I have always been open to inspiration with my photography. Years of studying, reading, more studying, taking photos and doing recce’s of locations has taught me that. Reading about historical photographers is a great way to understand not just technique but the way things have progressed with technology since earlier times but most importantly the ways that ideas have progressed and altered. Photographically, if we are all stuck in the same rut doing the same things day in, day out then the job in hand would surely become very tedious. I’m not talking about professional photographers with specific interests like bird life, wildlife, photojournalism who are tasked to do specific tasks etc… what I am referring to is the run of the mill photographer getting out and trying something different for a change.
Of course, this is easier said than done. I will be the first to admit that back in the beginning of my photography years I would never have stepped out of my comfort zone; a comfort zone moulded from family grounding, holidays in summer and Agfa Ct-18 film. There is a whole article on my blog here about this very subject. It was only through forced situations and then education that I began to learn how to deal with opportunities thrust before my eyes and positions that were psychologically out of my league offered to me on a plate. What I dont want to and not going to do is start criticising and condemning camera club photography. I have been a member of various clubs since I was sixteen and having sat and watched countless slide shows, stood and given numerous presentations and made some fantastic friends; they are great places to go. If you are a budding photographer or a serious enthusiast, a complete professional or just want the social atmosphere then this is something that I would highly recommend. Unfortunately what I have found is that some (and that is said very loosely) can be very set in their own ways. The acceptability of images that push the boundaries of photography to the limit can easily be frowned upon. Club lectures and presentations frequently concluded with some members silently questioning whether the last two hours would have been better placed at an art club or even a local historical society. A number of years ago I attended a lecture at an unamed club where a very highly qualified and competent photographer and artist had been asked to speak. His two-hour slot was to display a very small portion of an extensive portfolio on a set subject. He had chosen to show around 120 images that were all uniformly mounted in large black frames and looked very impressive in terms of demonstrating continuity.
The images were all based upon rejects that had been cast aside over the years whilst sorting through his newly received slides. Instead of doing what most of us would do and throwing them away, he had chosen to store them for a rainy day. Before the digital age it was impossible to check the accuracy of your composition, ISO, exposure and shutter speed settings. Waiting until it had been developed was the only option back then, usually a box of 36 slides had 1 or 2 rejects that were either split frames from the end of the roll or purely out of focus and candidates for the trash. He had kept them and put them in a show called “Oooferiges” a ficticious word that stood for Out Of Focus Images.
I could really follow his lead… the colours, the shapes, the ideas (intentional or not) were great and it really got you thinking. I could understand why he hadn’t thrown them away. It was like art college all over again. I set out to try it myself and at the time it was one of the “been there, done it, filed it away” topics as something more important was always waiting in the wings to try next. College taught me a lot. Not just how to take photographs but how to see. How to use an image for its worth not just its photographic quality. An image that may first appear unsuitable for whatever reason may not necessarily be destined for the bin. It taught me that photography is co-joined with art and that the two are inseparable. It taught me that surrealism can be your friend and as a photographer you have so many choices to make when it comes to taking, editing and printing the final shots. Each stage can have influences that will steer the eventual purpose of the finished piece.
What it also taught me is that there is no right or wrong way to take a photograph. If you intentionally set about tilting the camera to add a different take on a portrait then so-be-it! It is not for anyone else to judge but the end recipient or user. A classic example of the difference between 1980’s club photography and the real world of image making in business. If a customer should call asking you to shoot a portrait against a barbed wire fence with a model wearing an army uniform and from a very low angle to emphasise the size of the feet then that is what you must do. If it breaks all the rules of photography then it doesn’t matter. The point here is that it fits the customers criteria and brief and they paid you to do that then it’s a result. All parties are happy. Job done.
I learned this at the right time and on every photo shoot and trip out I was always up for trying new angles and different approaches. In the computer I would play with Adobe Photoshop and push an image to its limits to create what I had envisaged as the final output. One example of this can be seen below. Low light photography: a simple image of something I love….but with a slightly different take
A mere low light photograph of a simple subject, but by carefully exposing over a few minutes then later increasing the blacks and contrast, cropping alternativley and changing the style of the image by allowing the subject to move creates a whole new take on an idea. In my opinion the ghostly figure really makes it jump out. I have had quite a few inquiries to purchase this shot and it has subsequently been used in a number of publications.
In September last year I was invited to the White Cloth Gallery by a group called Exposure Leeds. The White Cloth Gallery is a unique space for established artists to exhibit and elevate projects of particular importance while at the same time providing a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work. The gallery and its events space also has a pioneering vision to support the artistic community, encourage creativity and work alongside other local arts organisations to aid the city’s burgeoning development as a cultural centre and to become ago-to destination for art lovers everywhere. Throughout these endeavours they also wish to promote a socially aware and progressive approach to visual culture and aim to create a sense of community, attracting artists and visitors from all walks of life. White Cloth Gallery is also home to the WCG fully licensed Café and bar – a cool and vibrant urban retreat, serving up tasty snacks for those looking to enjoy the exhibitions, as well as those just looking to grab a drink or a bit to eat. An early start to the evenings presentation meant parking in central Leeds in the rush hour. A note to any prospective visitors:- allow plenty of time for this as it’s not as easy as it may first seem.
I was attending to see a presentation by multi-featured photographer, author, teacher and speaker Kevin Meredith (aka Lomokev). Kevin’s website can be viewed here. The video of the presentation is available for viewing on Kevin’s website and link to watch it is shown below
There had been no time for me to do any research on Kevin’s work as the invitation I received was very late, same day if I am truthful. I turned up “blind” if that is the right expression to use and made the customary introductions in the meet and greet area of the White Cloth Gallery. Upon sitting down and listening to Kevin talk I felt an instant connection to what he was saying. Everything I had learned over the years raced through my mind with certain items triggering old ideas and others tossing memories around like a leaf in the wind. I was fixated. I had learned alot about surrealism and studied the works of David Hockney at college so joining photographs to create montages was nothing new to me. Prior to this evening I really thought nothing could surprise me when it came to photo montage and joiners. Kevin Meredith on the other hand did surprise me. This chap has established his own ideas and turned out some absolutley amazing pieces of work.
I can understand that this is not to everyone’s taste but personally this is right up my street. For much of his photography Kevin uses a Lomo-LC-A Camera. This is a fixed length 35mm compact style camera. It is loosely based on the Cosina CX-2. The camera is a perfect companion to this style of work and in particular Kevin’s ideas and approach to photography. This is just my opinion but the Lomo Camera is a perfect tool for street and documentary photography allowing easy use for this experimental style approach. It allows easy storage in a large pocket and can be used quickly and effectively. The Lomo Camera is available in many forms which were kindly demonstrated by Kevin at the event. The camera stems from a style of photography called Lomography. This is an analog camera movement and community and also a commercial trademark of Lomographische AG. The Lomographic Society International was founded in 1992 by a group of Viennese students after they discovered the Lomo LC-A Camera. In 1991, a group of Viennese students discovered the Lomo LC-A and were “charmed by the unique, colorful, and sometimes blurry” images that the camera produced. The name is inspired by the former state-run optics manufacturer LOMO PLC of Saint Petersburg, Russia. If you would like to read more about Lomography and the Lomo LC-A then click here for a link to Wikipedia
Another of Kevin’s many arms in photography is shooting portraits. As before, he lends his own unique take on portraiture by capturing images from his hometown of Brighton and the people on the streets. He narrows his selection by discretion and in particular to fit his own ideas of hip and notable characters. A lot of this work is for Brighton Source Magazine’s street style section. I personally find these “Fragmented” portraits fascinating. It’s hard to put my finger on what it is but I particularly like the un-cropped edges and the very alternative approach of the imperfection in the joins. It reminds me so much of my studies of David Hockney back in my exam days. Kevin has a whole site on these portraits here and they are really worth a look. I have discussed this elsewhere on Nomoredeadpixels but I will say it again; it takes courage some nerve to approach a stranger in the street and speak to them. It takes a lot more to ask them to pose for a photograph let alone half a dozen of them.
After Kevin’s show at the WCG I vowed to go away and try this myself. As it stands currently, I am yet to do anything like this and forever fall back in to my own style. It’s not for a lack of desire to do it, more a fear of “copying” and offending the original artist. I am sure Kevin wouldn’t mind as he is not the only photographer to do this type of imagery. A quick google search reveals many derivatives but the fear came from the heart. I’m not a person to copy, I much prefer to put my own take on the ideas of others. Ideas, we all have them, and many will have a go at doing the obvious and making an exact replica of what they have seen. I would much rather try to understand what the photographer was thinking and go out with the same feelings and shoot a different subject with the same approach (if you follow).
So there it remains. A field that I have yet to try. But one that is almost certainly in the queue.
Thanks for reading. Kevin is a great guy and if you are fortunate to meet him you will completely understand everything I have talked about. Please, please take a look at his website and his Flickr pages…it will take you hours and you will inadvertently become one of thousands of addicted viewers. I am going to leave you with one final image from Kevin. In his own words, from his website “At the HiFi festival in 2006 I spent the night documenting the array of different coloured wellies on show. Before 2006 wellies were mostly green or black, this was the first time I had seen so much variety. I also shot some of these images at another festival, Beachdown in 2008. Shortly after Beachdown I was contacted by CHI Partners asking if they could use the images in a TV spot for the Sunday Times Festival guide.” Click the image below to view the full article.
Kevin Meredith aka Lomokev – Photographer, Author & Teacher
Kevin Meredith – flickr.com
Kevin Meredith – Wikipedia
Lomokev – Twitter
The White Cloth Gallery, Leeds
All images are copyright (c) Kevin Meredith and must not be reproduced.