Two of the greats in the history of contemporary music since the 1970/80s, both showmen, both fearless in their experimentation, stretching the boundaries of rock, pop, call it what you will. Both with voices one recognised in seconds, writing songs that could cover any subject from politics to sex in a way that felt entirely committed, fresh and often provocative.

At times like this, of course, their lives are remembered not just in words but in images. And in Prince and Bowie you have two of the most distinctive characters visually that rock has ever produced, each chameleon-like in their exploration of different personae, each of which changed with and then embodied the feel and rhythm of their music perfectly. They will be sorely missed, but the archive of images they leave behind means their legacy will live on as vividly for how they matched appearance to performance as for the peerless music they made.




The final reason for the need to photograph everything lies in the very logic of consumption itself. To consume means to burn, to use up, and therefore the need to be replenished.
As we make images and consume them, we need still more images; and still more.                                                (Susan Sontag)  


Of all Sontag's bold statements about photography in many ways this one has the greatest ring of truth. It is so easy to take photographs, to create images in a world where we are already continually surrounded and bombarded by photographs in magazines, newspapers, billboards, the television and, in particular, the net, that it has become equally easy to discard them as if they have no more than superficial value. The most intimate and graphic photographs are so commonplace now, with sexual imagery used to sell even the most banal of commodities, they appear to have no shock value whatsoever. Moreover, when it comes to images of violence we have become frighteningly desensitised to their impact.

Yet, photographs are still taken that make one take a second and third look and then remain in our memory long after we think we will have discarded them. Maybe it is because their beauty appears to transcend the artificiality we see dressed up as beauty all too often. Or because a courageous photographer in a warzone still finds that one image which manages to shock yet also reminds us of man's dignity in the face of adversity. And, just as there are still good Samaritans to be found, so there are still acts of selflessness and kindness to be captured that remind us we are social beings who rely on each other's empathy and compassion.

Therefore, whilst we are still able to sift diamonds from the glass, the true from the fake, the lovingly composed insight from the fast paced, commercially driven paparazzi shot, this level of consumption need not drown us.



Snapchat – disposable photography: taken in less than 1 second, vanishes in 10.

Sexting – the human body as provocative image? Much more likely a victim bullied into exposure.

Polaroid – can’t wait – I need that image as tactile object NOW

Selfie – an affirmation of one's everyday self, or a fear of disappearing like a Cheshire cat into no more than a smile?

Portrait – putting on a face to greet the faces that you meet?…or THE REAL YOU?...Whoever that might be…

Photoshopping – cheating, deceiving, manipulative? Or technically skilful?

Paparazzi – a stalker with a long lens

Snapshot – a photo that seems to speed up time before stopping it dead…for ever. And then is buried in an album


‘The news that the camera could lie made being photographed desirable and much more popular’.        Susan Sontag

Building up to my talk this Friday evening as part of the exhibition (The camera never lies...the devious art of the photographer). Sontag's statement, taken from her seminal book 'On Photography' seems a very good place to start. From photoshopping for the 'perfect' figure to the use of cropped or manipulated photographs for propaganda or satire...I am hoping to generate a lively discussion. Watch this space.



Photography links people together as no other art form, especially in the age of mobile phones whereby someone in Australia can take and send an image which is received by someone in the UK in seconds. But photography also divides people, especially when it comes to those who like and defend one form of photography above all others, whilst at the same time regarding those 'others' as being somehow 'impure'.

For many years I was certainly a black and white, 'neg' and darkroompurist. I shunned digital cameras and the software that allowed the images produced by them to be 'developed' on a computer. And, even today, after using digital cameras for about 18 years, if someone said you can use only one method, take only one type of photograph, I would opt for traditional black and white. From my perspective, there are still images that work only by applying the principles of black and white photography, especially images that call for high contrast.

So, what made me embrace the digital age? Even during my predominantly black and white years I had taken coloured slides - mainly on Ektachrome film. The subject matter was invariably much more abstract - slabs of colour juxtaposed in architectural settings, the detail of flaking paintwork or peeling plaster, strong colours against deep blue skies, etc. When I decided to start experimenting with the digital image, it was as a way to continue this more abstract exploration of colour. Sometimes I would move the camera deliberately, using a slower shutter speed in order to create impressionistic effects; sometimes I would build montages by mirroring parts of an image. As I investigated what the software could accomplish so this altered my 'eye' and I would take certain subjects in specific ways, knowing in advance how I was going to manipulate them. The aim was to create photographs that needed deciphering, that challenged both mood and, in some instances, intellect.

Now I try to balance these two approaches. There are days when the black and white image is foremost in my mind when I pick up my camera. At other times I am seeking new abstractions.


As I have taken people around the exhibition it has been very rewarding to see that the vast majority have not only accepted the more experimental and abstract pieces but also been explicit about how inspired they have been by looking at them. Some have even encouraged me to be more pro-active about exploiting their commercial potential, recognising the design elements inherent in some of the images.


I had been expecting people to be more sceptical, especially as they come across such images immediately after looking at the more traditional black and white photographs. It is as if they are reassured by seeing the black and white and thus feel ready for something new. Inevitably it is the glass pieces that attract the greatest attention and about which I answer the majority of the questions, but other images, especially those where the camera has been deliberately moved as the photo is being taken so as to create an impressionistic effect, have also surprised and enthused people. It is as if they like having to use their imaginations to work out not only what the photograph is capturing and ‘describing’, but also to unravel the techniques involved in producing them. These images have led to many very good conversations with other photographers who are also experimenting, some with new digital wizardry, but some who have gone back into the past and resurrected darkroom techniques that hark back to the Victorian era.


It is as if we have reached a point where digital technology has moved on so fast that some people are going back to the roots of photography, an art form that is after all still less than 200 years old, to make sure the pace of change doesn’t bury such ideas, techniques and skills for ever.


A good photograph stimulates a conversation with the viewer that is, of course, a discussion about the subject of the image, but always returns to being an appraisal of the photograph as a composition as well and so, in effect, becomes an analysis of the photographer's eye.


These days we seem to take photographing, painting, sketching...all forms of recording the world around us, for granted. Since man painted images on cave walls thousands of years ago, there appears to have been the need in conscious beings to record what they see. Why?

Maybe it is a subconscious need to have an aide memoire because we don't trust our memory enough to remember it just as we saw it. Maybe it is form of wishing to own what we see around us, to control it. There again, maybe it is a need to fix the transient present for fear it will pass us by never to be recorded again, thus making us more acutely aware of the shrinkage our time. Or, in more abstract images, to capture the shape of feelings, the colours of the soul, from the black of despair to the effulgent light of ecstasy because the more conceptual or ephemeral the thing we are recording the greater our need to give it tangible expression.

Of all the forms mentioned above, photography has the potential to be the most immediate. Yet one of the most important decisions taken by any artist is to ally chosen style to objective successfully. For example, in the search to express beauty, a one minute, two line sketch by a master can capture the subtle, deft curves of a naked body with a sensuous beauty and grace that brings it to life, whereas an oil painting of the same shape might take days or weeks because it seeks to give substance and texture to the tones and touch of the flesh as well. A photograph of a dancer taken at a 1000th of a second is able to freeze movement whilst still suggesting the speed and agility of the person being photographed, whereas a long exposure can stretch the movement of that same dancer across a stage as if he or she is being followed by the ghost of that dance.

Now that everyone who owns a phone owns a camera that, literally, has a memory which can hold hundreds of images we can 'recall' at the touch of a button, has this almost too easy recording of instant images become a casual routine, a substitute for really looking at the world around us? A way of feeling we have more control over our surroundings? Just as the idea of collecting 'friends' on Facebook has undermined the true notion of friendship by giving the same name to fleeting acquaintance as to long lasting, loyal companionship, so many of these fleeting photographs have become possessions to give us the comfort that our existence is ratified by these indiscriminate connections to people and place.

So much of what we do these days with modern technology seems to deflect us from any depth of 'reflection'. And maybe that is exactly its function, to make life 'easier', simpler. However, when we contemplate a work of art, whether painting, drawing, sculpture or photograph, it encourages us look into, through and beyond it, because we sense not just the technical skill that went into its making but the thought, the emotion, and the measured intent that led to its creation.


I recently met the artist Christine Seifert when she came to look at the exhibition. We had a very exciting discussion about the work on show and my approach to photography for it seemed to echo the creative processes she explores in her paintings and clothes designs. She was particularly responsive to the photographs that allowed a strong design element to give them focus and meaning and so we have decided to meet up in Lausanne where she lives in September to develop ways in which her work and mine can work together to produce something fluid and original. I very much enjoy collaborative work, especially when from very early on one intuits a kindred spirit, and Christine's powerful use of colour and willingness to experiment with different styles of painting definitely strikes a chord. I already sense I will be pushed into new areas of expression, whilst I hope to open her eyes to the ever expanding versatility of the modern digital camera. 



Those with Windows 10 will recognise that phrase as it sits above the apps on their desktop.

For many people a photograph is a glance at life. Snapshots especially; though maybe 'a glimpse at life' suits their ephemeral quality more accurately. Then consider a selfie - that seems more of a glance at oneself, as if the camera becomes a mirror. Certainly I would consider some of my more esoteric photographs as askance glances at life. As if the camera was looking at the object being photographed out of the corner if its eye rather than full on.

The best 'decisive moment' photographs are glances at life that are suddenly magnified by time. They are glances that take hold in the memory because, as I have written elsewhere, they transcend the present and say something much more fundamental about human behaviour.

Life at a glance as Windows mean it implies that these days one's whole life waits for us to take hold of it each time we open our computer. However, hopefully, for most of us, life is much more exciting and rewarding away from the screen than sitting in front of it.



Since encouraging visitors to the exhibition to write some comments in response to what they have seen, I have felt that the decision to hire the gallery and put an eclectic range of my work on show has been vindicated. A significant number of those who came to the gallery today stayed for quite a while, asking many questions about the techniques I have used and how they have fulfilled my aims. Amongst a plethora of very heartening comments in the visitor's book, two stand out - 'transformative' and 'inspirational'. It is good to know that the wide range of styles I have displayed this time have opened people's eyes to the huge potential for artistic creativity and expression that digital photography gives someone who is prepared to explore and take 'risks' with his/her camera and, subsequently, with the software.




Aside from my photography, I have been lucky enough to work with some very talented set designers. When designing a set for a play, the tradition when it came to performing on a proscenium arch stage where the audience are head on, was to concentrate on the infinity point - an imaginary spot upstage centre. This made sure that any set designed for such a stage took account for sightlines and made the director's job of ensuring the focus of each scene was staged so that the audience were helped, rather than distracted by, the setting.

When composing a landscape photograph in particular, having an imaginary infinity point can be a help. We all know the rule about horizons two thirds up or down the image, not dead across the centre. And many photographers work to make the eye flow along the diagonals as well so that the potential horizontal/vertical stranglehold is broken in interesting ways. A good photograph guides the eye, creates a 'sightline', but should do so in a way that the makes the point of attention obvious without taking too much away from the detail in the rest if the image. That detail is, after all,  the context that gives the focus its point of reference. Too much detail and we lose sight of where the eye is being guided. No obvious focal point, especially in the foreground, and the landscape can seem too empty and we lose our sense of size and distance.


I was looking at an article about Francesca Woodman's extraordinary work yesterday and saw in so many of her raw, revelatory photographs someone looking intensely at herself, inside and out, as if searching for her true identity, yet finding contradictory images that must have been difficult to reconcile. Like Diane Arbus, another female photographer who committed suicide, the work is brave, the eye utterly committed, the impact visceral.

It struck me that Francesca Woodman was doing with photography something similar to what the dramatist Sarah Kane explored in her plays; a response to a type of psychosis that is fascinated by our potential for violence in a way that those who self harm find it a type of inverse affirmation of being alive. Sarah Kane also committed suicide at an early stage in what everyone acknowledges would have been a hugely original career, and It is as if they all recognised a troubled angel within. An angel that seems at one and the same time innocent, even pure, but which is also very dark. Both Woodman and Arbus forced themselves to face painful psychological realities that could not be, should not be sanitised, because their creativity appears to be a necessary way of confronting it head on. Sarah Kane, using of a language that was poetic, austere and at times surreal, also derived her creativity from a similar troubled source. Therefore, it is not surprising that all three pushed the boundaries of what could be photographed/said, and challenged HOW this could be done, each in her own genre.


Places can be defined in many ways: colour, atmosphere, objects, sounds, the weather, to name but a few; and I find that I have a very different approach when photographing towns and cities, than when I am in the countryside.

I rarely take broad, sweeping 'landscape' photos in cities and towns, preferring to capture the sense of place through images of detail; for example graffiti, sharp juxtapositions of old and new, architectural features, reflections in the ever increasing amount of glass used in modern buildings, painted doors and windows, shop fronts.

When in the countryside, however, my preferred lens tends to be a wide angle, 10-20mm or 12 -24mm. The relationship between land and sky (or sea and sky) also fascinates me, as if the relationship between the earth and sky demands much more attention than when in the city where conquering nature seems man's aim rather than giving oneself to its power and beauty.

As with all generalisations, this isn't a hard and fast rule, but I am always very aware of a different purpose and goal when photographing in conurbations and suburbia than when out in the country.




In the era of the 'selfie' the professional portrait has taken on a new significance. Where the selfie is unashamedly a 'snapshot', capturing a moment in time, often with little regard to the sense of place and taken as a symbol of fun, the professional portrait aims to say something more profound about the sitter.

Although may people still look for a beautiful or glamorous or flattering image, the main aim of the serious portrait is surely to capture something more fundamental than just the surface image. Consider the contrast between a mask that hides what is happening beneath and a face that reveals what is being felt or thought.

Achieving a balance between an artistic pose and the expression of a person's nature, what makes them look 'natural', is an art that requires winning the sitter's trust so that he or she will show vulnerability as well as strength, attitude as well as character, a sense of enigma as well as an unguarded revelation. The difference between a portrait that looks beautiful but resists the involvement of the viewer, and one which welcome the viewer into a silent dialogue with the sitter is often a matter of tiny detail - the edge of a mouth, the tilt of a shoulder, the inner light in the eye.

Which is why portraiture is such a wonderful challenge.

Black&White and Gold - the exhibition

The exhibition us under way with the Private View well attended yesterday evening. The response to the wide variety of styles I have been able to show as a result of the compartmentalised nature of the gallery lay-out has been extremely positive. Unsurprisingly, in a collection of over 50 images, the number of 'favourites' is quite large and varied, but appear to fall into two camps: those who prefer the traditional black and white images or colour landscapes, and those who like the challenge of the more experimental work. 

Today, a family came in to the gallery with three small children (probably 3 to 7 years old). Their response to the backlit photographs was very rewarding as they relished the fun of finding animals and faces within the abstract patterns. Maybe abstract work isn't merely for the adult or 'sophisticated' viewer after all!

So far, so good.


A photograph that captures a 'decisive moment' does much more than merely pause a moment in time. It imbues that moment with a significance that gives it not only a past, a context, but also suggests the immediate future and, in the case of some of Henri Cartier-Bresson's great photographs, gives the image a deep historical resonance.

Take, for example, his photograph taken when the concentration camps were being liberated. It is usually entitled ''A gestapo informer impersonating a refugee is 'exposed' in Dassau''. Our initial focus is on the expressions and gestures of the three main protagonists - the female gestapo informer, the woman who has 'unmasked' her, and the man who runs the refugee camp.  Now study the expressions of the onlookers (one of whom is in the striped 'pyjamas' worn by concentration camp inmates) and you see so many feelings, from anger to disbelief, from curiosity to hatred. They seem to represent the myriad conflicting emotions and attitudes that must have dominated a devastated Europe at the end of WW2.  And they are all there in one extraordinary image.

A great 'decisive moment' photograph captures an incident in time that is decisive because in that flicker of a second the past and the future collide to create a present that is pregnant with social significance.


I find that having a series of long running projects helps to sharpen focus. It is, of course, a delight to wander with a camera with no specific aim in mind other to react to what one sees. However, specific projects (like my ''stark nature'' project), mean that days where the place or the weather suit it,  lead to style and vision complementing each other more comfortably. Thus, slowly, the aim of the project becomes clearer.

Sometimes such projects remain mere experiments - these can be valuable in themselves. A new camera technique may emerge, or a recognition that one's camera has technology that hasn't as yet been exploited.  At other times, however, such projects transcend their humble beginnings and ambitions and amount to something much larger than the sum of the parts. And, as with my stark nature project, become an integral part of an exhibition.


As I complete the process of gathering together the images that will go into the exhibition which opens on Friday evening I have become increasingly aware of the criteria that have, almost subconsciously, imposed themselves on my choice of photographs. 

Firstly, the gallery is very versatile as it is cleverly divided into different areas that can work as mini galleries within the larger space. This has allowed me to exhibit photographs in a number of styles without too much apprehension about these styles clashing over vigorously. Since I enjoy, almost on a day by day basis, working on different types of photograph rather than focusing on one style, I find this very satisfying.

Secondly, and this has been a surprise,  I have become more and more conscious of the importance of uncluttered space in photographs. Although my design based work tends to be 'busy', using a deliberate, strong juxtaposition of colours to capture the eye, much of my black and white work and other more traditional photographs emerge from and are surrounded by a lot of white or black 'space'. For example, my high contrast, black and white photographs of flowers are framed by a deep black surround. By contrast, many of the landscapes are defined by large expanses of white which allow the shapes - a ruined jetty, the sculpture of a painter, four children shrimping by a pool - to stand out in a manner that means they appear to be both interesting shapes and specific, figurative 'objects'.

I am sure that those who come to view the exhibition will soon let me know whether all of this works or not, whether it is a miss-mash or does, indeed, show a photographer that enjoys experimentation and part of the pleasure of visiting the exhibition is to celebrate the differences as well as finding correlations between the different approaches.

For information about the exhibition, please go to the Exhibitions and Commercial section of the website. Thanks.



Photograph the sea every day for a year, even at the same time of day and from the same spot, and you will photograph 365 different emotions and attitudes personified by salt water.

Fury, frustration, solace, relaxation, suspicion, arrogance, playfulness, benevolence, release, power, warning, greeting, repetition, unpredictability... to name but a few. Each appears to have its colour; each shapes and sizes the waves, their speed, their frequency; each has its sound that, in some photographs can be heard, whilst in others, asks for silence. The proverbial millpond can become the tsunami in minutes. It is as generous in what it deposits on the shore and nurtures in its waters, as it is seemingly cruel in what is takes away.

Photograph the sea every day and you will learn to respect it. In return it will give you moments of such beauty and majesty it will take your breath away.