Absolutely analogue

by • March 22, 2013 • ...for the weekend, Exposure Magazine, Featured, GeneralComments (2)1171

On 28th March, Holy Trinity Church in Leeds’ city centre reopens after it’s refit (alongside the new shopping centre it sits on the perimeter of). An arts centre,  it’s first exhibition is the ‘Wild Britain’ – the photography imagery of Barry Payling.

Barry uses entirely manual analogue cameras with fixed lenses and all on Velvia 50 reversal film, there is no photo manipulation of the prints, filters or cropping. Each image is ‘as seen’.

Exposure Leeds regular, Emma Brown caught up with Barry to ask him about this photography…

Barry-4To start with, Barry, can I ask – what first got you started in photography?

I started with a Kodak Brownie camera in the 50’s when I was about 8yrs old. Most people started with theses cameras. There were no single lens reflex cameras from Japan at that stage.

You are famous for your “pure photography” style, meaning you don’t use any filters, manual focus, fixed lenses and no light metering – what camera and lens do you use most often for your work? 

I use a Hasselblad analogue camera that shoots 6cm x 6cm film. All the lenses are prime lenses which means they have set focal lengths – 40mm is wide-angle and 80mm is standard.

I see you are also a film fan, have you ever considered going digital?

I’ve watched digital for over 14 years now. I’ve seen demonstrations/lectures/shows and seen friends lose small fortunes on digital cameras. The digital camera equivalent to mine was £19,000 when I bought mine. Mine was £2,000. The digital one now is often advertised at around £1,200.oo on the internet and many fail to sell. Mine is appreciating in value all the time.

But apart from that side of it, I would consider digital if it could wipe the floor with my own film/camera combination and I’m afraid it can’t. So I won’t be changing any time yet. Many of the people who come on my photographic breaks have actually moved back to film and students seem to love film and the whole process of developing the old fashioned way. Horses for courses.

Barry-4Your photography is also completely unedited, with no use of Photoshop or any darkroom techniques. This must take a lot of planning and preparation to get it right without relying on this as a fall-back tool?

This just comes from experience and working with the same film and same iso rating all the time.

What is your favourite subject to shoot?

I’ve shot everything over the years in my job. Famous people, pop groups, sport, commercial etc etc. BUT when you are in the wilds and a striking ray of light illuminates a remote loch or mountain top you still get hairs standing up on your arms.

What is the trickiest issue that effects your shooting style?

Sometimes I can walk 20 miles a day so carrying a tripod is too much weight. So I have to improvise. Lean against a wall or a tree. Sometimes that’s not possible and it does restrict me.

What is your favourite location for shooting?

The Scottish Highlands. Incredible!

I see you run photographic teaching breaks, are there any tips you can offer any photographers here wishing to try a more natural photography style?

Forget sharpening/photoshop/jpeg/tiff/raw/hdr/ megapixels etc etc and all the junk anoraks fill your brains with. But remember lighting – composition – exposure. 3 simple things.

barry-3Have you ever asked by websites/magazines/publications to edit or manipulate your work?

Never. My film format is square so I “see” square photographs. This is where many people “fail” in their photography. They don’t look for the format they are shooting in.

I hope my photographs are sharp already. The last thing I want is somebody committing the sin of “Sharpening”. Some if not many of the photos are see and judge are ruined by sharpening. I once read an article by a photographer who shot on an old 5inch by 4inch film camera and he said his photographs were “soft sharp”. I know exactly what he meant. Believe it or not sharp isn’t always best.

What is your favourite photo you have taken, and why?

Maybe the one on my website under the Landscape section called The Road To Loch Maree. It’s just a shot looking through some trees. There is barely any other colour other than green and very little subject matter. Simplicity.

You can view Barry Payling’s exhibition at Holy Trinity Church (Boar Lane, Leeds) daily from 10am to 3:30pm (28th march – 25th April) or visit his website.

All images © Barry Payling. All Rights reserved; used with permission.


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2 Responses to Absolutely analogue

  1. Paul Dishman says:

    Looking forward to seeing the exhibition. Are any images “pure” though. In days gone by I used Fuji Velvia 50 and more than once was accused of “disneyfying” nature as some qaurters dismissed it`s high level of saturation, high contrast and sharpness. I used and liked it anyway but any purewr than other film / digital techniques? Does the square format nature of the work not also distort the pure view in some way? Not saying they do for me – just that for any one approach to be held up as pure and unadulterated is erroenous to me. Lie what I have seen though and looking forward to seeing the images and hope lots of people go.

  2. I agree with Paul. Really looking forward to the show and like these images but it would have been good to see the article further probing the ethos of ‘pure photography’ that leads this work. It can be argued that all photographs are distorted by the decisions made when shooting. Even the basics, composition- what is included in the frame and what is excluded, it all carries connotations and directs meaning. Colour reversal film is very high contrast compared to what the human eye sees, which can process a far greater range of information. But it is these features that afford photography to function as art and not simply flat document: “No great artist ever attempts to copy nature. In painting, drama, or literature the purpose of the work of art is not so much to reproduce the world as to explain it. The artist represents things not as they are but as they might be, if only we could see within” Nicholas Humphrey, 1986. I believe the same is true of photography.

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