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About my photographs

The photographs displayed here are a sample from my collection of images amassed over some forty-plus years. Hopefully they convey something of the areas that interest me in photography. This collection is added to from time to time as new work is produced. The influence of photographers that I admire, such as Edwin Smith and Raymond Moore, is no doubt evident in some of my work, but my interests and way of working were already set before I even knew about these practitioners.

The suffix 'F' or 'D' in the menu denotes film or digital originals.

The majority of pictures are fairly recent and reflect a transition from film-based to digital photography during the last decade, although I still use film and maintain a permanent darkroom. I am a member of various groups connected with traditional photography: APUG (Analogue Photography User Group; FADU (Film and Darkroom Users); f295 (Exploring 21st Century Photography) amongst others.

For digital work I predominantly use Nikon cameras (D800 and D300) and sometimes the impressive Lumix LX5. All image processing is done in Adobe Lightroom 4, with the occasional round-trip through Adobe Photoshop CS6. I use Photoshop, Photomatix or HDR Expose for experiments with HDR (High Dynamic Range). I always make my own prints using an Epson 3800 pigment inkjet, usually on Hahnemuhle papers.

For film-based work the camera choice is variable, but can range from a Rollei 35S or Nikon F4 through various medium format models including Fuji GW690III, Mamiya RZ67 and Hasselblad, to 5x4 format using either an MPP or Sinar P. Some work is also done on a 10x8 Toyo Monorail currently on loan to me. All film is processed in my own darkroom and currently I am favouring pyro developers.
Prints are made on fibre-based paper, usually Adox or Foma brands, but occasionally Ilford. Enlargers are both from De Vere (bench 203 with Multigrade head and 507 floor-standing with dichroic head). I tend to mix most chemicals myself from basic ingredients.
I maintain another site devoted entirely to chemical-based photography at where a lot more information on techniques is given.

I have been experimenting recently with digital negatives; transparencies printed by ink-jet from digital image files, which are then printed conventionally by contact on to fibre-based paper. An article about this work may be found on this site.

Prints of all images are available for purchase. Please send me a message via the contact form, stating the image of interest and the size of print required.

The galleries are presented in a 'thumb-through' format using the mouse, much like swiping the screen of an iPad. Clicking on any one enlarges it. However, I've discovered that on an actual iPad this feature does not work! Images may be viewed by selecting the first and then using the navigation overlaid on the popup.

Photographs made on film

All of the photographs displayed in this gallery have been made on film, using formats from 35mm to 10 x 8 inches, in a variety of cameras. They date from the 1970s to the present day.

All are scans of prints made in my own darkroom exclusively on fibre-based photographic papers. In each case, the scans are in in colour in an attempt to convey the subtle variations in the black and white image that can result from the use of different papers, chemicals and techniques.

Many of these prints will have been toned using selenium to enhance and deepen the shadow detail and create a richness unequalled by anything an inkjet printer can produce. In fact, it is this unique quality of depth in silver-based printing that draws me to continue using the process. 

There is something about the surface of a photograph, whether it be silver or ink-based, that acts as a barrier between the viewer and the photographer's intent. This barrier is re-inforced by reproduction in print or here on the web. I tend to subscribe to the art critic Brian Sewell's view that photography cannot be considered 'true art' for this very reason, although that debate has been going on since the first photographs were produced. 

Here's what Sewell has to say in a recent review he gave of a photographic exhibition:

Vulgarity is, indeed, the almost common factor among these present-day photographers (most of them fiftyish or so) — the vulgarity of the commonplace subject, the vulgarity of colour, the vulgarity of scale (now common in every current form of art) and the vulgarity of surface, too often utterly repellent. Craigie Horsfield is alone in expressing a dislike of the photographic surface that is as intense as mine — “I did not like the presence of the great majority of photographs,” he said of another exhibition: “The surface of a photograph does not act; the surface of a painting does, but the surface of the photograph is redundant, it is not engaged by the artist.” I must go further and argue that the surface is as much a barrier to the image as a varnish thick as treacle on a painting.1

Given the constraint of surface and the 'mechanical' nature of photography, one can only strive to create prints that minimise this barrier and attempt to leave the image to speak for itself. The traditional silver-based print, executed to the highest achievable standard, has a certain quality, or 'soul', that embodies the hours spent in its creation.

1 Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present, National Gallery. London Evening Standard, 1 November 2012.

Lith & Tone

It's easy to colour and print an image with digital photography, and countless identical copies can be made. But to do the same with a silver-based photograph is much more of a challenge.

This gallery shows traditional silver-based work where 'alternative' processing has been used. This may be the Lith Process or just straightforward print toning using a variety of chemical solutions.

Tim Rudman explaining the lith printing technique, 2009 ©Roy HammansThe Lith process if quite complex and time-consuming, but the result is rather unique. In fact, reproducing exactly the same print more than once is even more of a challenge. Perhaps the leading exponent of the technique is the photographer Tim Rudman, with whom I spent a thoroughly enjoyable few days back in 2009 learning his methods.

Toning silver prints is a fascinating topic about which Tim has written perhaps the most concise and thorough guide in 'The Master Photographer's Toning Book', now reissued but still rather expensive due to its rarity.

I have experimented with selenium, gold, copper and iron toning and some examples are shown here.

Images shown here originated in most cases from film negatives in a variety of sizes, but some work from digital negatives is also included. In every case though the final print is made in the darkroom in 'the old-fashioned way'.

Boatscapes - Digital

Imagined landscapes found in boatyards around the East Anglian coast.

The 'Boatscape' series happened by accident.

Like many things I get involved in, this project started by chance with some casual images of boats on Mersea Island, Essex, back in 2006. As a lifelong devotee of black and white photography but loving the colour art of people like Albert Irvin and Mark Rothko, I was interested by the appearance of these images after processing. I liked their 'painterly' look, which made me think of the early pictorialists and their efforts to make photographs appear to be paintings, although these are, of course, very different.

The act of observing, selecting, framing, photographing and post-processing these abstract colours, textures and shapes encapsulates all that I enjoy about photography. Not being a gifted artist in any of the traditional painters' skills, these are as close as I get to producing my own personal rendition of a scene that exists in reality but which becomes transformed by process and presentation.


Edward Bawden's House - 1989

In 1989, I was fortunate to be asked to record the interior of the artist Edward Bawden's house in Saffron Walden, Essex, shortly after his death, by Olive Cook, a close friend of Bawden.

I spent the best part of a sunny December day there, lighting and recording an interior which featured much of his work and that of his late wife, the potter Charlotte Epton, as well as prints and artefacts by many other famous artists. The work was undertaken for The Fry Gallery, Saffron Walden, who hold a set of the prints as part of their extensive Bawden collection. They are regularly exhibited and have been used in books about Bawden and his work.

Obviously these were all shot on film in 1989, and it's interesting to reflect on the way that digital imaging has almost 'dumbed down' the whole process of picture-making in such circumstances. These all had to be lit carefully (using large studio strobes) and the Hasselblad camera aligned to ensure that verticals remained vertical - there was no easy method of correcting that afterwards. Exposure had to be accurate and the colour needed to be also - to ensure that records of his art and wallpapers were accurately portrayed. 

I made Polaroids of each shot prior to exposing the film, to make sure that all was 'just so'. I also recorded each view on black and white film by swapping backs on the camera for each shot. I made a colour reference of a Kodak colour chart for each key area I worked in. This could be used at the printing stage to ensure that colours remained true.

The Polaroids were the only way of knowing if things were going to work out okay, and even then the films had to processed without error and prints made to the required standard.

These days, my Nikon D800 could produce images that equal - if not exceed - the quality of Hasselblad film negatives. I have immediate feedback as to whether or not all is okay with lighting, exposure, etc. The built-in 'horizon' feature enables me to level the camera with ease. Magnified 'Live View' means that I can see exactly what I am recording, whether the focus and depth of field is accurate and whether or not stray reflections are a problem.
Colour can be calibrated and corrected if necessary after exposure. Black and white versions can be made from the same files as the colour images.

Yet when all is said and done, there is something about the 'look' of these old film images - even though they have been scanned and are reproduced yet again through the medium of a computer screen. It's hard to define, but if I were to make digital images of the same subject alongside film there is a difference. Not always in film's favour.

I still photograph the interiors of artists' houses today. Would I use film? - no I wouldn't...

The Kite Area, Cambridge, 1980s

During the 1980s I worked on a personal project to document some of the 'Kite Area' of Cambridge, so-called because on a map its boundaries formed a kite shape. The area was bounded by East Road, Newmarket Road, Maids Causeway, Short Street, Emmanuel Road, Parker Street and Parkside.

I lived just on its boundary and it was within easy walking distance, even carrying my 5x4 camera. Everything I photographed there was, of course, on film, and all in black & white. I wish now that I had been much more thorough in my coverage, as by the time I started a lot of it had been demolished already to make way for the Grafton Centre development.

The story behind this - and some very useful information about the area generally - may be found on Dr Ian Kitching's excellent (if somewhat old) pages. There are also some historic photos on Simon_K's Flickr pages.

All of the photographs shown here are scans of silver prints. Many have been exhibited at various times and copies may be had by dropping me a line.