Almost from the moment photography was invented, photographers sought to move photography beyond the process of simply recording a scene to one of creating an image. Photographers such as the Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron became adept at manipulating negatives and the production process to create unique and original pictures that could stand comparison with other forms of fine art. This style of photography, typically referred to as Pictorialism, dominated photography in the late C19 and early C20.
During the course of the C20 the dominant photographic aesthetic changed to Modernism, with an emphasis on sharply-focused images and a growing sense that ‘pure’ photography eschewed manipulation of the image during the production process. This change reflected a number of things: different artistic aesthetics – modern art was itself conceived as a reaction against the ‘realism’ of photography; the introduction of new technologies such as the Kodak instant camera which massively increased the flexibility, mobility and quantity of photographs and increasingly divorced photographers from the production process; and different choices of photographic subject as news, documentary and street photography came to the fore. For Cartier-Bresson the point was to capture the completed image at the moment when the picture was taken, not ever to manipulate the image retrospectively.
If the Kodak instant camera started an explosion in the sheer number of photographs being produced each day, the move to digital photography has taken it to a whole new level. With billions of photographs being taken daily, with every news event being recorded in real time by participants and observers, the oppression of the mass mediocre has never been greater. Fortunately, the move to digital photography has also provided the means to take another path. Digitisation has put the production process back under the control of the photographer and created new opportunities to manipulate and combine images. It has exploded the notion that the photograph is necessarily or perhaps ever simply a record of objective reality, anymore than with any other art form. The borders between painting and photography are disappearing as artists can increasingly use digital tools to produce their pictures, and photographers can increasingly manipulate their images to paint their photographs.
My interest as a photographer is to explore this increasingly vague boundary between painting or drawing and photography to create unique images. I draw heavily on the art and photography of the past to create new images which revisit the aesthetics of Pictorialism in a contemporary context.
The photographs in this section were produced over a four year period and represent the products of much collaboration with stylists, models and others. I would like to highlight in particular the importance to my work of a continuing partnership with Paola Sammartino, a world class photographic retoucher whose instincts for colour and tone have contributed enormously to the finished work.