1. Welcome Andrew to The Influx Gallery family. Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you are from?
1. I’m born and bred in the Northeast of England, although I’ve had stints of living in Cambridge and London, before settling back to the region, to Newcastle Upon Tyne. When younger, I was a hobbyist photographer in the old days of film photography, with an Olympus OM101, where results were ok for me, but nowhere near commercially viable. It was only when I finally had a taste of DSLR photography, by borrowing my girlfriend’s Nikon D80, that I found another way to express some creativity. Eventually, I experimented with HDR and sports photography, then a little more on artistic subjects. During this time, I was busy with career development in information technology and cyber security, so photography was a nice way to unwind as a hobby. In recent years I decided to make more of an effort in being a successful photographer and invested in a used full-frame Nikon D810 camera. This unlocked a whole new level of enthusiasm, as I could take higher resolution shots and crop more aggressively. With some extended time away from the day-job to attend to niggling health issues, I used photography as a way of keeping fit (lots of urban walking for street and coastal subjects) and mentally upbeat. With that in mind, I now more or less split my time 50/50 between work/pleasure and continue to experiment with my compositions.
2. Were your family supportive of you deciding to become a photographer?
Coming from a poor-ish working-class background, we were always encouraged to settle into a stable job, rather than the arts, so my parents were pretty much neutral on my career decisions. My girlfriend (now wife!) was the most supportive regarding photography, as it was her camera that I wore out, and she appreciated what I was trying to achieve, even the results fell shorter than expected.
3. Was there anything specific that you can remember that made you want to become an artist /creative?
At school, I enjoyed art class, but knew I didn’t have the determination or extra natural gift to practice more advanced techniques in my own time. Instead, I concentrated on science -studies, and when there were also diversions such as football and the first home computers with very basic video games (I had a Sinclair ZX81), art was low down on my youthful priorities. From eighteen, my first great passion was learning and practicing blues/ ragtime/ rock guitar, devoting many hours a night to this.When in my early IT career, I was heavily involved as an Internet engineer, and the new-fangled HTML websites. Because of my skills back in the mid-nineties, I was able to set up my own website and added blog and photographic content – back in those days it was a
great buzz receiving feedback from around the globe and being able to share scanned copies of my film photos. Once I began pushing the limits of the first DLSR, I realised that photography enabled me to capture the pictures in a detail that I could never reproduce as a traditional artist, developing an aesthetic eye for the moment, to take a shot of what I consider unusual or beautiful, and then process the RAW to reflect my emotional response to the subject matter.
4. Did your schooling or work affect your creative development in any way?
Not really, but I might have made early progress if encouraged more in primary school and had an easily accessible role model to motivate enthusiasm.
5. When did you first discover photography?
In my twenties I enjoyed taking snaps with my OM101 and then crossing fingers waiting for the film to be developed and returned from the local pharmacy or through the post – I suppose this was the first critiquing of my work (e.g. a sticker saying “too dark”, “blurred” etc.).
6. Can you tell us a little about your favourite artistic style?
High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is where I experimented with the first DSLR, and just seeing my subjects in a surreal exposure, indicated the results would be considered art and not regular photographs. Looking back at my early attempts, I cringe a little, but have improved my technique over the years. When finally justifying a monthly subscription for photoprocessing tools, I was able to wean myself away from combining 3-5 images for HDR, to working with a single well-processed image instead. Therefore, I’ve been able to go back to much older RAW photos that were meant only to be for HDR, pick out the sharpest exposure version and then rework it as a single colour or more dramatic monochrome picture. These days, I keep HDR subjects down to a minimum, as its not to everyone’s taste.
7. What is your favourite photographic editing style or technique?
With black and white photography, I like to see blacks dark and whites light, with interesting tone and contrast across all the pixels. I now work with Adobe tools to experiment with the tonal sliders and masking options. The recent camera-raw tool update that denoises brilliantly, has encouraged me to revive some older subjects that were creatively good, but low on refined image noise quality (a drawback of being restricted to a cheaper and cropped-sensor camera)
8. We love your classical black and white style. Do you prefer to shoot in monochrome?
I shoot in RAW colour always, as that gives me more leverage on how I want to process afterwards. This also has the advantage of producing a great colour image, but later go back and create a completely different mood by switching to monochrome processing. Often, it isn’t until I’ve loaded the RAW image into Photoshop that I decide what to do, as a bigger monitor shows more objects that are missed when reviewing on the camera’s much smaller
9. Where do you get your inspiration and influences from?
I don’t tie myself down to a single discipline within photography. I followed a few free online photography courses to help tighten up Photoshop/Lightroom processing basics. I didn’t want to be technically good at processing and graphic design skills, but missing the initial authentic capture with the camera itself. I decided that as long as I enjoy walking around and spotting something interesting, I’d take a picture (or five for HDR!) and see if my keen eye was something others found interesting too. I do enjoy seeing others’ work on Instagram and maybe subliminally that helps influence my options when shooting. From the art world, Salvador Dali was an inspiration, and from within photography, the greats of the Sixties, such as David Bailey (even though portrait photography itself is less appealing to do myself), who were able to record the essence of those times.
10. Do you have any tips for any inspiring digital artist/ photographer who is using software, or picking up a camera for the first time?
Digital cameras are great, because you can take hundreds of shots and not worry about the cost of film processing – if a shot doesn’t quite work, then there may be others in that day’s efforts that do. If I can create three good pictures that I am proud of, that’s worth the effort of all of the rest that have cumulatively contributed to defining a personal photographic style. Don’t be afraid to try multiple disciplines at once, rather than concentrating on say, landscapes only. Granted, these other styles might not be commercially viable in the early stages, but something might “click” and all of a sudden there will be milestone moments when your skills or technique go up another notch.
11. You describe how your work is inspired by your home city of Newcastle? Can you elaborate upon your photographic exploration of this wonderful city?
One thing that bugged me when watching the free online photography courses was that they always centred around awesome natural scenes or cities, where basic technique capability would probably produce fairly decent results anyway. With having a young family, and also travel restrictions that were enforced during Covid-19 lockdowns, I found it difficult to justify the costs of jet-setting to exotic locations without my family (that’s if I was allowed to). Therefore, I took the opportunity to look at subjects closer to home. Not just Newcastle, but the whole of the Northeast of England has many beautiful and unusual places to discover. I can hop on a metro train from home and be by the coast on Tyneside in less than an hour. Newcastle is an easy city to walk around. With its historical past, it makes urban exploration relatively easy too – I’m always discovering something new, like stumbling across what remains of the old Newcastle Breweries entrance gateway.
12. Thanks a lot for your valuable time and interest. You can include any other details you want to talk about here?
I’d be interested in opportunities to chat with publishing houses or clients on potential future projects, such as city-walkabout street photography, like I’ve already done with Manchester, Leeds and the Northeast.