Meeting with Paul Trevor 11.06.17

I met Paul Trevor on Sunday, at the Atkinson Gallery (no relation, I don't think) in Southport. I've liked his work for a long time, since first seeing it in his book, Like You've Never Been Away. We talked about a lot in the three hours we were there. I should have made notes but didn't, so this is what I remember

Style of shooting.
We agreed on a style of shooting where the subject isn't aware of the camera. It's an approach I take and it was reassuring to hear the same ideas from Paul. Shooting life as it is, where ever it might be happening, without the interference and falsities that, 'can I take your picture', or sight of a camera can bring. Often shooting without using a viewfinder, feeling where the camera is pointing having already set the aperture, speed, lens etc. Paul talked about the importance of the eyes being in focus in a series of 50mm 30cm from subject, no flash street shots taken in London. 'In Your Face'.

For me the whole environment is important. Paul shot with a shallow depth of field where I would have stopped down to catch the lot, but the principle is the same. I guess shallow makes the image more intimate.

Photos in books, print quality, the fold.
Something that comes up a lot when I meet people, is the importance of photographic images in books rather than galleries. Photos in galleries don't always work. Admittedly, neither do they in books, but I think a book can do a lot more for photographs than a gallery can. I compared a gallery show to putting something you want everyone to see, down in the corner of a room that's pretty hard to get to. Bad analogy, but I know what I mean.

The form of the book is important for Paul, and what the form says about the content. I like this. There are way too many books being published where the first thought is obviously the design of the book rather than the content. Those books are bad, mostly. Paul talked about the print quality being paramount, and the edit. Agreed.

Then there's the fold. Paul was very easy going here, more so than me I think. Books have a fold, so you just deal with it. Paul mentioned two images in the book already mentioned where the subject falls into the fold, but in the mix it didn't bother him too much. This easy goingness intrigues me. I kind of agree, if the book is quite long then a couple of slips perhaps either go unnoticed, or serve to remind the reader somehow, that they are reading and not looking. In a short book though, it would bother me too much. The solution would either be a margin (not with my work), cropping or shifting off centre and zooming. None are ideal I suppose.

Spontaneity of all ideas and things and decisions. Naivety and staying hungry.
Paul says, 'always stay hungry'. Hungry for subjects, ideas, knowledge, opportunities, travel...All of it. I added that naivety is important. The child's eye and mind, as Picasso used to discus. Being a tourist and not relying on knowledge. Being spontaneous, not over thinking over talking or over researching, just doing. David Hurn often discusses being a doer rather than a thinker. That's it.

But further, sometimes shooting, then trying to get a better shot...Often it's that first spontaneous shot that works. From the gut. I compared it to assessment at work where I will make a gut judgement and write a percentage. Then I'll mark thoroughly, have it cross marked and moderated and discuss at length. 95% of the time the final mark is within a number or two of my initial gut percentage. Research in (art) academia, is often an example of over-talking. I'd sooner just do it, and look at it rather than talk about it. Is that not why we make rather than talk?

Documentary photography vs current trend photography.
Something Daniel Meadows told me a few years ago, 'I always shot for history books', sticks with me. I often wonder how photographers know what will be of value in the future. A tacit understanding maybe. I gave Paul a few recent books by Ian Beesley, Colin Thomas, Dave Sinclair and others. We talked about how each 'is life'. Each a snip of the world as it was, no fuss. It's history and therefore can't really help but be important. Some of the books were edited chronologically, if the content was a day or event for example. Some, like Colin Thomas' was more playful and I edited based on recurring themes or motifs in the images. But the same applies. They're people doing what they do, in the past. Then collectively the books do a little more, in a more weighty way.

Photos of pastel coloured objects, in a corner, at jaunty angles, with no reference to time or place leave me blank and I got the impression they do Paul too. Maybe that's too harsh. What I mean is, in 10, 20 or 50 years, they will tell us little about anything except a small trend in photography. Photographs of people, places and happenings can tell us more about trend though. Maybe I just don't get it.

Histories, creating archives.
Leading from that, these pictures of life are a record. Without them there isn't much of a record of the every day. I'm excluding mass social media because that's a different (although valuable) thing. The photographs create a history, they're potential knowledge using the same definition of potential as potential energy. Their potential is endless, really.

The images as sole things, or collectively in a book, and then a collection of books, becomes an archive of potential knowledge. Tasty stuff.

Non photographers becoming photographers, inc chemists.
We discussed the fact that many / most photographers are untrained in a academic sense. I mentioned that illustrators are similar, lots coming from a fine art background. Paul mentioned lots of photographers coming from chemistry. The untrained eye again, the naivety, and to use David Hurn again, 'where you put yourself and when you press the shutter'.

The thing about being a doer rather than a talker. I make things. I've always liked to make but not necessarily to discuss. I think that's a different thing and maybe for someone else to do. I would like someone to write Café Royal up as a PhD in terms of the above. More expanded and more coherent and articulate. Maybe I will one day but I need to think about what the books are / do a bit more first.

Paul gave me this — he's in Liverpool working at Metal.

The Absurdities and Other Things

Five–ten years ago, I kept a blog. I imported that blog here a few years ago. I've just deleted it all because it was rubbish. I also kept a blog for Café Royal Books, my publishing house. There's some interesting stuff there but I can't find a way to import that here, so it stays there for now.

I'm going to try to write a bit more — about meetings with photographers for Café Royal. About books I'm reading and thoughts about photography, education (I also work as a Fine Art and Illustration lecturer), and about family, the kids and my own practice. It's all related. It'll probably bore you, but it's an attempt to make sense of stuff.

So here you are. Words.