to be available. Photography isn't permitted in Central Lobby (despite being stood next to TV cameras filming a live interview) so the camera stayed in the bag until we were ushered to our room.
The Strangers Dining Room is a lavish wood paneled room with a heavily ornate ceiling overlooking the Terrace and the River Thames. A small platform was erected for the speeches and the evening revolved around photographing the attendees and the speakers.
On departure I took the opportunity to grab some photos of St Stephen's Hall and New Palace Yard.
If you're organising or attending a corporate event, conference or trade show anywhere in the UK give me a call, drop me an email or complete the contact form to discuss how I can capture the event.
I was recently commisioned to photograph a multi day, international conference at The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.
The European Road Infrastructure Congress (ERIC) 2016 brought together industry representatives, academics, policy makers, research institutes and road authorities from across the continent to network, engage and share their knowledge. As well as a series of conferences, talks, workshops and debates the event hosted a major trade show and, across two days of attendance I photographed the whole range of activities.
The congress was held across a number of venues at the Armouries including rooms within the Museum building as well as the separate conference centre.
If you are arranging or taking part in a conference, trade show or other corporate event get in touch now to discuss how we can ensure you capture the very best images to publicise your message and future events.