My journey in photography originated with a Pentax K1000 SLR with Pentax 18-55mm f/1.8 lens, shooting Ilford B&W film and processing myself – first at college and then at home.
I loved how analogue cameras and analogue film gave such a feeling of control within the shot and look back on that experience as a priceless foundation in my development in photography but also found it to be a critical basis for understanding digital image processing and understanding software technique. I still have the K1000 for sentimental reasons but don’t shoot with it anymore.
In 2007 I was working much more actively on a personal series – with large format prints by professional labs and when awarded a Rhubarb Rhubarb Bursary in 2008 it had become apparent that continuing to shoot analogue film was just not sustainable in terms of cost, cycle times and repeatable print quality – it was time to take what felt like a leap of faith into the unknown world of digital photography.
Given the results and familiarity I’d had with Pentax it seemed a logical and loyal transition to try the Pentax K10D with Pentax 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and Sigma 70-210mm f/4-5.6 lenses.
I was primarily shooting free hand at the time, working on a documentary/fine art series and the transition to digital was challenging at first – the body felt heavier – but the frame capacity and being able to view instantly what had been shot gave a previously incomprehensible amount of additional freedom with the camera.
As I continued to learn and develop with the Pentax K10D my work took on a different direction into portraiture and the demands of sometimes low lighting conditions brought about a realisation that it was time to upgrade to a camera that would be able to meet the demands of needing to make larger prints and still keep excellent definition.
After researching, I decided to invest in a Nikon D750 with Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5, an Ultimax 72mm wide angle – especially good for some of my commercial work – and XJT Pro 72mm telephoto lens, with the Nikon 24-85mm mostly used for my current projects, with encouraging results.
Most of my portraits are shot using a lightweight Helios IPT-188 tripod, purchased with the Pentax K1000 and never used much until I started to shoot portraits. Where extra lighting is required I use umbrella light stands but generally prefer to shoot with natural light where possible.
A studio backdrop stand is another essential and my collection of backdrops is ever growing. If travelling for pleasure as opposed to location shooting I take my Pentax MX-1 24mm f/1.8 as it is ideal, lightweight, easy to handle and produces excellent results even in challenging light conditions.
As a fine art photographer I have accumulated many props over the years from old furniture to wigs, wedding dresses, costumes and even two full-size mannequins. I hardly ever get rid of any old props as I never know what might be needed in the future but storage of these can be an issue and at some point may need a much larger storage facility.
I work alone and am very much hands-on and very resourceful, making quite a lot of the outfits used in my photographs, such as the red shoes used in the Not In Kansas series.
I love the creative process from the initial concept through to making it all come together in the finished photograph. I’m always excited and challenged to be planning the next image and figuring out how to make it work.
I once read an article by another photographer who listed all the jobs undertaken when you work alone – from location scout, make-up artist, props researcher, buyer, producer, photographer, image re-toucher – the list went on, and really struck a chord in that the finished photograph really is the product of a lot of work over a period of time.