Recently, I have began a journey of research to use the art and literature of the Pre-Raphaelite era as an inspiration to create pieces of fine art via the medium of photography, in that distinctive painters style. My first reference was to look at certain stanzas in the Keats ballad, written in 1819, “La Belle Dame sans Merci” that in itself is a reworking of the 15th century piece by that name by Alain Chartier. The stanza chosen was:
“I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful, a fairy’s child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.”
John Keats 1819
So, my Lady and I revisited a location we love, fully laden with a costume (although not in the colours I would have chosen) and props including beautifully crafted armour, and a head garland of white roses, that I had sat and made up the previous evening. The day itself was the third anniversary of us being together and what better way to mark the occasion than by doing something together we both love. Art & Poetry. Waiting for the ’sweet light’ of the day I took sufficient images to create the first test piece for my new collection.
Later that evening having completed the art piece, my Lady, unbeknown to me wrote a beautiful piece of what she has dubbed, ‘Micropoetry’ and Tweeted it to the world. It’s actually a perfect fit for the image and together I believe we have achieved what every artist and his muse desires, a harmony of vision and execution….
“I lavish in desire
for decay around me
in face or flower
cliff rock or body
or the sun setting on
another dying day”
© Katypoetess 2016
With great thanks to the lady and poetess in my life – Katypoetess. Please follow her on Twitter to enjoy more of her ‘Micropoetry’ @Katypoetess. Her first published poetry collection, “Of Lilith and Anthony” is available on Amazon.
© Martin Grahame-Dunn 2016
Some food for thought. What is a Professional Photographer in 2016? What should they look like? How should they behave? Three very important questions then, that need an answer, and probably answers that some will not want to hear. So, perhaps its better to face questions with questions that only one’s conscience can answer.
Isn’t professionalism in photography more about a demeanour than a ‘God Given Right’ to call oneself professional, as it is a sole source of income? Nowadays how many people do we know that have multiple income sources? Many of my ex-commercial photographer friends have had to diversify to survive and some have taken second jobs to make a living. It’s clearly a time for thought and how the professional organisations should be assisting and supporting those who have dedicated most of their working lives to the profession. Ivory towers are havens of fantasy, can fall and are often indefensible.
Surely a professional photographer should dress appropriate to the assignments they are undertaking? Is it therefore right for the photographer at a wedding where the guests are dressed smartly and elegantly in suits and dresses to turn up in jeans, T Shirts? How should one dress to shoot the MD of a blue chip company? As an equal or a tradesman?
Finally, on the subject of behaviour. Of all the ‘disagreements’ between a photographer and a client, the vast majority are caused by behaviour. Sometimes it’s contractual. ‘He said, she said’ scenarios, or at worst its ego’s that get in the way. Fear of criticism of their images to the point of being aggressively defensive when sometimes, those criticisms may be justified.
We are all judged continuously, not by a discerning market but on the whole, a market driven, cost conscious litigious one. Time for inward reflection and to remember, you are your brand.
© Martin Grahame-Dunn 2016
Its really not that long ago that it was the norm to have professionally printed, just about every image we took. Indeed since the advent of the photographic process, a print of some kind has always been made. Prints were valued as art, as memories, as legacy and as records. Without prints we would not be able to enjoy the earliest portraiture of Julia Margaret Cameron, a pioneer who loved to ‘hang out’ with the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movements and who was equally revered as an artist in a new and exciting medium. Books and publications abound illustrating the lives of people, their clothing choices, hairstyles and fashions, some of which are valuable historical documents and others provide sources of amusement and nostalgia. The importance of the printed image has affected every facet of our lives in living memory.
Then came the advent of universally accessible digital imaging and our world has changed, virtually overnight. So, are the warnings of the ‘father of the internet’, Vint Cerf being heeded? He warned of a “digital Dark Age” — a future in which there will be little record of the 21st century. “Old formats of documents that we’ve created or presentations may not be readable by the latest version of the software because backwards compatibility is not always guaranteed”
To me the message is clear as day. If I can’t hold it, stand back from it and admire it on a wall or in a book, I have nothing of any particular value. A ‘real’ artist of any kind, whatever they may say, wishes to leave a legacy. Legacies that are universally accessible and not confined to a PC, Mac, iPad, phone or other digital device. Don’t get me wrong, online services that aid sales in a universal market are an essential component of a modern photographic business but even their aim is to make a print!
Call me old fashioned, out of date or an industry dinosaur. I don’t care! Having just achieved a pivotal Historical Research Fellowship with the BIPP I had to make my own prints. Not just prints but canvases. I could have gone to my favourite lab, One Vision Imaging (they did print my ‘evidence’ books!) but this control freak sourced superb inkjet products from Permajet (huge thanks to Robin Whetton, Alex Cullen and the team at the Imaging Warehouse) and output everything myself on a pair of printers. Finally, the shop window on the world. My all new Zenfolio website (Adam Edwards, thanks for making this happen) where I gave the design team the task of creating an art gallery site to actually sell prints! Vanity? Legacy? Practicality? Whatever your motive, it’s what we should all be doing – Make a Print!
© Martin Grahame-Dunn 2016
It’s still alarming that the term ‘Fine Art photography’ continues to be a repository of anything not understood or perceived to be outside the comfort zone of existing, established genres or categories in the photography world. I beg the question “When is an image truly Fine Art?” Surely it cannot simply be a consumable studio portrait with the application of texture on a bland background where we are asked to accept it as ‘art’ solely based on its technique in image manipulation software? When does a landscape cease to be a landscape and become a Constable or a Turner but captured with a camera? It truly has become a minefield often of misinformation.
Is it not a simple truth that the Renaissance artists only used natural light in the most exquisitely controlled ways. Doesn’t it make you wonder just how much knowledge has been lost in our modern day lives and perhaps why photographers have struggled to be accepted and acknowledged as artists? Have you ever wondered where the mystical and mythical forty five degree lighting angle theory and practice took its rise? Certainly not YouTube and the Internet!
I relish discussions of this nature with family, friends and fellow artists. In one such recent discussion with my partner and co-creative poetess, she put forward the proposition that from her perceptions and experiences a piece of art should contain ‘pharmaceutical elements’ that constitute a perfect combination, resulting in a definitive outcome whose effects are clearly understood. Perhaps in essence, it could be explained as the complexity of the union of elements that are brought together in a work of art. For surely the most powerful art forms illicit emotional and intellectual responses. Food for thought don’t you think?
Martin Grahame-Dunn FBIPP ©2016
This is a question I have had to answer on numerous occasions over my many years in the photographic industry and my answer has more or less been the same. Do it for you. Do it for your own professional development. Do it to make yourself a better photographer. I know I cannot put my hand on my heart and say it will make a blind bit of difference to one’s clients as its a hard fact that there is simply not the advertising budget in any single organisations or even collectively to penetrate the market in significant and traditional ways.
Recently, many of my friends and colleagues found out that I was intending to apply for yet another Fellowship. But this one was to be significantly different. The jewel in my crown of personal achievement by being true to myself as an artist. Achieving the first Fellowship of the BIPP in Historical Research for over 20 years has been a true ‘labour of love’ as the single subject has been my partner who is an extremely talented poetess. Before I even considered it as a Fellowship submission, its main aim was to illustrate her second poetry collection entitled “Shadows of Magdalene”.
Did I need to do this? Yes, absolutely. Because for an image maker who travels the world lecturing, teaching other professional photographers how to create better images I could hardly ethically sit back on my past achievements. I’ve done it for me! No regrets. Where it goes from here is part of my own personal development plan. So, in conclusion, set yourselves personal projects to develop your skills and have them measured by qualification. But, do understand that nothing comes cheap. The training and mentoring you may receive along the way has a cost. As does the production of your submission. It is an investment in ‘YOU’. In future posts I will discuss some of the images and poetry behind my Fine Art collection.
As I am constantly travelling and delivering education, training and mentoring of a global basis, I thought I’d give some thought in this post to the differences of delivery to the dff, the world’s second oldest organisation for professional photographers. So here goes….
A synopsis of the two different level workshops.
- Qualified Master
The Workshop for aspiring ’Masters’ (BIPP and MPA Licentiate equivalent) covers the minimum basic requirements to qualify as a dff “Master’ photographer. The key elements of camera craft, lighting, composition and posing (where appropriate in people photography) are examined and developed in a mixed theory/practical workshop. Demonstrations are given in posing and handling groups in particular. Simplistic but effective lighting techniques are demonstrated and discussed illustrating the better known and used lighting patterns. Individual appraisals are undertaken of each applicants work and in group format, planning, presentation and layout for a digital submission is introduced as another essential element for success.
The Workshop for aspiring ‘Qualified Masters’ (BIPP and MPA Associate equivalent) examines not only the more substantial requirements to achieve a higher level of qualification but also instils the need to understand and practice self appraisal in a constructively critical manner. This is not simply a ‘top up’ of the M workshop as it requires a fresh start by all candidates where there can be little or no reliance on a current and past portfolio. Attaining a higher degree of qualification requires a serious commitment and investment in your future. Increased standards of imaging and ethics undoubtedly result in a better client experience. There are obviously a few areas of common ground between all levels of qualification but these escalate exponentially as the levels and requirements rise. This is a dynamic workshop integrating discussions and planning sessions focussing on personal continuous professional development. Lateral thought will be encouraged and a better understanding of the importance and implications of one to one Mentoring discussed. Your trainer will also explain in detail the systematic approach to conceptualising, planning and executing a person project as the base of your qualification.
If you’re interested in progressing your professional qualifications or simply improving the standard of your imaging, contact me.
This exhibition that goes back to the dawn of Photography and its relationship with artists, most particularly those of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, is well worth a visit. What struck me most was the inception of the age-old debate, “Is photography art?” that still rages today. Certainly in the professional world, the category of Fine Art Photography has often found itself to be a dumping ground for all those images produced that simply do not seem to fit in the other more traditional categories.
Curator Hope Kingsley, makes a most pertinent statement that I wholly concur with. “Photographs share a simple consonance with other works of visual art in the formal components of a picture – composition and framing, attention to areas of light and shadow, and image resolution in distinctness or diffusion.”
In my own work I have striven to produce images that to me are more art with a camera, where it is just another choice between a brush and a palette knife where my pigments, tones and textures are moved around my canvasses with the same dexterity had I chosen more traditional or accepted means of producing fine art. My gallery of finished pieces and studies to accompany my partner Kate’s second poetry collection and constitute a submission to the BIPP is all but complete. I have had a working title for some time but driven by a hunger for more research and thought into the justification of photography as just another manifestation of art has led me to finding another in a volume portraying “The tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel – Lizzie Siddall”*…
Ars Longa Vita Brevis – art endures, life is brief