Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for September, 2012


image by Dominic Tranter

If I had a hat, I would take it off to Dave Shepherd, one of our curating team, for putting together the rather splendid “Illumination” exhibition which is now on display in the Fotofilia Gallery. “Illumination” is the work of four University of Wolverhampton photography students which centres on studio-based images.

The images in the flyer above are by Holly Smith. Here’s Dave’s description of the show…

“A photograph is a secret about a secret: the more it tells you the less you know” – D.A.

Fotofilia presents: Illumination – A collective of local Photographers all choosing to operate in the studio environment.

The title, Illumination, seemed particularly fitting for this exhibition, since each individual has consciously chosen to use artificial studio lighting to banish the darkness and illuminate their carefully posed subjects; thus controlling what you see and what you do not see.

And It is in this instance that influences begins to shine through; with a clear understanding of chiaroscuro (the study of light and dark), as well as a nod to their historical and contemporary peers such as Cindy Sherman, Irving Penn and Eleanor Antin.

The end result: a beautiful series of tableau images, which are not only visually stunning, but interesting and thought provoking.”

Image courtesy of Zowie Jane Hanagan

image by Emma Glasgow


Due to a busy week this is the first chance I’ve had to post this information but I do hope you’ll be able to come along and take a look for yourself.


On The (Stratford) Road Again

I’m not sure where I first heard about it. Perhaps it was a tweet, perhaps it was a facebook link or a chat with a fellow Birmingham photographer, but hear about I did – several times. So when one of Fotofilia’s regular course attendees mentioned that he’d met the photographer behind The Stratford Road Project and passed on my details, I looked forward to the possibility of meeting Rob Gilbert for myself.

Rob has since delivered talks about this fascinating project to both of the Fotofilia photography clubs (THE CLUB and F2). I was especially keen for Rob to speak to the groups because I felt The Stratford Road Project was a truly inspirational body of work. Undertaken over several months and at occasional risk to his own personal safety, the project involved Rob photographing one hundred individuals that were approached (almost) at random along a five mile stretch of one of Birmingham’s main thoroughfares.

Celia. Image reproduced with the kind permission of Rob Gilbert.

This section of the road encompasses a diverse multitude of ethnic and socio-economic communities, from the relatively affluent and predominantly white-British Shirley area through to the arguably more deprived and largely Pakistani and Somali areas in the northern stretches of the road, but encountering older immigrant influxes from Ireland and more recent arrivals from eastern Europe along the way. It seemed to me that Rob was more fascinated by the northern end of the road and challenged by the cultural inhibitions which restricted his success in securing volunteers in that area.

Amy. Image reproduced with the kind permission of Rob Gilbert.

This is a unique project, inspired by curiosity and social interest, but approached in a thorough and methodical way, with clear boundaries from the outset (subjects must be on the Stratford Rd itself, all photographs must be taken in daylight, subjects would be asked three questions and the answers published alongside the portraits on the project blog, the portraits must be shot in the vertical format, the number of the property closest to where the image was taken would accompany the image online to add geographical context etc).

Rob also shot a number of “establishing” or context shots to provide a wider visual experience and to add to the viewer’s geographical understanding of the project. But the portraits are clearly what the project is about. The subjects were not directed in any way and consequently the range of expressions is especially interesting to me personally, whether grinning broadly, suspicious or nervous (them, not me).

Mark. Image reproduced with the kind permission of Rob Gilbert.

Overall, while Rob would be the first to admit that it is by no means an accurate “scientific” survey, the project provides a powerful visual socio-geographic “snapshot” of a multicultural city in the early twenty-first century. At both of the talks I’ve seen him deliver, he was asked if he would repeat the project in, say, ten years – a possibility which he certainly didn’t rule out. It was also clear that people considered the project to be a valuable piece of social history and I would definitely agree.

See the whole project at

My thanks to Rob for the talks and use of the images.

It’s 2 For 1 Time On Photographers!

Feeling a little deflated after reading my new issue of Grumpy Photographers Monthly, I thought you might like my own little story from the “I used to make £5k a day and go to work in my lear jet and now I’m doing weddings for £250. Woe is me,” school of optimism.

A few years ago, I used to shoot events for the local city council, who shall remain nameless, but it’s near my Birmingham-based studio and rhymes with “Nirmingham”. Well, this was quite a nice little gig really. I got to meet nice people, attend interesting events, photograph the odd (sometimes very odd) VIP and got access to some great viewpoints. And it paid quite nicely too. Only the odd day here and there but such is the life of the freelance tog.

The man who hired me was a very nice guy, and a keen photographer with an artist’s eye and so understood what was required in terms of access and opportunities to achieve a correspondingly high quality photographic record of the event. Every time he assigned me a job, he had already thought through the best places to be and the best times to be there, along with introductions to the people that would make this all possible.


Steve Bruce following a champagne soaking at the hands of the players on the balcony of the town hall. Copyright: David Rann


Anyway, during my time there, I was told by this man, and others, that they were approached on an almost daily basis by photographers – usually amateurs – who offered to do what I was doing…

But for free.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out why it might be that when said council is in the financial doledrums and the nice man leaves for pastures new, my assignments stop. I’m not saying this is definitely what happened in my case (although information recieved does rather lead one to suspect this to be so). After all, if you’re handling even a small chunk of the public purse you’re going to want to get value for that money. Instead of paying one qualified, experienced professional photographer, why not have two, or even three – hell, let’s go to town – FOUR keen (and possibly competent) amateurs for free/gratis/nada/zilch. They’ll do the same job, won’t they?

…won’t they?