Maia: A platinotype made by the artist from an original 4″x5″ in-camera negative. Limited edition of 24 prints. This is my September print of the month offer. Find out more…
After my father died, my brother and I took a trip to mid-Wales. We both had fond memories of childhood vacations with Dad, in particular riding on the narrow gauge railways that once served the Welsh slate mines. Our trip was a pilgrimage of sorts. It was also when I discovered the power of simplicity in my photographs.
At that time I was working with an Ebony 4″x5″ view camera. I had recently started platinum printing, and was still working out what made a successful photograph with small contact prints.
As my brother and I toured the slate mines, I made lots of photos of rocks and gorges, some classical vistas, and the odd close up of interesting plants. (You can see a few favourites in my ‘Wales‘ gallery.)
On our last day we stumbled upon a picturesque valley with rolling hillsides, peacefully grazing sheep, and a steam train puffing along in the distance. The light was perfect and, just as important, there was somewhere to park our car without blocking the narrow road. Quickly I jumped out, set up my camera, and exposed the best landscape photograph I had ever made. Or so I thought.
Back home I developed my negatives and made platinum prints from the most promising ones. I was thrilled that my prints of rocks and flowers looked fantastic. But much to my disappointment, my Welsh idyll, “the best landscape photograph I had ever made,” was really boring. All the details that I had carefully packed into the picture had been lost. My Welsh idyll had become a rather mundane valley, with a tiny smudge of grey smoke where I’d seen a magnificent steam train, and lots of unrecognisable white dots where I’d seen sheep.
That was when I discovered the power of simplicity. A small print needs simplicity if it’s going to succeed. And let’s face it, a 4″x5″ or even 8″x10″ print are both fairly small by today’s standards.
Since making that print I have sought to pare back my compositions to the minimum. And I’ve found that as I do this my message becomes more clear, more powerful, and more satisfying. My Welsh idyll wasn’t, “the best landscape photograph I had ever made,” but perhaps it was the most important.
My print of the month for November is Maia, a photograph that I love for its simplicity. It’s a platinum print made from an in-camera 4″x5″ negative. I hope you enjoy it too.
Photographs in Platinum
In April next year I am visiting Ealing and Hampshire House Photographic Society to talk about my photographs and technique.
EHHPS is one of the oldest surviving photographic societies in the word, and I’m honoured to have this opportunity to share my work.