"For, if the eye is a miraculous thing, it is necessary to know how to use it, as I have used mine; it has become a real, soft, psychedelic camera. I can cause it to make photographic negatives, not of exterior things, but of the visions of my thoughts."  SALVADOR DALI

I imagine that any photographer who wishes to move or challenge the eye of those looking at his or her images will have, even if only subconsciously, put something of the vision of his or her thoughts into those photographs, thus revealing something about how that photographer's eye not only looks at, but also sees the world.


"There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists."   E.H. Gombrich (The Story of Art)

A painting, a sculpture, a drawing, a watercolour, a photograph, a collage, a mobile...one way of seeing such creations is as objects: objects that hang on a wall, stand on a plinth, are uncoveredin an artist's portfolio, grace a political or advertising poster, illustrate an article in a magazine or newspaper... However, when we visit a gallery for instance, more often than not, such an institution presents these 'objects' as works of Art.. thereby according them the status that comes with labelling them Art. And we collude with such galleries as we tend to expect that is what we are going to see when we visit such exhibitions... works of Art.

So what was Gombrich saying? He goes on to state: "There is no harm in calling all these activities (painting, sculpting, etc) art, as long as we keep in mind that such a word may mean many different things in different times and places, and as long as we realise that Art with a capital A has no existence".

Because what Gombrich feels is that, calling something a work of Art confuses those looking at it by giving the onlooker a preconception that can distort his or her response to, and perception of, that work. I believe this has become especially true in today's world where we have become obsessed with the monetary value of a work of art and, in many cases, are encourage to determine a work's quality or significance according to how much someone haspaid for it.

Maybe we should just ask: Do I like what I see? Do I admire it for the composition, the skill, the daring, the way it makes me look at the world anew? Do I want it in my house because I will enjoy looking at it day after day?

And not care whether we or someone else has labelled it ART?

Darkroom and Digital

I am just about to open a new exhibition on April 1st - no, not an April Fool! - and, as with all my previous post-digital exhibitions, I will include some black and white images taken on film and processed in the darkroom. One reason why I include both 'digital' and 'darkroom' is that I want people to see the difference (and there is a difference, particularly with black and white images). Printing of digital images has become infinitely better in recent years - reds are truer when it comes to colour (and now approximate those wonderful Kodachrome reds one exploited when taking slide film), blacks are deeper, but still feel closer to the surface than the rich coal black one could achieve on Grade 6 paper in the darkroom.

However, I am not saying one is better than the other, only that both have their unique qualities, each requires different skills in the photographer, so we should do our best to make sure the digital age doesn't close the darkroom door for ever.

Note that I didn't entitle this blog Digital vs Darkroom. Although my eye does it in a different way, I still use skills I honed in the darkroom when I now work on a screen. Maybe because one worked virtually in the dark, a comforting red glow like a halo never quite filling the room, that one's eye was sharpened and composition, exposure, focus demanded all one's concentration. I am sure some people worked with music in the background but, having printed in a number of darkrooms, I never found that to be the case. It was as if music would be a distraction for what quickly became, if one was in for a long session, a ritual, and the magical appearance of the image through the chemicals something spiritual. There are moments sitting in front of the screen when one sees magic happen too - but I have never found working on digital quite as compelling.

And, at some point, I will tell you the story of how I almost became locked in a school darkroom for a whole weekend...



Firstly, it was inevitable that Shakespeare would make an appearance in, or have an influence on this website in some way or another.  His words are never far from my thoughts.

Secondly, photography does, literally and metaphorically, hold a mirror up to nature. The mirror inside the camera casing guides the image onto the sensors (or film). And those who look at the images that emerge on the computer screen (or still, occasionally, out of the darkroom) are, in effect, seeing a type of mirror image, sometimes distorted, sometimes painfully immediate, of scenes we encounter in every day life as well as extraordinary situations.

And we should not assume 'nature' refers solely to the various 'landscapes' around us. Shakespeare was also referring to human nature. Just as his plays explore human nature in all its complexity, from pure evil to selfless sacrifice in the name of good...so the camera wherever it is carried can be found recording similar acts of cruelty or compassion. Thus, both the writing of a play and the taking of a photograph become an invaluable record of the diversity of human behaviour, its beauty but also its ugliness. And, when either genre aspires to, or achieves greatness, initiates a dialogue with its 'audience'.


''When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence''  Ansel Adams

Adams, the photographer who captured the grandeur of nature like no other, reveals how its unspoilt beauty induces humility, as he recognises that there are times when the image, even when visualised by a photographer as visionary as he was, is unable to capture its magnificence.


''It is an illusion that photographs are taken with the camera - they are made with the eye, heart and head'' - Henri Cartier-Bresson

Eye, heart and head.

All visual artists talk about 'having an eye'...the ability to compose, to see the relation between objects, objects and the space they inhabit.

The 'head' - the planning beforehand. The technical decisions made about shutter and speed in the moment and, once the photograph has been created, unravelling its meaning.

However, for me, the 'heart' is often the most interesting one. Photographers like Don McCullin in the midst of a conflict facing difficult moral decisions; asking: do I observe and record, or becomedirectly involved? Photographers like Sebastiao Salgado who know the power of an image to create a political agenda because their humanity wishes to uncover the injustices and inequalities in this world. The image becomes their way of expressing fundamental feelings about their view of the world. The relationship between photography and conscience is a fascinating one.

And, for me? Open the heart when taking portraits to absorb more than just the surface image of your sitter. Feel a beautiful dawn before taking the image so that it captures some of its emotional power. Open your heart and photographs have the opportunity not just to record the moment but to become visual poems. 



In the early seventies John Berger wrote:

''When an image is presented as a work of art, the way people look at it is affected by a whole series of learnt assumptions about art, assumptions concerning: Beauty, Truth, Culture and Civilisation, Form, Taste, Status, etc.'' (Ways of Seeing)

It is no surprise therefore that many painters, sculptors and photographers who exhibit their work in a gallery say to those who view it: 'trust your intuitive, your gut reaction'

Do you like it or not? Does it move you? Does it speak to you? Do you want to look at it again?

These questions are often answered instinctively in the fist few moments of looking at a work of art. Trust those reactions before you begin any intellectual analysis of the work or ask 'what does it mean?' 


Photography has no rules. It is not a sport. It is the result which counts, no matter how it is achieved. - Bill Brandt

I see Bill Brandt's wonderfully uncompromising statement reflected in his remarkable photographs of nudes taken with the ultra-wide angle lens he loved. And in his commitment to the high contrast print that gives his work a stark, unflinching quality.

Once a photographer has developed his or her 'style', the final image is already in the mind even before the shutter is activated. Instinctively or subconsciously, it is not just the composition but the anticipated impact we hope the photograph will have on the viewer that is already transforming the subject photographed in the moment into the framed object placed on the wall.

Dawn...and Dusk

Photographers wake early to watch the miracle of light appear once again. This morning, vapour trails were left bleeding by an imperious sun.


"Photography can be an expression of man's deepest creative instincts".   Richard Avedon  

And the moral of that statement? Don't let the 'technical' aspects of photography be an artificial barrier to an expression of those instincts. Technology should be the slave not the master.


Carry a camera and it makes you look at everything with a different eye. Everyday things you would normally walk past without a second glance come to life as you explore angles, shadows and juxtapositions of colour. Go for a walk to a familiar place with your camera and see for yourself. See again, see better.

Mike's Blog - welcome

Welcome to my website. Photography is now at the heart of how we all view the world and ourselves. It is not surprising, then, that in the last 30 or so years it has multiplied its uses, its styles, its methods of expression, many times.

The digital revolution has, of course, been key to this change and, although I still love classic, traditional black and white images, especially those created in the darkroom, any current photographer who turns his or her back on the versatility and potential of the digital image is either very brave or very blinkered. Or a bit of both!                                                                     MIM