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Category Archives: photographers
when i was 14 i played a gig in scarborough that i’m still proud of today, a gig that resulted in our permanent ban from the pavillion vaults due to there being footprints in the ceiling after a rousing 6 song set. peggy mitchell was unhappy with the largely underage crowd abusing her ‘premier’ music venue. there are no pictures of this event, not many of any gigs we played at the time, it was a different era of technology and documentation where photographing five school kids thrashing it out in a dreary northern seaside town was low on the list of photographic subject matter. it was pre-digital, pre-social network and pre-scarborough’s renaissance. looking back at it now, that time would’ve made for some amazing music photography, punks were still weird and heavy music was still safe from limp bizkit’s mass-market appeal. if you’d photographed a 200 strong mosh pit writhing under an 8-foot ceiling or seen the enormous, derelict concrete warehouse we practiced in with minimal lighting, i think it would’ve made for some really nice imagery of a small town with an interesting music scene.
scarborough’s music heritage has always been strong and fortunately there is much more scope for documenting it today. david ruston has been photographing gigs and musicians for a few years and has become one of the most well-known and respected gig photographers in the area. whilst studying, he could be regularly found in the new tavern’s small gig space. with free reign to work with musicians, he produces amazing images of some of our most talented bands and individuals, both on stage and off it.
seeing david’s work is a pleasurable experience, his portraits are simply excellent and have a real sense of personality within them, the mark of a really talented individual. here david tells me about his work, career so far and his influences in photography.
where did it all start for you with photography? what brought you to specialising in music photography and portraits?
it started in college, when i was doing my national diploma in multimedia at yorkshire coast college. we were given a unit on photography to experiment with different techniques and try to be as creative as possible. this led me to the dark room. as soon as i walked in was hooked. i managed to grab my first dslr shortly after, and soon got referred odd jobs by my tutor, mike ambler.
music didn’t come into things straight away, it wasn’t until a few mates in scarborough got together and formed everyone an army. photographing their gigs got me listening to more and more local talent and going to a lot more gigs. the kick up the arse was when tom and karen took over the new tavern in scarborough last year. they happily let me in to snap their gigs, and i soon realised that music photography was the thing for me.
i’ve dabbled in portraits since i got my first camera, although i know now they were never true portraits. when i look back none of them had meaning and didn’t reflect the sitters personality. after photographing more and more musicians i began to read into things a whole lot deeper. now i can’t help listening to original music without being inspired by how i can portray them in such a way that reflects their music.
there are some really great music photographers out there, yourself included, are their any who are a particular influence on you?
without a doubt, mick rock has to be my biggest influence. he gets up close and personal with his subjects, he understands them, and I think it’s this that makes his portraits so great. i think the era had a lot to do with it; photographers could get close to stars either on their highs or lows. now there is so much censorship in place. record labels and management wouldn’t dream of letting a photographer release something that could potentially effect their company.
what do you consider your strongest work so far? how do you see yourself and your work evolving in the future?
my fine art project content has to be by most favorite work. the idea was to explore the identity and individuality of a variety of women by photographing the content of their handbags. i managed to get 16 overall, which ranges from students to scenes of crime officers.
i got a lot of frowns when i first started this but i hope they understand as to what i was trying to achieve. personally, i see the contents as revealing the inner self of their owner, and the bag as the skin. of course, everybody has a different take on things. i hope to explore this identity idea a little further and see where it takes me.
for music i just want to get out there and shoot. i’ve spent too much time sitting and thinking at uni and now is the time to get out there! i really want to get to some bigger venues and events, but access is so difficult now. if your not assigned to a publication then the chances are slim. i guess that’s where i am now, seeking publication whilst working on my portfolio.
are you working on anything at the moment that you’re particularly excited about?
just looking forward to the future and see what comes my way! i guess i’m really excited for the day i can focus 100% on photography without having the 9-5 job.
what do you think is the most important aspect when photographing people?
if you understand them then i would say your half way there. everyone is different and if you haven’t spent much time with them before hand then you have lots of work to do when you finally meet. so yeah, spend as much time with them as you can. if they’re musicians then don’t stop listening to their music!
what are you favourite conditions to shoot in? and also what are the worst?
for general out door a slight overcast is nice. maybe that’s the reason most of my stuff looks slightly depressing! patchy cloud is annoying when shooting on medium format or film. constantly having to check meter readings gets a little tedious but then it’s nice to be kept on your toes!
for gigs, dull or harsh red lighting is my hate. the new tavern was a prime example. i just ended up hanging wireless speedlights of the light fittings and amplifiers. no one minded so I didn’t see the problem!
got any words of wisdom?
ha! i’ve only just left uni so it’s probably best to ignore me! a few agencies I contacted a while ago both said ‘shoot what you want’, as then you will always have passion for what you do.
david is a music, portrait & editorial photographer based in scarborough. he has recently finished a ba in commercial photography at grimsby institute of further & higher education.
all images by david ruston
andrew higgins is deputy chief photographer at scarborough evening news. his work features daily in the newspaper and has done for many years. he works with a vast array of cameras, describing himself as ‘a pro snapper camera geek’. i asked him a few questions regarding his career, work and where it all started for him.
who or what was your initial influence when you first started your career?
right, back to the start…at school we were expected to do at least one after hours ‘club’. i chose chess and camera clubs. i proved half decent at only one of those.
then came work experience time. i asked for ‘photography please’, and ended up going to the local paper. so my first influence was the photographer on that paper in surrey, a chap called bill beminster, who had been at the paper for years, also did shifts in fleet street, didn’t really want to put up with a work ex’ kid, but kindly did give me his time, knowledge and rolls of tri-x film to build the foundations of what I do now.
there was no-one else in my family interested in photography, i just took to it myself. and as a kid, I didn’t know any ‘big names’ so can’t claim any influences at the start. just what i read in amateur photographer magazine.
what do you consider the best work you’ve ever produced and why?
looking back at my photos taken during my 20′s, i’m amazed at what i did. clever pics and technically sound. i’ve read that that age is often a very creative period of life and can believe it. but i’m also aware of going through different stages of work since, presumably building on skills learnt, so i’m curious to see what comes next…i’m a great believer in the saying, ‘you’re only as good as your last photo’. my best work might be tomorrow (repeat the day after).
are you working on any personal projects and how does your approach to that differ from paid work?
photography started as a hobby, and remains so really. as for projects, ongoing is my photo a day ‘journal’ on which I started on jan 1st 2010, inspired by an article I had read a couple of years previously (in am ‘photog’ mag) about a similar project by retired photojournalist frank horvat (1999, a daily report) during 1999. there is no theme to my daily photo, as it essentially free’s me from the pressure and constraints that inevitably comes with being a newspaper photographer.
it may seem crazy doing a daily photo project, when my works means i’ll be shooting hundreds of photos a day to a tight schedule, but doing my own photo feels like a little break in the day and an achievement to find a subject. i believe it’s also sharpened my vision for photos. my initial target of 365 photos through 2010, became 500 (after 1/500th shutter speed), and seems to be rolling on…
what conditions do you particularly enjoy working in?
a nice dry, mild, slightly overcast day please, so much easier to work in than bright sunshine, pouring rain, or snow.
inevitably, any newspaper photographer has to live with, even thrive by, pressure of schedule, of deadlines, and of workload. working quickly is second nature too me. i envy people with more time. i’ll do between 4 and 10 pic jobs a day, which all have to be ‘put through’ (edited, photoshop, captioned, saved onto the computer system) that day. enjoy it? well, it’s the job isn’t it? i like to know the job is done and dusted, ready for the next day.
what do you feel has had the biggest effect on your work in recent years and was it a positive or negative effect?
digital cameras, and computers, undoubtedly. i’ve been shooting exclusively digital since november 2000, and while the earliest digital dslr cameras were quite poor by today’s standards, and computers were slow, the convenience and speed was transformational for newspaper work. it’s almost quite hard to think how i managed shooting film, though I remember it well, it just seems so slow and clumsy now.
though digital’s huge advantage of speed is hugely useful, it does sometimes bring the disadvantage of photos being wanted as soon as you walk back into the office. a also miss the soothing darkness of the darkroom, and the handy 20 minute break to eat lunch as film went through the processor. crumbs in the keyboard now.
are there any areas of your work you’d like to pursue further in the future?
seeing other photographer’s work, or photo essays, where the photographer has followed one theme or story right through, and i’d like to think about doing something along those lines. i have no idea specifically what yet, and work commitments could make it difficult to pursue, but maybe one day…
as a photographer for a primarily printed medium, what do you feel the future holds for the printed photograph? is the future favouring more screen based images?
digital photography, cameraphones, and the internet has led to a vast explosion in photography. there is much good work out there, many talented pro’ and amateur photographers, but also a huge amount of snapshots. david bailey said the cameraphone showed people how difficult it was to take a good photo. he’s right. yet millions of these images great, good and bad, live only on computer screens, and largely unseen on hard drives and websites. i suspect that personal printed photographs will once again become more popular, particularly in the form of online printed books and magazines, as this becomes cheaper.
indeed, in my work, i find that people still look forward to ‘being in the paper’. with the glut of online images, the printed, published photo still has a great appeal. a well designed, well printed publication be that a newspaper or magazine is still a very appealing thing, a glossy mag’ has a feel and smell even, that an ipad app can’t hope to replicate.
any last words of wisdom?
always carry a camera…
as part of a new regular feature on the blog, we’ll be hearing from some of my favourite artists, photographers, writers and friends.
to kick things off i decided to start with someone who i’ve worked with on many occasions and whose work, and way of working, regularly inspires me – tony bartholomew. countless times i’ve asked for advice (and the odd equipment loan) from tony. i asked him a couple of questions about his career and life in photography.
what was your initial influence when you first started your career?
i was first switched on to the power of photography by the work of the fsa (farm security administration) photographers who were employed during the dust bowl, depression hit america of the 1930′s, work by walker evans and dorothea lange. i had initially thought of journalism as a career, but this work made me look further into documentary and photo-journalism which is what i eventually studied. amazingly most of the work is now lodged with the american library of congress and is available for download via their flickr site.
following on from that and whilst at college i increasingly turned my attentions to sports photography and was hugely influenced by the work of two newspaper photographers, eammon mccabe at the observer and chris smith at the sunday times. they were working in the days before auto – focus, high iso digital cameras, using manual focus fast aperture telephotos, everything would be shot on uprated black and white 35mm film and the lighting at sports stadiums was nowhere near as good as today. yet they both turned out brilliant, original sports images from the big events of the weekend. the work looks a little grainy and of it’s time now as we are used to, lovely, bright, smooth images from high res digital slr’s.
other hugely influential work included that of sebastio salgado whose work with the dispossessed and workers of the world is truly amazing. but in particular his work on the serra pelada gold mines has to be looked at by anyone with an interest in documentary photography.
what do you consider the best work you’ve ever produced and why?
i”m still waiting to produce it, your only as good as your last picture.
are you working on any personal projects and how does your approach and enjoyment to that differ from paid work?
I don’t often undertake personal projects, mainly as most of my time is spent on commissioned work. however I did embark on a picture a day project last year for coastival which was demanding but great fun and very rewarding. You can still see the pics here.
what conditions do you particularly enjoy working in?
i have always enjoyed working outdoors, and usually in wild conditions, a lot of my former colleagues thought me a little weird when i would be pleased if it poured down with rain for 90 mins stuck on a goal-line, similarly being on the coast is best with a wild storm blowing across the bay. as long as you and your kit is properly covered then what’s the problem – i have a great collection of weather pics taken in all extremes of conditions.
what do you feel has had the biggest effect on your work in recent years and was/is it a positive or negative effect?
as someone who started their career on film (anyone remember that), digital photography has had a profound effect on the industry – at first we all thought it was the answer to our prayers. no waiting for film to come out of the dev tank before being printed or scanned ready to hit deadline – when in reality we seem to be working to tighter deadlines for web editions and pic desks expecting more pics filed at regular intervals. in the past you had a deadline, you worked to it and that was it. now a huge agency such as getty will be filing thousands of images from a team of photographers at events like the royal wedding or the world cup. in saying that i’m glad i don’t have to resort to devving films in someone’s bathroom outside a football stadium ready for scan and wire, but i do sometimes miss spending time in a really well equipped darkroom and knocking out a lovely black and white print or two.
the other downsides of the digital revolution has been a cheapening of the industry and real world commissions and fees going down – after all everyone’s got a digital camera, or phone now and we are being encouraged by news organisations such as the bbc to become ‘citizen journalists’. they will happily use your pics and give you two minutes of fame, but they won’t pay you! i was offered 15 quid for a news pic this week, i didn’t know if i should be laughing or crying.
any last words of wisdom?
i don’t have too many words of wisdom, but i always encourage budding photographers to always have a camera with them, you can’t take a great pic if your camera is stuck in the car or back at the house!
tony trained on the full-time nctj press photography course in sheffield in 1981/82, led by paul delmar and eddie bissell.
in 1982 he joined the scarborough evening news and completed his indentures. he worked at the paper until the mid-1980s before joining a local agency supplying daily regional and national titles.
in 1989, tony joined the staff of the northern echo and worked there for seven years, eventually becoming assistant chief photographer, before returning to scarborough to start his own freelance business, tony bartholomew photography ltd, supplying pictures to daily newspapers, magazines, pr clients, and arts, heritage and environmental organisations.
tony bartholomew is a member of the nuj and the british press photographers’ association. his pictures can be seen in the bppa books ‘five thousand days‘ and ‘assignments 2′.