Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for February, 2012

Me, Myself and I

Remarkably, my courses at Birmingham Botanical Gardens are already halfway through the term. For my” Advanced DSLR” group this means it’s time to hand in their first (of two) assignments. I will be showing the work of a couple of my students here over the next couple of months, but to kick things off, I thought you might be interested to see this assignment submission by JK.

It is actually nine individual prints which JK chose to display for the crit in this square arrangement (each image being square anyway). This display format is, I think, key to its “Wow! factor” and while, you can’t really get the full impact of nine large, quality prints here on the blog, you can at least get some impression of how the images work together in this arrangement. But enough from me, here’s what JK says about this assignment submission…

“My initial idea for my project ‘Me, myself and I’ was to produce a series of photos that reflected how people see me, things that make me feel ‘myself’ and how I see my body.
After looking at several different body landscape ideas I was particularly drawn to David Moore’s ‘Landscape nude 1’ 1973. His composition and use of light inspired me to try and produce photographs based on parts of my own body.
After a lot of practice (!) the shots I had taken were quite successful and I looked at how I could link these images to other aspects of myself. I decided to take photographs of some of my favourite things. These images were of things that are, in different ways and for different reasons important to me. These images are cropped in closely like the body images but left in colour. I chose to do this because I wanted the contrast between things that ‘add colour’ in their own way to my life and my black and white ‘stripped back’ body images.
The series of photographs are composed together in a certain way and this is due to the shapes and lines formed in my body photos. The first set show more strong structured angles, my chin and shoulder, I think emulate the lines of the sugar tongs and the edge of the teacup. In the second and third set of photographs the arches of my back and shoulder blades can be seen in the curves of the perfume bottles, the rose petals and the slice of cake.”

Image courtesy of JK

The sheer quality of the work produced by my Advanced group is no longer a major surprise to me, even if it is to the students themselves, but I do remain very impressed and extremely proud.
Thank you JK, for your permission to publish these images.

A Load Of Baldridge

Image by Jamie Baldridge

Another edition of Silvershotz magazine is squeezed through my letterbox and as usual, I rip off the polythene wrapper and devour the contents with a cuppa.

This time I don’t have to turn more than a few pages before I find something that simply takes my breath away. By the time I reach page 8, I am transported to the world of the fantastical imaginings of Jamie Baldridge, lens-based artist (don’t go calling him a photographer) and Professor of Photography at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette.

Image by Jamie Baldridge

His images are, we are told, devised and composed in Baldridge’s mind before being realised using photography and the usual digital manipulation techniques. And what a mind! Baldridge makes Tim Burton’s work seem like documentary! Officially, and according to the Silvershotz blurb, Baldridge’s work is informed by the discovery, and systematic absorption of children’s literature, starting with (but certainly not ending with) a dusty copy of “101 Fairy Tales“. His work, we are told, refers to stories such as “The Little Matchstick Girl” (or “The Little Match Girl”?), but goes far beyond that, incorporating more adult concepts and themes.

Image by Jamie Baldridge

The work is as sumptuous as it is bizarre, each image very crafted and beautifully lit. Baldridge apparently strove for an “Old World” look and so travelled UK and Europe recording thousands of scenes and textures for later incorporation into his images. I do think this comes across. There is a very traditional feel to the settings and “props” but nothing traditional about the final images.

I love these images. I hope you do too.

Find more at

Image by Jamie Baldridge

A Little Light Relief

Alright, so the Euro’s on its last legs, and there’s all kinds of atrocities taking place in Syria, and some football bloke quit, and another football bloke got off…

But hopefully this will take your mind of all of that less important stuff for a few moments.

Many thanks to Mike Peters for sending this in.



Amazing Men – For A Quid?

I felt it would be unfair of me not to share this little discovery with you.

One of my many addictions (and you may have read about some of the others right here) is photography books. I use them for teaching, for research, and for general inspiration. I’d planned for this post to be about a book which I acquired as part of a donated cache of photography book gold-dust a few months ago – and then I went to Poundland – in Dudley.

I’ve found a few good (and not so good) photography books in Dudley’s Poundland store in the past so I always look through the book section. Today I found “Amazing Men: Courage Insight Endurance” by Joyce Tenneson – a monograph stuffed with monochrome portraits of men aged from sixty to a hundred years old. The cover shows a shirtless Ben Kingsley and the books pages include portraits of the famous (Harold Pinter, Patrick Stewart, Bill Cosby, James Earl Jones) to the unknown, but nonetheless image-worthy.

Tenneson’s approach is an apparent mixture of Irving Penn’s “tent” images and Annie Leibowitz’s best known work. In fact, it seems Tenneson and Leibowitz have both photographed some of the same men. One review I read of Tenneson’s work described her images as “luminous portraits” – while others might describe them as simply over-exposed. I’m being a little flippant but there is a definite glow to these images, bordering on “soft focus”.

This book is, I discovered, a follow-up to “Wise Women“, which appears to have been rather successful. Copies of “Wise Women” are currently listed on Amazon at £15+ whereas “Amazing Men” is listed at between one penny and £9.99. Mine set me back 95p (as is everything at Poundland at the moment).

I confess I’ve never heard of Joyce Tenneson but she is described as being “one of the ten most influential women photographers in the history of photography” by American Photo. Perhaps I should have heard of her.

Some of these images look a bit strange around the eyes, as if the whites have been painted in, and there’s a strange compulsion to photograph these elderly gents naked from the waste up, but that’s my only real concern. Otherwise, this is a really nice book of portraits with an interesting mixture of subjects coupled with insightful quotes from the subjects themselves.

So I’d recommend you head to Dudley (like you need an excuse) and snap up one if these nice little books. Failing that, there’s always Amazon –




Sitting At The Feet Of The Master

Q. How do you get twenty-odd photographers in a lift?

No, it isn’t a particularly bad joke, it’s the situation we found ourselves in last night when fotofilia’s CLUB had what may be the first of many “location” meetings, where we leave our usual venue, the Fotofilia studio, and instead of bringing in someone to give a talk, we go to them.

Last night we met at The Custard Factory in Digbeth and went up a few flights of stairs to the studio of top Birmingham photographer, Richard Battye. Richard’s been along to speak to both clubs before but we thought it might be nice for him to be able to show his images along with a demonstration of the actual equipment used. But then, Richard’s so prolific that even he came to speak every week, he would have new images to show and stories to tell.

One of Richard's personal favourites.

It’s always interesting to see how other photographers work and the equipment they favour. Richard very effectively demonstrated his own particular choice of light-shapers (and no, I’m not going to tell you what it is, you’ll have to ask him yourself) alongside the incredible images they’ve produced.

I certainly learned from it and if the feedback I’ve recieved today is anything to go by, so did the members. It’s always refreshing to see a true craftsman at work and especially one who doesn’t believe in complicating his work unnecessarily.

Richard will be teaching a lighting course for fotofilia very soon. I’ll tell you more nearer the day. But in the meantime, we’d like to thank Richard and his assistant for their time and hospitality.

From Richard's "Still Dancing" project.

Images used with kind permission of Richard Battye.

The B.I.G. Start

“It started with a cake”, as the prematurely shiny-headed fella from Hot Chocolate very nearly sang in 1982. And a coffee. Like so many inspired ideas, this one had its roots in a caffeine-fuelled conversation at Brewsmiths with leading iphoneographista Nettie Edwards a few months ago. Nettie had been telling me about the excellent exhibition by the London Instagram Group and the seed of thought, amply fertilised by “chocolate porter cake”, was sown.

When Nettie came to speak to one of the fotofilia clubs last month, we discussed the idea in more depth and thanks to Nettie’s contacts, we managed to become the first official Instagram group for Birmingham and the Black Country. The process involved, among other things, getting our own special authorised logo from the Instagram peeps and checking if there was already a group registered for this area. Luckily, there wasn’t and so Birmingham Instagram Group was born.

The official logo for B.I.G.

The idea is that there will be “instameets” (exactly what they sound like), exhibitions, competitions etc. Nettie and I are the administrators at the moment but others may be brought on board at some point.

Fotofilia is the obvious centre for the group, being somewhere to meet (if needed), exhibit, and so on. But this is not about fotofilia as such – as I explained to someone recently, this is the “hobby” part of my photography and its given me back that extra bit of creative mojo that can start to flag from time to time when creativity is also your livelihood.

If you’re an “Instagramer”, please follow us – @igersbirmingham on Instagram.

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Twitter: Yes, we are fully tweeted up too – @igersbirmingham