A selection of photos by John Whitham a.k.a. voigtf64
– Hello John. How would you describe this set of images?
– This is a very interesting selection of my photos. Firstly, all are film based, and all represent a moment in time, where there is alignment either by accident or observation (e.g. moving two steps to the left), all are about harmonics of space. I dislike the 35mm format of 3 to 2, it is not harmonic, neither are 5×4 or 10×8. I was strongly influenced early on by a book “Elements of dynamic symmetry” a Dover Publication, and later by a book on Islamic pattern by Keith Critchlow. These books and similar are not in the forefront of my mind whilst taking photographs, nor do I apply any rigid theory. However, working within a square and breaking elements down into harmonic proportions along with time and space is at the root of these photographs.
What is quite concerning to me is how difficult the transition has been from film to digital. I can remember going out with just 12 shots on 120 and the concentration that was needed to make intelligent decisions and to be able to walk away from what you knew was an average situation. I have long since dismantled my darkroom, it was the correct decision, but, oh my, this digital world is proving to be a challenge. There is no need to edit or walk away, this in turn can lead to sloppiness of thinking and the power of chance.
– As a photographer, what do you find interesting about urban environments and architecture? What usually attracts your visual attention?
– Architects do not make me smile, having said that things appear to be getting marginally better. Buildings are dormant, it is the moment of time, even the passing of time, the colour of the day, the movement of people and the alignment of things that are the observation. Photography is the need to recognise these things with others. We all see the same things, it is just that photographers have the need to store and record it.
– Which other photographic styles do you like besides architectural and urban photography?
– I don’t know about styles, but I do have favourite photographers that I refer back to. I am also influenced by painters and often a very varied collection of them lurk around the back of my head whilst taking pics. There’s Rothko for sure, also Howard Hodgkin, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Malevich, Kandinski, Nicholson … too many, even Annigoni. Photographers are referred to for their skills and technique as much as their insight, and their relationship with the time they each lived in. So Roger Fenton in the Crimea , Atget in France, Steichen, Moholy-Nagy, Brandt, the wit Lee Friedlander, Irving Penn, Salgado, even Snowdon having grown up with The Sunday Times colour supplement, and for sheer technique, Karsh and that 14inch Ektar. If this plants me with my head firmly looking back over my shoulder then so be it.
– What motivates you to be busy with photography, what is your goal as a photographer?
– I take photographs every day. My goal is to have a full and rewarding day. Results are important, but only as an outcome of keeping my eyes open and trying not to respond in the same predictable ways, which is the thing I can be most guilty of. Thankfully I am beyond the screeching ego of youth and the pragmatism of middle age, I am now trying to find the courage to behave as fearlessly as Goya portrayed in his late manic etchings, I am that fearless or capable.
– Do you have a ‘dream location’, where would you like to take photos?
– Not a dream location as such, but I do have a dream to work with a writer or poet in the same way that Fay Godwin produced photographs for the book “Remains of Elmet” illustrating and reflecting the poetry of Ted Hughes, or explore the poetry of John Clare and the countryside of Northamptonshire where I live albeit two hundred years later.
– What is your favorite camera?
– My favourite camera was and still is the Rolleiflex. I like the viewfinder, the optics and the quietness of operation. I have owned two of them firstly a 3.5f with a planar lens and then a2.8f with planar as a replacement. This was a mistake , I should have kept both of them. Although the difference between 75mm and 80mm does not seem a great deal, in practice it proved enormous. The 75mm 3,5f Rollei was wonderful for landscape with an openness of vista that the 80mm 2.8f could not capture. On the other hand the 2,8f was the superior studio and portrait camera. My first camera was an Olympus OM1, I still have it but do not use it now and I would never want to part with it. Truth is my real passion is for lenses, especially English ones. I now have a Canon 5d mk2 and a Sony Nex5n, neither of which I feel much affection for, but they do the job of capturing the images made by my old lenses.
– Did you publish any photo books and where do you expose your works on internet?
– I have no books or other visibility on the internet other than Flickr. One cannot argue with the feedback from Flickr , it is what it is. It is high art, it is low art , it is multi- cultural and North South East and West . It is so broad that the thought “every one is out of step except me” is not a consideration.
-Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure meeting you.