Photoblog: My Inspiration Archive

MY INSPIRATION - my dad's Christmas portrait of me

Posted in My Inspiration at 15:44 on 16/12/2015

Today on the blog a picture, not by me but of me. A photo taken by my dad probably about thirty years ago now, and what it means to me...

This image is all about light, the light in my parents sitting room as I help to decorate the christmas tree. It's one of my all time favourites of my dad's pictures of me. I love how the image is split into two, the dark area on the left a perfect backdrop to the striking lighting on my face. On the other side, the window area, brightly lit allowing the silhouettes of the branches and the decorations to stand out. We still use those same decorations today.

I love my expression in this picture, such total concentration as I get ready to hand the next item. Outside the edge of the picture I must have been standing on a ladder to get to this height (shown to me now by the top of the window) and so precarious balance is probably adding to the intensity of my gaze.

It must be nearly christmas itself too as I am smartly dressed (unusual then as now) and my hair is neatly brushed (also still unusual). I wonder what the occasion must have been, maybe my cousins were coming to lunch or something else exciting.

Pictures like this take me back to a time and a place, to Christmases over the years and to my parents house and our family traditions. They are good memories and things I am lucky to be reminded of through the power of these photographs. Pictures like this also remind me what an accomplished photographer my dad was and how lucky I have been to have been taught by someone so talented, no mean feat to see a picture like this, be aware of the complexity of the lighting and get the exposure just right to capture this beautiful rim light on my face. It's a lovely shot and one that I often think of when out on family photography sessions in the run up to Christams. Maybe this year I shall try to recreate it with my niece, I wonder if I can do it so well?


My inspiration - my Dad's photographs of my childhood - Richard and Giles

Posted in My Inspiration at 14:00 on 27/05/2014

Today on the blog, we have another post in this series exploring my father's photographs of my childhood. These are photographs that have influenced me and helped me to develop my very personal style of photography, in which I create pictures that are a photographic record of childhood that will hold many memories for years to come.

I'm not in this picture but it features my brothers Richard and Giles. I'm not sure where my brother William and I are; we're probably running through the woods looking for sticks of our own.

I'm not quite sure when this picture was taken but I know where, or roughly where - it was in ' the woods near Granny', a favourite haunt of ours on our many holidays to visit her in Dorset. On the days when we didn't go to the beach, we would go for long walks in the woods - leaping over the ditches between the rows of trees and hiding between them, covered in leaves, ready to jump out at the adults who were ambling slowly behind. We had wonderful fun as we hunted for adders (we never found one) and collected sticks as children do - big sticks, little sticks, any stick would do.

I love how this image captures so much of that - the location is clear, the activity so typical and then the relationship, the moment caught on camera in this fabulous family photograph where Giles jumps up, his tiny twig in hand, to challenge his older brother with his enormous stick. I love how they are both laughing, both having lots of fun together. Richard is so indulgent of his younger sibling, and you can see the family love between them.

Pictures like this make me smile - they remind me of what a wonderful thing it is to have brothers, and how much I love them. What more could you possibly ever want from a photograph?


My inspiration - my Dad's photographs of my childhood - William's hovercraft

Posted in My Inspiration at 10:00 on 23/04/2014

Today's blog post continues my monthly exploration of my father's photographs of my own childhood, which are pictures that have inspired me and shaped the photographer I have become over the years.

Each photograph has elements that I try to incorporate into my work each and every day. This picture is all about the light - I absolutely love the light. It's also about a moment in time and about my brother William's skill and tenacity building a hovercraft for his GCSE technology. Admittedly, the hovercraft had a design flaw which meant that it didn't work, but at least William discovered that before he destroyed it in an abortive trip across the boating pond.

I think this shot is great as it captures the scale of the project - it takes up the whole of the dining room table with so many intricate elements, it was quite a build. I love how the delicate side light picks up on all the details, really emphasising the shape of the craft. I also love how William is so beautifully lit as he carries on with his work, oblivious to Dad taking photographs in the corner. A picture of William looking up proudly would have had its place as a record shot, but this shot has longevity and staying power as it's unobtrusive - a moment documented and by doing so quietly, from the sidelines, Dad tells us so much more about his son.

With its beautiful light and wonderful tones, it is a great photograph. It also really captures William's personality and what he has achieved at this time - I love it and I hope you will, too.

If you would like to read more posts in this series, please follow this link to find out more about how my Dad's photographs have inspired my work.


My Inspiration - my Dad's photographs of my childhood - the canoe

Posted in My Inspiration at 16:00 on 21/03/2014

Thank you so much for the lovely comments in response to my first post in this new series exploring the photographs that my father took of me when I was a child - pictures that have inspired me and shaped my photography.

For the second post in the series, I have chosen this image of my brother and I canoeing on Kilder Water in Northumberland.

I love this picture because it brings back so many memories. Memories attached to photographs are such a wonderful thing. As so often happened on our family holidays, it was raining - oh, to be a child in the UK! We were out on the lake, cold, but having fun and somehow - I don't quite remember how - my brother Giles has acquired the oar for my canoe. I'm stranded, paddling ineffectually with my hands, while Giles giggles at my predicament.

It's an image that sums up our relationship so well - I'm laughing, my brother is laughing, and I can be absolutely sure that Mum and Dad on the shore are laughing as Dad takes this picture. To me, it's a picture about close family relationships and about comradeship as we canoe together in the rain. It's also about our parents and the kinds of holidays we went on as children, about the kind of people that they are and how that has shaped us. I'm still a firm believer that children are waterproof!

It's also a great picture from a photographic point of view. If I was being pedantic, I would have straightened the horizon, but I love the lines and angles of the canoes, the oars, the sight lines as we laugh together. I love the soft light of the dark wet day. I have this picture framed and hanging on my wall near my front door, where I look at it on my way to work each day. It's a picture that inspires me - I always hope to take pictures that my clients will enjoy so much twenty-five years after they were taken. Images that capture a moment but also a relationship, a friendship and what a brilliant thing it is to be a sibling.


My Inspiration - my Dad's photographs of my childhood

Posted in My Inspiration at 10:00 on 26/02/2014

One of the things I am asked most frequently is why do I photograph in the style that I do - what drives me, what inspires me and what are the reasons behind the decisions I have made in my photographic practice. Why do I shoot on location using natural light, and why only black and white? I find these questions fascinating and when I look at other photographers' work, I believe you can tell if someone has thought through the answers to these questions, and if someone really knows why they work in the way that they do. It's through the process of finding the answers to these questions that a real photographic style develops.

I'm lucky because I have always known why - why I shoot in black and white, and why I photograph children. The reason is that I am lucky enough to have the most wonderful document of my own childhood photographed by my father, which brings me such joy as an adult. It's capturing pictures like these for my clients - and for their children - that drives me.

I thought it would be interesting to share with you a selection of these pictures from my childhood; pictures that my father took of me and my brothers which shape the way I see the world photographically and influence all my work.

For the first in this series of posts, I'm starting with this shot of my mother, my brother William and I on a punt on the River Cam in Cambridge. One of the first things that, as an adult, strikes me about this picture, is that it looks cool. It’s a great photograph that I am proud to have, enlarged to 18" x 12" and framed, hanging in my hallway. I am lucky to have photos from my childhood that I want to share – I have so many friends who only have faded Polaroid snaps, or cheesy Eighties studio portraits. This image is timeless and that is something I always try to achieve in my work.

This picture also tells a story. You can ascertain many different things about the moment that my Dad has captured – we are in Cambridge (a number of members of my family went to university in Cambridge and my Grandfather and Great Aunt lived nearby, so we visited frequently when I was young). Also, it's cold, which is typical of my parents - why punt on a hot summer's day, when you could go in the wind and the rain? I’m with my family – although you can only see three of us, I know Dad is taking the picture and my brothers Richard and Giles must be sitting opposite. You can also see that I’m scared - I’m still not keen on punts, although after living in Cambridge for eight years, I try to style it out a little better now.

But most importantly for me, the picture has many memories and associations - this is the most wonderful benefit of location portraiture, and why I personally prefer working on location to studio shots.

There is family history – my parents went punting on their first date, and I’m sure they would have told us that story that day – it makes me smile to think of it. Being in Cambridge, we would have been visiting my Grandfather and Great Aunt and it’s nice to think of them each time I look at the picture; photographs keep memories alive even if those we think of aren't featured in the image itself.

And my brother William fell into the river. I remember that clearly – jumping from the punt to the bank and back again, he misjudged it and landed in the River Cam. It must have been seventeen or eighteen years ago, but the memory still makes me laugh. What more can you ask for from a photograph, and what more can I strive to put into my own work for the enjoyment of my clients?