I admit I’ve always been an acutely visual person, with an instinctive appreciation of visual arts, although growing up as a post-war kid didn’t give you much room for exploring any ambitious pretentions in that area.
I wasn't much of a painter at school, preferring instead the precision of a line drawing to the ‘atmosphere’ of a watercolour wash; but perhaps that's where the seeds were sown. Thinking back, I can’t recall exactly when I consciously ‘realised’ that photography would be my way of distilling a ‘moment’ from a visually compelling scene, but I knew I would never make a painter. Who knows how these things get triggered?
the dawn of the darkroom
I was in my early twenties when I first became interested in photojournalism and 'candid' images or, as it’s called these days, Street Photography. I was fascinated by the visual impact of monochrome and with the images made by the great photographers working in black and white. To me it was visual ‘poetry’, capturing and crystalising the ‘drama’ of a visual moment; condensing it into its essence – devoid of distracting colour, but packed with potential interpretations.
The more I thought about it, there was something deeply appealing about conceiving an image, in monochrome, in the mind’s eye, discovering the unique location or choosing the ‘decisive moment’, composing and exposing the frame and then, in the darkroom, working diligently from the latent film image all the way through to a beautifully printed, mounted exhibition print. So, to learn how, I apprenticed myself to a local photographer, Peter Gant ARPS, who generously volunteered to teach me the in-camera and development techniques, the chemical formulations and processes, as well as the darkroom, printing and mounting techniques, every part of which had to be thoroughly understood and repeatedly practised. I was deeply fascinated, learned quickly and progressed rapidly under his guidance. Peter was a true Master and I’ve been trying to get it right ever since.
the digital horizon
It’s wonderful to see how photography has changed since my first 'serious' efforts with a newly acquired Canon FTb-N in 1973. Then, one couldn't have foreseen how photography would evolve into what it is today. Fast forward to the present day, after a multi-year sabbatical and Digital, for me, presents a new freedom. I still pursue the very same photographic values and standards Peter taught me, but have new possibilities in the ‘electronic darkroom’. I expect digital technology, eventually, to surpass that of analog film in every respect, but it’s very hard to beat the look of a ‘traditional’ monochrome print. They’re just different. We must make the most of its considerable potential. Everything moves on.
Leaving aside the technical changes since the seventies, astounding though they are, the abiding themes have been my constant love of image making, my search for personal improvement and the never ending pursuit of photographic excellence. Hard task masters. So I have applied myself, with cyclic obsessiveness, to this infinitely rewarding journey and I wish you the greatest success on yours.