Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for March, 2011

Photo Projects: “Plastic People” by Emma Woodward

This term has once again been a good one for the sheer quality of work being produced by students on the Advanced SLR/DSLR course at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This example, a slide show of images by Emma Woodward, is, I think, a completely new and unique slant on something many have done before – using toy figures to create little tableaux.

What I especially like about some of these images is the intricate set-ups which never attempt to completely mislead the viewer. We know these are train set figures more or less from the start but this just adds to the magic as you find yourself becoming immersed in this strange world.

It is hoped that the images you see here will be the basis for an exhibition some time later in 2011. Watch this space…

Birmingham Botanical Gardens –


Video Tour of “Drawn to Black and White” Exhibition

Here’s a video, still warm from the camera, of Mary Davis and Rosemary Cooper‘s excellent exhibition, “Drawn to Black and White” at Fotofilia, which started last week and should be up for all to see for at least a few more weeks. This is a nice little (and short) film but can’t possibly show this work to its full advantage so come along and see the real thing.

I’m indebted to Ben Adsett, a Broadcast Journalism under-grad from the University of Wolverhampton and Fotofilia intern for putting this film together.

“Gingerfest” – Criticised But Copied (Part 1)

Perhaps it says something about the subjective nature of photography that the most successful and far-reaching photographic project I’ve ever been involved with was comprehensively slated by my tutors at university at the time.

I originally embarked on the project which later became known as MC1R – or Gingerfest – as an early part of my Fine Art MA at Wolverhampton University. I needed a small, easily achievable project for a practical module and, as a photographer with my own studio and an passion for portraiture, the obvious choice was a studio-based series of portraits.

At this time my young daughter was beginning to show signs of having the same red hair that her mother has. I wondered how this could be as I have dark brown hair and none of my family have any shade of red hair as far as I know. My wife informed me that it takes two parents with the red hair gene (which I later found was MC1R Receptor) to produce a red-haired offspring – so I must be a “carrier”, even if I didn’t exhibit the physical traits myself. And what’s more, according to some sources, red hair would die out within a century.

So that was the inspiration for the project. I rather like red hair, in all its hues. I love freckles. What a shame if this beautiful coloration were absent in future generations. Over the next few weeks I became something of a “gingerologist”. I learned about the genetics and I learned about the historical – and contemporary – prejudices towards redheads. My project, I decided, would be to photographically document the physical traits associated with the so-called “ginger gene“.

However, I quickly realised that once I’d photographed my wife and her sister, I was already running a bit short of ginger (and I use this term for its brevity rather than its derogatory connotations) models, so I put the word out among my friends and photography students and managed to arrange shoots with a few more. All came along to my studio to be photographed against a white background and wearing only white clothing so as to accentuate the colouring of hair, eyes and freckles etc. What they also brought with them was a wealth of stories about years of “gingerist” abuse and micky-taking. But I still ran out of models.

The university’s press office sent out a press release about my search for red-haired models and for the next few weeks I was inundated with enquiries from local and national press as well as local and national radio. I gave a few interviews and I was soon answering dozens of emails a day from would-be models. I arranged as many shoots as I could and found myself answering the same question: “What will you do with the pictures?”

I hadn’t really thought about this. It suddenly didn’t seem enough to say that it was just for a uni project. That would’ve been short-changing the people who gave up their time, and in some cases travelled a long way to be photographed for the project. So I found myself telling people that there would be an exhibition… Time to organise an exhibition then.

Here’s a little slideshow of images from the project and exhibition. I’ll finish the story shortly…

Double Silver for Fotofilia

The next exhibition at Fotofilia, which starts on Tuesday 15th March, features the work of two photographers, Mary Davis and Rosemary Cooper. They’re friends from London and St. Albans (respectively) who’ve previously studied and exhibited together and their work also has a few things in common: shot on film, monochrome, and beautifully hand-printed.

Subject-wise, Mary’s work tends towards exquisitely-lit still lifes, usually very high key with subtle tones and masterfully manipulated light. I first saw (and was enchanted by) Mary’s work when it was published in Silvershotz magazine.

By Mary Davis

Image by Mary Davis

Image by Mary Davis

Rosemary, on the other hand, finds inspiration in the wider world although once again, a recognition and appreciation of light’s mercurial qualities is what lifts these images beyond the two-dimensional.

Image by Rosemary Cooper

Image by Rosemary Cooper

Image by Rosemary Cooper

We are extremely fortunate to have photographers of this calibre exhibiting at Fotofilia. The images you see above are merely digital representations of “real” fine art prints. I do hope you are able to come to see this exhibition, which runs for just a few weeks, in order to appreciate the sheer quality of these images “in the flesh”. Come along on Tuesday evening (6:30-9pm) and you’ll also be able to meet the photographers themselves.


I was with Gareth Jukes, the street photographer whose “Chaos” exhibition is showing at Fotofilia until the 12th of March, as he spoke to a couple of gallery visitors and one of them happened to notice Gareth’s camera (which is never far away from him) and looked slightly puzzled.

He was trying to work out what sort of camera it was and was clearly having problems. On closer inspection, Gareth’s camera was an everyday Canon. You could be forgiven for having to look twice though, as Gareth has blacked out the “Canon” name and also most of the white or shiny bits on his “street camera”.

He explained that this is a trick he picked up from reading about (I think) Henri Cartier-Bresson, who employed this self-same trick to make his camera less conspicuous when out shooting on the street.

I thought this was a great idea and decided to share it wth you. Here’s a snap of Gareth’s camera…

Gareth Jukes's "street camera"

Tunnel Vision

Most photographers have a favourite prop that’s regularly rolled out to perk up the dullest of shoots. It might be a bit of period furniture, a musical instrument, an outfit or single item of clothing. For other photographers, it’s a favourite location, somewhere that can be depended on to provide great shots time after time. For some it might be a particular park bench, a doorway, a spot next to a window, or even a wall.
Increasingly, and perhaps surprisingly, for me it’s – a corridor.


Not just any corridor, however – MY corridor – the corridor that leads from the Fotofilia lobby to the studio door. It’s thirty-odd feet long, not very wide, not especially high-ceilinged, doubles as part of Fotofilia’s gallery space and, most importantly, is painted brilliant white.

Foolishly, I’ve begun letting my students in on this wonderful secret location and even my recipe for lighting it. So, I thought, why not tell the rest of the world too?

Here’s a few examples of the shots I’ve produced in my “light tunnel”…

Charlotte in Fotofilia's "tunnel"

Emma in the "tunnel"

Omie goes tunnelling

 And the main beauty of this location is the simplicity of the lighting needed: just a single flash (fitted with a narrow “spill-kill” reflector) bounced off the ceiling. The light then ricochets off each of the white surfaces and produces the most beautifully even and flattering illumination.  

Scarlett in the "tunnel"

The set-up

 At a studio workshop a couple of weeks ago (where we used the “light tunnel”), an attendee said thoughtfully afterwards, “I wonder if my wife will let me paint the landing…”.