Thursday, 26 November 2009

Old photographs influence the way I work

This morning saw another local networking meeting, and my turn to give a 10-minute update about just what GBP is all about. At times like these, it's very tempting to go full-force into the 'official' promo blurb about professional digital imaging, how I work closely with my clients, building up one's status, blah, blah, blah...

But as regular followers will know, either via the GBP Blog or my Twitter feed, that's not my style. I'm far too down-to-earth, and perhaps far too honest, about the reality of the way I operate day-to-day. I don't like BS and I don't like people who are blatantly out to impress in an all-out blagging fashion (transparency, in such individuals, is not a good quality!).

So, the basis of my presentation today was to turn things around... ignoring the technical, the corporate, the case study, the computers... instead concentrating on what I know best - me, and specifically, how my passion for old photographs directly influences the way I work.

The picture on the left here is a quick scan showing a number of cartes de vistes dating back to the mid-1800s (ok, to be picky, perhaps I should refer to the larger ones as 'cabinet cards'... but that's not important now).

CDVs have a quality all of their own. Sometimes haunting, always intriguing, they link us with our past and, by default, help create and shape our sense of identity. I always get sucked in by good examples of vintage photography, to the point where my computer Bookmarks folder is bulging and my collection of reference books/cuttings/hastily-jotted notes is dictating the practicality and layout of my office space!

Cutting to the chase, what does this amount to? Simple answer - visual awareness.

By default, the 'source imagery' that I consume also informs, inspires and directly influences the work I produce both for personal projects and for my commercial clients. Maybe a lighting technique, maybe a method of posing subjects, maybe even a colour balance; I never know from where the next moment of inspiration will strike - but it's always an interesting process when it does.

We are all familiar with the process of taking family snaps. And at first, such a loosely-bound approach to photography may seem worlds apart from what you'd expect in my day-to-day high-level work. But there is a common thread between the two - the balance of formal/informal conventions...

I like to work in a relaxed way, regardless of my subject matter. Whether it's a high-brow global corporate or an up-and-coming local musician, I always draw, as much as possible, on my knowledge, passion and interest in order to produce imagery that everyone - myself included - is delighted with.

As such, it is very rare that I produce stiff, 'deer-caught-in-the-headlights' portraits (as often seen in 'traditional' studio shots); much more appealing is to get people relaxed, laughing, enjoying the experience rather than fearing the camera as the cold, hard, recording device that it once was. Often, my subjects aren't even aware of the camera, crazy as that might seem - which is why they look so much more 'themeselves' in the resulting photographs.

What inspires you? What are your experiences of having your picture taken? I want to know - and the best way to tell me is either via the comments section below or by connecting in real-time via Twitter.

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