I learned to develop and print black & white film in my grammar school’s physics lab in the mid 1970’s. My first camera was a Russian Zenit E, which in many respects was like a house brick, but with care it could produce quite creditable photographs. It came with me on a trip to Moscow & Leningrad in the late 70’s, which ignited a lifelong passion for adventure travel and photography.
In 1985 I completed a Bachelor of Technology degree in Automotive Engineering and Design. I was an atypical engineering student – technically capable, but my spare time was spent hanging out with friends at the nearby college of Art and Design, and feeding a hunger for all things cultural. I also prided myself on a command of English, which equipped me well for a career in which communications skills have become increasingly vital. I learned to fly with the RAF Volunteer Reserve; and took up parachuting, just in case that didn’t work out.
My engineering career taught me the importance of thoroughness in my work, and the meaning of the word ‘deadline’. Beyond that, it financed my addictions to world travel and image making. Most of my photographic learning was self-driven. I devoured all the published matter I could get my hands on, regularly raiding the local Oxfam shop, which is still a great source of photography books. I went to every photo and art exhibition I could. As Australian fashion photographer Robyn Beeche once told me (in a rowing boat on the Yamuna River, as it happens), the first step in becoming a photographer is learning to recognise what a good picture looks like.
In the 90’s I joined a local camera club, which although small nonetheless managed to pull in top-notch speakers such as Joe Cornish and Steve Bloom. I entered – and started to win – numerous club competitions, exposing my work to public criticism in order to glean scraps of wisdom on how I might improve it. I took a City & Guilds photography course at night school and passed every module with distinction. Above all it encouraged me to actually get out there and take more pictures.
I first began to publish odd photographs and articles here and there as early as the 1970’s, through motor club magazines and local papers, and enjoyed the thrill of seeing my work in print. In 2000 several of my photos were included in 'Bedford Today', a book to mark the millennium. In 2004 I had a joint exhibition on the theme of 'Travel' with photographer Bob Heffill and painters Sonia Almeida and Hannah Birkett. My first solo show came in 2006; ‘Jingu Bashi Baby’ was a collection of street portraits of the ‘Gothic Lolitas’ of urban Tokyo. It’s hard to believe now, but I spent a couple of months printing the whole show by hand on Cibachrome in the evenings after work. I then made all the frames.
Somewhere around the end of the 1990’s I acquired a car load of Victorian camera equipment – wonderful wood and brass contraptions, Lancasters and Thornton Pickards – which I set about repairing and putting to use. The pick of the bunch was a huge Wratten and Wainwright 10”x12” bellows camera, for which I made an entire new back and focussing screen, as the originals had been lost. I managed to buy 2 boxes of Ilford FP4 cut film in 10x12, and am still slowly working my way through it.
My travels have taken me to most of Western Europe, to Japan, Vietnam, Romania, Estonia, Belarus, former Yugoslavia, Morocco and to the USA; but my great love was always India. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been back since my first visit in 1993. It’s a country which is changing fast and I hope through my work to have captured something of a way of life which may soon be gone. I have material now spanning more than 20 years and am collating it with a view to publishing a book.
I am always interested in photographic commissions and collaborations, and would be pleased to hear from anyone with ideas to discuss.