Having worked heavily in black and white photography as an A-level student, many of my influences stem from that field. The most significant concept that I adopted was one of candid photography – I detest having to take portraits or staged group shots, but love capturing decisive moments that may appear to be portraits.
Cartier-Bresson liked to be in the middle of things, absorbed by events. He was a ‘human interest’ photographer who benefitted from the use of a new generation of lightweight camera such as the Ermanox and the Leica.
He would capture ‘the decisive moment’.
“We are passive onlookers in a world that moves perpetually. Our only moment of creation is that 1/125 of a second when the shutter clicks.”
One of my favourite Cartier-Bresson images, Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris, about which I wrote during my A-Level exam, depicts a motion-blurred bulky man lurching into the wet, being mocked by a sprightly figure leaping lightly on a poster.
Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris 1932 © Henry Cartier-Bresson
A childhood living on the rugged edge of Dartmoor and many months of my undergraduate years spent on geological fieldtrips in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland led me to an appreciation of the works of Ansel Adams. His obsessive attention to detail where composition is concerned, combined with the most majestic of locations blend to form landscape photography perfection. However, it is his depictions of Redwoods that most resonate with me, reminding me of break time at my junior school where we used to run around the three enormous Redwoods within the school grounds.
Redwoods, Ball Creek Flat, CA 1960 © Ansel Adams
For as long as I can remember, David Bailey has been the photographer whose work I have most admired – perhaps strange for someone who does not enjoy the process ofportrait photography. So well know are his iconic works from the 1960’s that they need little mention, but his bromide print of Michael Caine taken in May 1965 is probably my preferred well-known Bailey portrait.
However, having sent his children to my Father’s school, Bailey was generous enough to photograph each one of the staff, as a thank you for their help and support in educating his children. Thus my choice Bailey portrait is of my Father, sitting in his study.
Charles Price 2000 © David Bailey
As a life-long fan of David Bailey, my admiration of John Swannell’s work is hardly surprising. having assisted at Vogue Studios, Swannell then spent four years assisting David Bailey before setting up his own studio. From there, he never looked back, working for many magazines, including Harpers & Queen, Vogue and Tatler; producing numerous ‘celebrity’ Christmas cards, and photographing al the leading members of the British Royal Family.
While so many of his images are exquisite in composition and appearance, a particular favourite of mine is one of his portraits of his former mentor David Bailey.
David Bailey 1970 © John Swannell / Camera Press