Tag Archives: portrait

Featured photographer – Sandrine Hermand-Grisel

Sandrine Hermand-Grisel grew up in Paris, France and in London, UK. She studied in Paris International Law before deciding to dedicate her life to photography in 1997.

Hermand-Grisel has exhibited nationally and internationally, including exhibitions at the Carroussel du Louvre (Paris, France), Rayko Photo Center (San Francisco, USA), Maison de la Culture (Luxemburg), City Hall, SFAC Galleries (San Francisco, USA), Europ’art’, (Geneva, Switzerland) Espace Bontemps (Gardanne, France), Centre Iris (Paris, France), Fotofever Photography Art Fair, (Brussels, Belgium), Le Pavé d’Orsay, (Paris, France), Viewpoint Gallery (Sacramento, USA)…

Shown below are examples from her project ‘Sea Sketches’:

Sea Sketches

Influenced by her late mother’s sculptures and her husband’s paintings and films, she worked on several personal projects before her series Nocturnes was recognized in 2005 by Harry Gruyaert, Bertrand Despres and John Batho for the Prix Kodak de la Critique Photographique. In 2006 she moved with her family to the United States and began experimenting landscape photography with her series Somewhere and On the road.

from the series ‘Nocturnes’

Despite the diversity of her projects she has a unique, very intimate, relationship with her subjects. Photography provides her with a way to express her feelings, like in the series ”Nocturnes” where she photographed only close friends and family members peacefully abandoning themselves in front of her camera. ”Somewhere” is her dream of America, a road trip through her adopted country. And ”Waterlilies” is full of joy and love for her two children as she watched them jumping and playing in pools over and over again. Sandrine Hermand-Grisel not only photographs what she loves, she breaks free from her own reality in her poetic vision of the world.

In 2013, Hermand-Grisel created the acclaimed website All About Photo and now spends most of her time discovering new talents while still working on personal projects.


To see more work by Sandrine Hermand-Grisel, please visit her website: http://www.hermandgrisel.com/index.php

IG: https://www.instagram.com/sandrinehermandgrisel/
Blog: http://shgphoto.blogspot.com/

Here and Now: Street Portraits of Londoners by Niall McDiarmid

The photo exhibition, Here and Now, is now open at the Museum of London. It runs through till October 15th. The work of London based photographer Niall McDiarmid will be mounted in the Rotunda space outside the museum and is open all day and night. It features 34 large scale prints from across the capital shot over the past 6 years.

Brushfield Street, London — April 2012 © Niall McDiarmid

Two of McDiarmid’s long-term projects, Crossing Paths: A Portrait of Britain, and Via Vauxhall, were published in book format; in addition to publishing the work online in dedicated websites. Both projects are series of portraits made by McDiarmid in his encounters with people throughout the UK over the past six years or so, and specifically for Via Vauxhall in the area surrounding the Vauxhall neighborhood of London. “Individually these photos represent the moment that we crossed paths, but collectively they represent my portrait of London — a confident city, a city of the future, a city I call home.”

From Via Vauxhall © Niall McDiarmid
McDiarmid’s photographic style can be described as ‘straight’, ‘documentary’ or even ‘street photography’. But make no mistake, McDiarmid’s stylistic approach often plays upon subtle use of color or pattern that is never arbitrary; it functions in highly sophisticated ways to connect elements and patterns in his subject’s clothing with their surroundings. In this manner, the people in his portraits are woven into the scene they occupy — an integral part of their surroundings.
Surrey Street, Croydon – January 2016 © Niall McDiarmid
For more info on the exhibit, see the site for Museum of London. To see more of Niall McDiarmid’s work, please visit his website. To read an in-depth interview with McDiarmid, see this article in Vantage, Niall McDiarmid Captures the Faces of our Times

Interview with photographer Carrie Schreck

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Cary Benbow (CB): Why did you become a photographer? How did you get started?

Carrie Schreck (CS): I messed around a bit with film as a kid but the real answer this: when I first lived in San Francisco, my boyfriend and I never locked our car. It’s best just to leave it unlocked with nothing in it; if someone breaks in, at least you don’t have to replace your windows. One night someone must have been ripping off cars, got into ours and fell asleep. The next morning my boyfriend walks in with a Canon AE-1 left in the back seat. That’s how I got in to photography. Seriously. I still have that camera.

CB: Where do you get the ideas for your personal photography?

CS: I’m looking for genuine moments, powerful moments, and I hope to have the right mix of luck and speed to be able to catch them and do them some justice.

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CB: Explain the idea behind your Moped portfolio images  – How do they relate to your other projects?

CS: I’ve been shooting moped riders and moped gangs for 7 years. I shoot it because it’s my life and what’s going on around me, but it’s such a close-knit community, it’s a brotherhood and sisterhood. The story lines around each gang, each ride, each rally are a total challenge to capture. I wanted to save the memories for the people in them, that was always my first priority. Say, if Ashlee ever has kids and they are able to see a photo of her bombing the Coronado bridge after racing hundreds of miles, fixing her bike on the side of the road, doing something silly and dangerous but daring… maybe they’ll be inspired. With a photograph, that inspiration can happen long after I’m gone, after she’s gone.

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CB: Seven years definitely counts as a large, long-term project. What work are you currently shooting?

CS: ‘Larger series’ is about right. I’ve taken about 50,000 photos over the last 7 years. This fall I’ll be showing a slice of them at Haphazard Gallery in Santa Monica opening October 29. I’ve gotten the selects down to about one thousand, so I’m still editing. This coming week I’m traveling to Europe to meet with some moped gangs over there, tour a factory, follow a race, then I’ll be back in the states for the big national rally in San Francisco. That will be 8 years in total shooting bikes, I’m about ready to find a new subject.

CB: What will you be doing while you are in Europe? Where will you be traveling?

CS: I’ll be in Slovenia and Croatia, so I’m very interested in the lives of people displaced passing through from Syria and Jordan. I’m drawn to human ingenuity and how people excel at making the best of their situation. If I can find people willing to be photographed, I might. There are some moments that just don’t need to be photographed, I’m always aware of that, too.

CB: What or who are your personal photography inspirations?

CS: You know, strangely enough I found out a few years ago that my great Aunt was one of the first famous female photographers, Nancy Ford Cones. Like me, she liked documenting life’s moments. In her later years she started to become more experimental, creating scenes, when her husband died she stopped shooting altogether.  Weirdly, I learned all of this way after my own interest in photography began. In a way I feel like I’m continuing to shoot for her, so she’s a big inspiration for me.

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CB: How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

CS: If Arthur Pollock had a 5D and hung out with grimey gear-head punks. Something like that.

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To see more work by Carrie Schreck, visit her website at https://radradmopeds.wordpress.com/

(This review was originally published in F-Stop Magazine)

Book Review: MTWTFSS by Sophie Harris-Taylor

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Capturing luminous moments between the momentous

‘MTWTFSS: Chapter 1. 2010-2015’ is a vulnerable, honest and intimate photo book by the emerging photographer Sophie Harris-Taylor whose autobiographical body of work is made of images taken from her photographic diary of the past five years.

The book is laid out in a traditional journal form, much like a decent sized Moleskin notebook, complete with a strip of fabric to mark your place. The front and back cover are stamped/faux-embossed with the book title and short statement. I appreciated its understated presentation, especially in a time when larger photobook publishers are really trying to vie for the attention of their customers. The handcrafted design esthetic of MTWTFSS is definitely in the ‘Win’ column.

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© Sophie Harris-Taylor

Harris-Taylor has compiled a collection of images spanning a five year period, in a diary-style fashion. Her images are presented almost exclusively as single image pages, with the occasional blank or two-page spread for visual pacing. The limited first edition of 500 copies are hand numbered and signed.

In describing the book, Harris-Taylor says, “MTWTFSS is an autobiographical, fragmented, sporadic photo diary. It is a reflection of myself and those I know and love. In familiar, often mundane surroundings I seek to capture some element of truth of our lives. For me these ‘everyday, forgotten nothings’ are more important and truthful than any other. These are the moments between the momentous.”

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© Sophie Harris-Taylor
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© Sophie Harris-Taylor
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© Sophie Harris-Taylor
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© Sophie Harris-Taylor

Harris-Taylor relates the personal aspect of the book by saying, “MTWTFSS is the most personal to me. It’s only become apparent recently that although I’m representing aspects of other people, I’m seeking the aspects I’m familiar with and which I can relate to the most. So I’m really using them to express myself.”

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© Sophie Harris-Taylor
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© Sophie Harris-Taylor
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© Sophie Harris-Taylor

I truly did get the feeling I was privy to a photo diary, where the author had chosen certain places, people and images that evoked a sense of vulnerable moments captured between her and the people in her life. The book’s presentation didn’t feel forced, and while the promotion for the book describes the images as “spontaneous”, I would be more apt to describe the style as “informal” despite the acute attention Harris-Taylor gives to light, composition, and the connection to the people sitting before her lens.

“At the same time as seeking their vulnerability I was in awe of their confidence and ability to be comfortable in their own skin. In truth, I was in awe of my friends. One girlfriend in particular; she let me in, she gave me what to capture and I became almost obsessed with the act of photographing her. There were moments of sadness, moments of vulnerability, she never put up a front or undermined what I was doing, she let her guard down and this is what I became interested in.”

The understated moments that make up much of what we construct in our minds as the memories of what has taken place, where we have gone, and who we have encountered, are the memories we recall when reminiscing. Harris-Taylor has taken the reader/viewer into her own memories and revealed the mostly hidden, simple moments by being our (sometimes literally) bare and vulnerable self, our true moments without facade.


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Limited 1st edition of 500 (hand numbered)
Leather-effect binding and blind embossed cover.
16x20cm, 176 pages
Offset lithograph printed on 140gsm uncoated paper.
Designed by Joseph Carter.


Sophie Harris-Taylor is a British fine art photographer and lecturer in photography. Born in 1988 in London, where she still resides, she received both her MA and BA (Hons) in Photography from Kingston University.

Harris-Taylor’s work has been nominated for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize and The Renaissance Photography Prize. Her work has also been exhibited in a range of shows, including The Young Masters.


To view more work by Sophie Harris-Taylor, visit her website athttp://www.sophieharristaylor.com/

To order a copy of MTWTFSS, click here

(This review was originally published in F-Stop Magazine)

A Process of Healing – Interview with photographer Tarah Sloan

I came across a series of images by Tarah Sloan when reviewing work in the F-Stop Magazine exhibition, Family, earlier this year. The exhibition took place at a time when Sloan was not able to give her input for an interview, but I had the chance to revisit her work; and I am glad for the opportunity. In our interview, she revealed the back-story for her series of images dealing with her mother, cancer, and loss. By dealing with her Mother’s life after the loss of family members, one could presume this work is catharsis for her as well.

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New Day

Cary Benbow (CB): Why do you photograph? Why did you become a photographer?

Tarah Sloan (TS): I photograph because it is a way of expression and a form of storytelling, for myself and the viewer. The environment I am surrounded by typically compels me to create images. I started photographing at a young age, so over time my skills developed and my love never wavered. After graduating from high school, I knew I wanted to attend an art college to receive my BFA in photography, and that’s exactly what I did.

CB: Your images in this series definitely come across as storytelling. Can you please explain the idea behind your series?

TS: These images are unlike any other project I have created before. My concept behind this photo series is the emotional plunge of grief a person will face in their lifetime. This project is significantly different because it is personal to my family and me, documenting my mother as the subject. I also normally would not have one person as my main focus through a whole body of work. Many of my ideas for my personal work come from observing the behaviors of others in my environment; such as, this work of my mother.

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Staying in Bed

CB: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

TS: A good photograph should pull you in and make you think, feel, react or respond in some way. Photography, after all, is art.

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Classroom

CB: How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

TS: That’s a hard question for me, because I can be a little too critical of my own work. I want the viewer to gain some sort of emotional connection from the image. Whether that’s from wonder, amazement, sadness, or joy. Within this series of photographs, I documented my mother.

“I started documenting my mother a few months after my brother Daron passed away in July of 2015.
 I watched her daily struggle with grief after the loss of her husband, sister, and her only son – each who had suffered with cancer; all within 5 years.
I watched her put on the daily brave face and try to continue with life as usual.
I watched as the feelings of depression kept her in its grip.
After many lonely hours, days, and nights, I began to see her gaining strength as she finds new life in the comfort of her garden and the surroundings of her music and art students.”
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Yard Work

CB: What/who are your photography inspirations – and why?

TS: Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, Uta Barth, and Shelby Lee Adams- to name a few from a broad range of individually talented and inspirational photographers. There are many people who I draw inspiration from, including my past professors and colleagues. Why are these people my inspirations? The majority of their photographs are captivating and striking on a number of photographic levels. I think it would be hard for someone to not find inspiration in some way.

 

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CB: What work are you currently working on? Any new projects?

TS: This past summer my mom and I spent 40 days straight on the road, traveling a full circle around the US to visit different grad schools I have looked into. From visiting family in West Virginia, we journeyed upwards to the first art school in Chicago, across to the University of Oregon, down to San Francisco Art Institute, across to the University of New Mexico, then back across to Georgia. Of course, we stopped at as many National Parks as we could along the way, including Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. It was an amazing, exhausting, and eye-opening experience to see the grand, ever changing landscapes of the United States- totally worth it! As a (mostly) landscape photographer, I was in heaven the majority of the trip.  I’m pretty excited to see where my future leads me.


See more of Tarah Sloan’s images at her website: www.tarahsloanphotography.com

Niall McDiarmid – British Portraits Exhibition – Oriel Colwyn, North Wales

A big congratulations to British photographer Niall McDiarmid on his gallery exhibition from now through Oct. 14th. The show contains images from his long-term and ongoing project of making portraits of people throughout the UK.

For more info, or if you are in Wales in the coming month:  http://orielcolwyn.org/british-portraits/

To read the in-depth interview Niall had with Wobneb Magazine in January 2016, click here: Faces of Our Times

Niall McDiarmid | British Portraits Exhibition – Print Sales Fundraising

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British Portraits Exhibition, Oriel Colwyn, North Wales

The London-based photographer, Niall McDiarmid, has announced an upcoming print exhibition. After five and a half years of travelling,  150+ towns, 2000 or so portraits – he’s pleased to say the first show of his work will be held at the Oriel Colwyn Gallery in North Wales in September. As well as showing a large selection of images from around the country, he will be returning to North Wales to shoot a new series of local portraits to coincide with the opening.

McDiarmid was kind enough to do an interview with Wobneb Magazine earlier this year, which also got wide-spread attention through F-Stop Magazine, Lensculture, and Vantage Photos on Medium.com. He and his work has also been featured in The Independent Magazine, Financial Times Magazine, BBC, and his photobooks from his Crossing Paths and Via Vauxhall series have received several awards.

Everything Niall has done so far has been self-funded. However, to help with the exhibition costs of printing, framing and transport, he is offering a selection of prints for sale over the next month. Your support will be very much appreciated and a list of all those who help fund the exhibition will be displayed at the Oriel Colwyn Gallery, and in any future exhibitions.

As of this posting, he is almost halfway towards the total needed for framing, printing and transport. Prints are on sale through his website HERE Feel free to contact Niall if you have any queries. By purchasing a print or donating, your name will be included in the list of supporters at the exhibition.

If there are any other images on his blog or website that you are interested in, please feel free to contact him!

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(Please note: white gloves & special display easel shown are not included in print prices)

Book review :  Metro: Scenes from an Urban Stage by Stan Raucher

Public transportation can seem a bit like a traveling theater. Periodically the scene changes from one part of the city or country to another, or from day to night as the train cars travel from above-ground to below-ground, and the cast of characters can be varied throughout the play. Doors open and shut like the curtains on stage with each new scene. Tranquility can give rise to energetic vibes in just a few stops when new members of the cast come on board; and while viewing Stan Raucher’s images, one is immediately drawn into these vignettes of life.

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In his project statement for Metro, Stan Raucher speaks to the metaphor of theater. “Whenever I step into a subway station it feels as though I have entered a magnificent theater with a diverse cast of characters performing in an unscripted play on an ever-changing stage. My series Metro documents the behavior of ordinary people in mass transit systems in various countries and cultures. As individuals interact with one another in these tightly-packed public spaces, occasionally extraordinary situations that are unexpected, mysterious, humorous or poignant unfold. A strange or wonderful juxtaposition, a spontaneous gesture, a concealed mood or a hidden emotion may materialize and then vanish in a split-second. Such ephemeral events are often overlooked or quickly forgotten. My intent is to capture these fleeting moments as evocative, richly-layered images that allow each viewer to generate a unique personal narrative, and that these candid photographs will prompt us to pause and reflect on our modern lives.”

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Photographers are generally voyeurs, observers, people-watchers. Metro: Scenes from an Urban Stage allows the reader to catch glimpses of these improvised plays as Raucher saw them. He took the photographs in Metrobetween 2007 and 2014 during numerous trips he made to fifteen cities on four continents. He captured scenes in the metro systems of New York City, Mexico City, San Francisco, Paris, Budapest, Naples, London, Warsaw, Rome, Prague, Vienna, São Paulo, Lima, Delhi, and Shanghai. Raucher’s images are like the work of other masters like Walker Evans, or Robert Frank, who shot clandestine images of people and public places. “Using available light and a bit of serendipity,” Raucher says, ” I endeavor to create compelling photographs that provide a glimpse into aspects of the human condition.”

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The hardbound book contains 50 duotone images on matte paper stock which beautifully gives depth to the scenes. The intimate views of people in their own worlds lead us to guess what they are thinking, where they are going, or deduce what their day has been like. Raucher’s masterful images are rich with details and emotions, which allows the viewer to decipher body language, soak in the details of these fleeting moments in their travels, and mentally craft a script to narrate their lives based on our own sense of the world around us and the people we know. As Marlaine Glicksman sums up the book in her essay, “Raucher’s images explore and magnify a self-contained world. Yet rather than contain ours, they enable us to see farther, both into the metro and into ourselves.”


Stan Raucher is an award-winning photographer who has been documenting aspects of the human condition around the world for over a decade. His photographs have been featured in 20 solo exhibitions and included in over 60 juried group shows. His work has been published in Slate, LensWork,Black & White Magazine, The Daily Mail, The Independent, Lenscratch, F-Stop Magazine, Shots and The Havana Times. He was a 2012, 2013 and 2015 Critical Mass finalist, a 2012 CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography finalist, a 2015 PX3 Bronze Award winner, and he received a 2015 Artists Trust GAP Award. His prints are held by museums, institutions, and private collectors.

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Ed Kashi is an award-winning photojournalist, filmmaker, educator, and member of VII Photo Agency. He has authored numerous books detailing the social and political issues that define our times, and he is known for his complex imagery and its compelling rendering of the human condition.

Marlaine Glicksman is a visual storyteller: an award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, photographer, and writer who creates dramatic character-driven stories set in multicultural contexts both narrative and documentary and in moving images and stills.


 

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Metro: Scenes from an Urban Stage
Foreword by Ed Kashi and Essay by Marlaine Glicksman

ISBN: 9781942084150
8″ x 10″ inches
88 Pages; 50 Duotone

To order Metro, visit Daylight Books site. For more information about Stan Raucher and his work, visit his website here.


 

This article was originally published in F-Stop Magazine in May 2016

Faces of Our Times – Photographer Niall McDiarmid’s striking street portraits

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Faces Of Our Times – Niall McDiarmid’s striking street portraits show off the best of London and all its diversity


The life of an artist is a long and difficult row to hoe. Niall McDiarmid has been working as a photographer for over 20 years, largely for print publications. Recently, McDiarmid published two books Via Vauxhall (2015) and Crossing Paths (2013) that both feature portraits of people he has photographed on Britain’s streets.

McDiarmid seems to revel in capturing his subjects’ style, confidence and sartorial elegance. To coincide with Fashion Week in London, Vogue Magazine assigned McDiarmid to make portraits of young, dapper, diverse residents of London.

Hertford Street, Coventry - March 2012
Hertford Street, Coventry — March 2012. From Crossing Paths © Niall McDiarmid

Publishing books and Vogue aren’t career moments that emerge overnight. It would be nice to say McDiarmid has gone from dungarees to Dolce & Gabbana; but the truth of the matter reads more like from dungarees to Dickies. Putting subjects as ease and making piercing portraits is a lot of hard work. Here, McDiarmid gives us the scoop on his methods, motives and thoughts as he pounds the pavement.

 

Via Vauxhall, London - 2013/2014
From Via Vauxhall © Niall McDiarmid

Q&A

Cary Benbow (CB): Over your career, and as you’ve grown personally and professionally, have you tailored your work to seek out specific jobs or work — or has the work found you?

Niall McDiarmid (NM): In my teens and early twenties, I sent short news stories to local newspapers and free sheets in Scotland, where I grew up. After I left university, where I studied engineering, I got a full time job as a junior reporter working in trade magazines. I travelled around the UK writing stories, mostly on agriculture and the environment. After a year or so of this, I started to supply photographs to go with the stories. From there I returned to college to study photojournalism for a year.

I’ve worked freelance for magazines and book publishers, since then. I can’t speak for others but I’ve always found making a living from freelance photography tough, so generally I’ve taken whatever jobs I can get. I even photographed someone’s cat once as a commission. Oh, and a dog. It tried to bite me. It’s a long story.

Niall McDiarmid
From Via Vauxhall © Niall McDiarmid

CB: What do you feel makes a successful portrait?

NM: A connection between the viewer and the people in the photograph. If the photographer can add his or her own distinctive style that usually makes the photograph more memorable or successful.

CB: Why do you think people like to look at pictures of people?

NM: I think it’s a basic human trait, most people are interested in other people and a portrait is a way to explore that curiosity — the places we live, our cultural backgrounds, the clothes we wear, our family ties.

Walthamstow Town Square, East London -  Dec' 2015
Walthamstow Town Square, East London – Dec’ 2015

CB: Your career has bridged the age of analogue photography dominance into the expansion of digital photography being the current standard. How do you choose to shoot digitally or work with film and film cameras?

 

NM: Most of the photographs I take every day are digital — on my phone, screen grabs, DSLR etc. Film photography is not a medium that suits the modern commercial and editorial photographer any more. Photo labs are few and far between and when images are needed quickly on a limited budget, the old system of developing film and scanning seldom works.

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NM: However, I chose to shoot most of my personal work on film. It’s what I started using as a photographer and what I still get most satisfaction from using. It’s a slower, more considered process. I can also achieve colours with film that I can’t replicate in digital. I also don’t think I’ve fully explored the world of analogue film use yet, so I’ll keep shooting with it till I have.

Niall McDiarmid
From Via Vauxhall © Niall McDiarmid

McDiarmid’s photographic style can be described as ‘straight’, ‘documentary’ or even ‘street photography’. But make no mistake, McDiarmid’s stylistic approach often plays upon subtle use of color or pattern that is never arbitrary; it functions in highly sophisticated ways to connect elements and patterns in his subject’s clothing with their surroundings. In this manner, the people in his portraits are woven into the scene they occupy — an integral part of their surroundings.

As to this aspect of his work, McDiarmid says, “When I started the recent batch of portraits back in 2011, I didn’t have the intention of using colours as a base for the work. However after a few weeks, I realized that it was something I had an eye for. I began to see the way people’s clothing often matched or clashed with the colours that I found on high street shops or billboards and I tried where I could to combine these.”

Brushfield Street, London - April 2012
Brushfield Street, London — April 2012. © Niall McDiarmid

CB: The stereotypical “street photographer” aesthetic is often candid, brazen, and raw images. But your images are ones of inclusion, and not taken as if by a passive viewer. Many images have a connection that is perceived between you and your subjects… what do you feel makes your work stand apart?

NM: I’ve taken series of images that are not collaborative, ones that would be considered more conventional street photographs in the past, and I still shoot a lot of those. However, I like meeting people and if I can use that in a way to take portraits that are somewhat collaborative, so much the better.

Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea - June 2014
Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London — June 2014

NM: When I’m taking the images, I’ll make maybe 2 or 3 shots maximum of each person. It has to be quick. I don’t want people to pose; just be as they come. A little apprehension, a little awkwardness and tension in the portrait often works for me. On a very good day I might photograph, 7 or 8 people. On a bad day, none. None is a bad day.

As regards to photography and uniqueness, I suppose there are plenty of photographers who have done work like me and will do in the future. Whether it is possible to pick out my photographs from the thousands produced every day is hard to say — hopefully a few might might stick out.

I suppose we all strive to have a unique style. Some photographers, artists… call it what you will… get there. Then I suppose editors and gallery owners call them up and say — ‘Oh, I love that thing you do, that ’style’ of work, that ’thing’. Can you do that for me?’ I’m sure plenty of those successful artists then say, ‘I’ve finished that style, can I do something different for you?’ But in the end, people want you to do what you got well known for — certainly for a period. I’m sure the smart ones know when to move on, carrying some of the old style with them and developing it into something new.

Church Alley, Liverpool - May 2013
Church Alley, Liverpool — May 2013. From Crossing Paths © Niall McDiarmid

NM: So uniqueness and my work? — I wouldn’t really know. I guess that’s for others to judge, but it occurred to me that maybe the most successful photographers or artists were the ones who had one simple idea that they stuck to through their whole career and managed to maintain an audience, keep people interested in the work throughout without ever deviating too far from their original path. Maybe in an age where there are so many new images being made, the artists who maintain a steady unwavering course are the real pioneers, the real groundbreakers. Who knows?

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Sumner Avenue, Peckham, South London — May 2013. © Niall McDiarmid

McDiarmid’s list of photography influences includes names such as Diane Arbus, Joel Sternfeld, Vanessa Winship, and British photographer Daniel Meadows. Whether it is the documentary work of Arbus, Daniel Meadow’s work from Living Like This: Around Britain in the Seventies, Richard Avedon’sIn the American West, Robert Frank’s The Americans, or Joel Sternfeld’sStranger Passing — all of these books, all of these photographers, helped define how we remember the people and culture of the times and places they photographed. Niall McDiarmid is no different. His projects have consistently explored the possibility of a collective identity by documenting ordinary people and places throughout the UK.

Rufus, Fitzrovia - Sept 2015
Rufus, From the series ‘A London Weekend’ — Fitzrovia © Niall McDiarmid

 


Two of McDiarmid’s long-term projects, Crossing Paths: A Portrait of Britain, and Via Vauxhall, were published in book format; in addition to publishing the work online in dedicated websites. Both projects are series of portraits made by McDiarmid in his encounters with people throughout the UK over the past five years or so, and specifically for Via Vauxhall in the area surrounding the Vauxhall neighborhood of London.

Via Vauxhall, London - 2013/2014
From Via Vauxhall © Niall McDiarmid

The portraits in his projects largely have no mention of the person’s name, unless included in McDiarmid’s comments. The images are titled minimally by a descriptor of where the portrait was taken. Bodfor Street, Rhyl, or High Street, Poole gives the viewer a marker in McDiarmid’s travels, but also a feeling of the documentary undertow.

Wayne Ford, the British designer and creative director, said in his review of ‘Crossing Paths’:

“The portraits that form ‘Crossing Paths’ make a fascinating and engaging survey of contemporary society in the United Kingdom in the early 21st century, that reflects the cultural vibrancy and ethnic diversity of the nation; and like the work of Meadows in the early 1970s, ‘Crossing Paths’ is a social document that stands to be a significant cultural marker of the times in which we live, both now and in the historical context to follow.”

McDiarmid, albeit humbly, has garnered major awards, including a prize for portraiture in the 2012 International Photography Awards for his Crossing Paths portraiture project. He has been asked to speak at numerous academic and professional lectures, and his work has been acquired by significant photo collections both private and public. The compliments even include a mention from one of McDiarmid’s own influences. In an interview coinciding with a retrospective of Daniel Meadows work, he was asked whose work inspired him as a student, and who inspires him now. Meadows listed past influences of Bruce Davidson, Josef Koudelka, and Sir John Benjamin Stone — and the short list of current inspirations included Niall McDiarmid’s portraits.

Via Vauxhall, London - 2013/2014
From Via Vauxhall © Niall McDiarmid

CB: How do you personally process the wide-spread attention your work has garnered? Has it changed the dynamic in your day-to-day?

NM: It’s incredibly hard as a freelance photographer to sustain a career over many years and it’s only getting harder. The money is very tight and there are days when you question your sanity and ask yourself, “What am I doing this for?” But after 25 years as a photographer, I have come to realise, it’s a large part of my life and probably always will be.

Jamie, Southbank, Waterloo - Sept 2015
Jamie, Southbank, Waterloo – Sept 2015

NM: One of the positives of the recent changes in photography is that those coming into the industry know from the start that it’s a challenging way to earn a living. Many photographers now have to earn a living doing something unrelated to taking pictures. In a way, that can be liberating experience, particularly where personal projects are concerned. In the past, I think there was a tendency for photographers to create a series of personal work with a view to how it might be used commercially, maybe in a magazine. Now, although the money is much reduced, the internet has given us all the freedom to do as we like without worrying so much about where the images might be used.

Jessica Road, London - April 2011
Jessica Road, London — April 2011. From Crossing Paths © Niall McDiarmid

NM: I am glad that people enjoy following my journey, but as regards to wide-spread attention, I wouldn’t know. I try to just keep going, keep getting out as often as I can. My life feels like a chaotic mix of chasing around after my children, shooting my personal work and trying to earn a living as best I can — mostly very badly. Professional is not a word I associate with myself too often, but I hope to be professional one day! With so much new photography out there and so many outlets: ­galleries, magazines, newspapers and online — it is increasingly hard to get your work recognised. That’s why I try hard to carve out a style that people can relate to. Hopefully, I’ve gone some way to achieving that. The next challenge for me is to sustain that work and continue to develop it.

Niall McDiarmid
Boys by Three Kings Pond, Mitcham, South London — Dec. 2014 © Niall McDiarmid

CB: The people and the locales in your portrait work have the common aesthetic of your eye and your style, but the people you photograph are very diverse. Is there a shift in the types of people and communities you’ve encountered over the years?

NM: I’m interested in changing population, changing communities, and multiculturalism so, yes, the people in my work are diverse. I am very interested in the idea of a large body of work that covers the whole country in­ an uncomplicated, democratic look at people at this time. I’m very interested in colour and shape and how it is present in our everyday life even though we often don’t notice it. There are noticeable differences between towns across the country I visit; ­different ethnic groups and different economic situations, but I would rather not label them.

Via Vauxhall, London - 2013/2014
From Via Vauxhall © Niall McDiarmid

NM: I’m not specifically trying to create work that defines what it means to be British; or Scottish, Welsh, or Irish for that matter. I would rather people just look at the images and make their own minds up about Britain and how it is changing.

More people from different backgrounds are coming to live here than ever before. I try to show these changes in the people I meet. Whether those who view the photographs pick up on that, I wouldn’t know. But multiculturalism and shifting demographics are at the core of the work, particularly the portraits.

English Street, Carlisle, Cumbria - Oct 2015
English Street, Carlisle, Cumbria — Oct 2015 © Niall McDiarmid

When looking at the sea of faces McDiarmid has captured in his work, it is easy to pick up on all the similarities across our global, and increasingly multicultural society. His growing collection of UK portraits has all the same types of people, whether you are in London, Chicago, Paris, or Indianapolis.

Certain motifs appear and reappear. White earbuds hang around necks, people of all different skin colors travel to and from work. Subjects gaze into phone screens of devices the same the world over, and they carry shopping bags or wear clothes with identical labels. We can point to common threads in McDiarmid’s growing “family album.” We live in a global village and these faces reflect the richness of the fabric of society in London, in the United Kingdom, and in some sense, the world.


Niall McDiarmid is a photographer based in London. His work is primarily about documenting Britain and has been published and exhibited widely. His work has received such recognition as one of Vogue’s Best Spring Photobooks 2015, a number of his prints featured in the Crossing Paths book have been acquired by the Sir Elton John Photography Collection in Atlanta Georgia, and his work has has been featured by Time Magazine, BBC, Vogue Magazine, and The Independent.

Follow Niall’s activities on Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram.


Originally published in January 2016 in Wobneb Magazine and Vantage

All photographs © Niall McDiarmid, used with permission.