I’ll be the first to admit that I could feel all interest in my landscape photography floating away on the wind and rain of recent weeks. I’m guessing I’m not alone either – simply put Autumn has been rough and with that comes impatience and black days of artistic depression. Endless grey is stifling and all it does is darken my mood. Worse still, my failure to ignite any competition success (it’s all relative) with my landscapes led me to start really questioning what I’ve been focussing my interest on. The pinnacle came about six weeks ago in October when it seems that there was a photograph of a misty beech tree on every page of the internet, one or two photographers were even brave enough to point that out…
What have I become as a photographer? A slave to one subject matter? I actually shoot all manner of different things but show a very small amount, I have a problem visualising what this looks like side-by-side on my website which is after all titled Art Of The Landscape. However it was time to set myself a new challenge to try and turn the after-burners back on creatively speaking, I just needed a subject that connected with the landscape without it being about the landscape so that it wouldn’t completely jar with what I’ve already put out there.
For those that know their ancient history, I spent years shooting wildlife but it was an incredibly frustrating backdrop to my landscape photography. Back then it was Attenborough who had inspired me to photograph and not surprisingly it is he again who has galvanised me to connect with the natural world. Sir David’s latest BBC series The Hunt is his crowning glory, an utterly spectacular series of studies into the battle for survival across the planet. Unfortunately I neither have the funds or the skill to collect imagery like that but at least I can try and find a small project and do the best I can to create compelling, interesting and artistic photography on something Attenborough foolishly overlooked – Leicester’s pigeons.
I’ve worked at a University in Leicester for the last three years and a five minute walk from my building takes you to the calm waters of the River Soar. Like any British waterway there’s an abundance of life there, a large number of Mute Swans, Canada Geese, incredibly noisy Black Headed Gulls but most interestingly of all two very large colonies of city pigeons. They’re almost like anti-subject matter. I imagine that if asked, most people would say they don’t really like pigeons – like rats they seem to eat anything, they certainly spend a lot of time waddling around on the ground and most likely carry a fair amount of disease. Who’s going to photograph a grey scruffy pigeon while there are graceful white swans gliding along the river? Well as it turns out, me.
I’ve watched these birds for a couple of years, marvelled at their acrobatics, speed, sheer pack mentality, they have a massive personality, they have a unique walk, comedy timing, they are utterly greedy selfish birds yet clearly have a caring side and look out for each other in the flock. It’s a captivating recipe and photographically has massive variety and appeal, at least to me. So I started to pack my Nikon Df every day with a couple of light all manual primes. Crazy as that sounds I didn’t want this to be easy – I wanted the images to be hard-fought, I wanted to work for my art and reignite my imagination and skills again. I wanted to be a real photographer again and it worked. After much deliberation and despite some wonderful colours I decided that a mono series would provide the right focus. I was after the possibilities of over-whelming textures, patterns, visual confusion, random patterns, using super-thin depth of field for subject isolation was also important at times. Plays on light and shadow were incredibly important as usual – in the end I’m addicted to contrasts, how light shows as much as it hides.
The series remains a work in progress. There are a couple of things I haven’t really tried yet – my Tilt Shift lens definitely needs an outing for this project as does some Infrared (just to see what happens). In the meantime, you can see the fifty-two photographs I’ve drawn from around 10,000 I’ve taken so far (the volume of failure doesn’t concern me, I’ll call that the “creative process”) BY CLICKING HERE.
In the meantime, a couple of personal favourites are above and below. I hope you enjoy the series as much as I have so far…