It’s well over a year since I’ve written in my blog. Moving house twice, filming in Africa, shivering in Siberia and back and forward to the States, it has all been a little bonkers. In amongst the madness has been the arrival of Biggles to our home. He’s just over a year old now and has become such a part of the family that it’s hard to remember what life was like without him. Alongside getting a dog, I also invested in new camera kit. I’ve replaced my old Nikon D200 with a D610 and a new suite of relatively fast lenses to fit its full size sensor. There is something about being back in the familliar territory of 35mm focal lengths that I’m finding has rekindled my enthusiasm for photography. The new Nikon is a beast to get used to but I can see endless possibilities. The shot above of Biggles was taken using a 50mm lens fully open at f1.4. Critically low depth of field and virtually impossible to get sharp without autofocus. It is amazing how technology is changing the way we make pictures and so see the world.
I know this sounds like a sponsored advert but I love Snapseed. It’s a great photo app I have on my iPhone. It’s got more controls than Instagram and is really easy to use. I like it much more than Adobe Photoshop’s app which is great news as I have a real problem with Adobe. In my experience they have the worst customer service I’ve ever encountered and any competition that threatens to break their stranglehold on the market of digital image manipulation is good news. Above is a picture I took through the window of a plane over NYC last week and worked on with Snapseed. Below is the original picture.
On Friday, someone who’d looked up my blog asked me why I stopped being a professional photographer and ended up a television producer. I’ve been asked that question many times and it always seems loaded, like there is a judgment in the question. My offpat answer has always been that I got lonely as a snapper in the Highlands and Islands.
Inspired by the question, I picked these pictures to illustrate the idea of my romantic isolation and then realized that apart from the canal picture, the other two are actually collaborations. The picture of Malcy Maclean on the beach was a joint project with his national Gaelic arts project in the 80’s. We made a series of posters attempting to highlight the perilous state of the Gaelic language at that time in Scotland.
The images of the Burka clad women in Kabul Market was taken for another collaboration. This time with writer Henry Naylor, when we produced a play called ‘Finding Bin Laden‘ (starring Nina Conti and Dave Lamb, now better known as Mr Come Dine With Me) at the Edinburgh Festival to draw attention to the conspiracy between the military and the media in Afghanistan in 2003.
So it seems that even as a photographer I’ve been drawn to working with others to create images and longer-form narratives. Looking back, the move into television – the business, the teams, the way moving images and words come together in scenes, shows and series – was inevitable but there is nagging doubt that I have betrayed a true love.
It’s nearly a year since I first flew into the wonderland of Alaska. Just the fall and big snow to come until the season is complete and the circle closes. It’s been an intense encounter with a truly amazing part of the world. I’m always so busy when I’m on the ground that it seems that it’s only whilst I’m in the air I can find time to take a snap. And it is snaps I take. I’m less and less interested in Cameras these days because I can’t find one that’s invisible. The closest I get to it is my Blackberry. There’s little consideration of settings, lenses etc, only aquisition. Recently, when I was looking at my father’s often two dimensional photographs, I worked out that he took pictures to capture places as trophies and return to friends and family with evidence of his independence. He made slide shows, I make a blog. We are trophotographers.
Lifting my head and looking around me, the buzz of work has gone and I see art on every wall. Whether it’s tagging on the village streets, Picasso’s and Cezanne’s paintings or photo exhibitions galore, I’m electrified and inspired by how others see the world.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Recontres de la Photographie d’Arles – a major photographic event by any reckoning. Many great photographers have shown their pictures here. We braved the 40°C heat long enough to view just a few of the 60 exhibitions, but three bodies of work really struck me.
Without Sanctuary is a shamefully banal series of postcards taken and published by Southern photographers of lynched African Americans. The collection is from the Centre for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and shows just what an incredible leap forward has been made with the election of Barak Obama.
Eugene Richards‘ haunting images of deserted houses in America’s Mid West were shot just before ‘the crash’ and remind me of McCarthy’s ‘The Road’. Willy Ronis, is one of France’s great humanist photographers. He’s nearly a hundred years old and his work glows with life, wisdom and dignity.
Since starting my blog, I’ve been forced to reassess why I continue to take pictures and publish them. It’s years since I earned my living as a photographer, so why bother?
Seeing these walls around me, I’m inspired by insight and commitment. Looking at my blog afresh I realise I am enthralled. Photography is still my first language and my love. For better or for worse I have an passion for people, a desire for them to understand the world the way I see it, and the need for a wall to hang my pictures on.