Interview with Andy Feltham

Andy Feltham's distinct style of photography is a marriage of art and exploration. Through his eye for composition, simplicity and light, recently disused spaces, vital (and so often overlooked) infrastructure and neglected corners are bought to beautiful light. By day Andy works in the healthcare sector but often by night, he stalks the undistinguished corners of the central English town of Northampton where he has lived since 2005.

• Andy how did you find your passion for photography?

I've always had an artistic leaning, but it wasn't until my wife bought me an enthusiast compact (Panasonic LX5) as a wedding present that I had found my outlet... I was hooked.

• Who has inspired your photographic style?

Initially, I was drawn to the classic street photographers for inspiration: Bresson & the Magnum Collective, Winogrand etc. Their faultless appreciation of composition & content gave me a great grounding and I still regularly pour over my Magnum books. My favourite photographer however is Edgar Martins. I find his stark landscapes and pioneering use of light to be quite breathtaking.

• How has your work evolved over time?

After a period of getting to grips with composition, I was convinced that street photography was the path I should wander, however I never reached anything approaching a comfort zone when pointing a camera at strangers. My photographic style really crystallised after a trip to New York in April '13. It's hard to say what happened other than something clicked within me in terms of how I previsualised a shot. I also realised about that time that my strengths lay in photographing the inanimate.

• Space, light and composition all play an important roll in your work, when you are evaluating a shot what is the first thing you focus on?

The best advice my mate Mark (MrHeaver on Flickr) gave me was that it's all about "light". It's the quality of the light that first draws me in to a shot. Everything else is secondary to that.

• What is the most important element of your current work?

The vast majority of my current work is part of a series called 'Incidental View'. This is primarily a wide-eyed view of the everyday structures and objects that surround us. I aim to blend a sense of wonderment with a niggling disquiet that hopefully creeps into each image. I guess to answer your question truthfully and simply, the most important element is what would normally be considered a boring subject matter; a wall, a doorway, a plastic bag...

• Are you a planner or opportunist?

A bit of both, but mainly opportunist. My modus operandi tends to be to sling the camera round my neck, pop some headphones on and go for a walk, often for miles... You never know what you'll see!

• Tell me about your next project?

I still feel there is more to be done with Incidental View, and my Urban Exploration project 'Lost Cause'. However I am toying with several ideas at the moment including bringing a portable light to an otherwise dark area and also a series of images where the source of light is the subject but it's implied; it's never seen. For either of these I'll need a really strong image to give me the impetus to carry them through.

• Tell me about your fantasy project?

It would probably be having an 'access all areas' pass in a country where time has stood still. There's a series of images on Redbird Editions by Maxime Delvaux taken in North Korea. I find them utterly captivating. My chosen region would probably be one of the Eastern Bloc countries.

• What is your favourite lens?

When I had my Fuji X-Pro1 it was the XF14mm (21mm equivalent in 35mm terms), now with my Nikon Df it's the 20mm 2.8D. I love the way the ultrawide lenses amplify angles to bring a sense of drama to an image. Pretty much all my fine art work is shot with the 20mm, and I consider it part of my photographic signature.

• What role does post processing play in your work?

In an ideal world, I wouldn't need to post process at all other than a slight dodge and burn here and there. I would prefer not to have to use PP, but the truth is that on some images I do quite a bit to get the desired results. As a rule of thumb I only ever remove distracting elements to give greater clout to the subject matter. I very rarely 'add' anything to a photograph. The impact of the final image is paramount for me however, so I'll do what it takes to get it looking how I want.

• Have you ever been caught sneaking around in a building that you shouldn't be in?

Ha ha, too many times! The security guards have, so far, been largely curteous. On one occasion a site manager called the police but they would't even come because we didn't (and wouldn't!) break in. It all turned out OK and the guy ended up offering us a cuppa...

You can see more of Andy's excellent work on his web site Andy Feltham Photography. Prints of his latest project 'Incidental View' are available from Redbird Editions.

© All Rights Reserved | Andy Feltham 2014

2014 Sony World Photography Award

commended in people category of the open class


This email made my day...

Dear Tom,
We are delighted to announce that your image has been commended in the top 50 images in the People Category in the Open Competition of the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards. Your work has been selected from 139,554 images entered from 166 countries. This is an incredible achievement. 

Your name will be announced to press and on our website on 4th February and the winners of each category will be announced on 18th March. All the UK shortlisted and finalist images will go on show at Somerset House, London, from 1-18 May as part of the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition. 


The allure of natural light.

In a world of photography which is huge and varied, with subjects and stories everywhere from suburban streets to war-torn photojournalism, almost nothing is off limits. The many photographic verities, techniques and styles will always make for an exciting art form for both creators and viewers alike. For me, portraiture is the one genre that I keep coming back to, both as a photographer and viewer. In portraiture, I find uniqueness and emotion, more than any other style. Unique, because every person is different and each can express that difference in so many ways; emotion, because nothing communicates more than our own bodies, faces and eyes.

There are many ways to execute a beautiful portrait, but I think chief amongst them is natural light. Apart from being free, by minimising additional artificial lighting technologies, it allows for a more straightforward shoot. Being able to see the light through the viewfinder allows more time to think about what’s important: composition, expression and pose. I think this casual and lightweight method is less intimidating and can create beautifully simple yet powerful images.

A striking exponent of this method is Aleksandra Patova, her beautiful portraits express everything that is best about using natural light. Aleksandra’s use of natural light has created, for me, a collection of images which are almost a signature and her understanding of shadow and dappled light to add dimension to her work is both enriching and enchanting. It quite simply elevates her portraits above so much of what I see and like.

You can see more of Aleksandra’s excellent work, here on her Flickr photosteam Alex-Malex.

© All Rights Reserved | Aleksandra Patova 2014

The Happy Accident

More often than not, a mistake is just that... a mistake. It wasn't what was intended and as such, can be disappointing or frustrating. A worst case scenario is the passing moment that's just not repeatable; best case is you learn something from it. That's unless what you find is the elusive happy Accident. The unintentional fault, error or miscalculation turned into an unexpected stroke of luck.

As rare as this is, most photographers have in some way experienced this good fortune. Some time ago, I wound on a film past 38 frames and snapped it out of the can in the back of the camera. Believing I had safely retrieved it in my darkened bathroom, half the frames were, in fact, fogged. Amongst the negatives was this image, my very own 'happy accident'. I don't know what happened, but I was pleased with the result. It's an image that I could never reproduce and a reminder never to force the winding lever on a camera. When I first saw Ode to the Imperfection by my friend Nico Westlicht, I was struck by its striking composition and graphic arrangement, but the truth was a little more complicated:

‘You are in an evocative place with your camera, the tripod, the light meter, your wonderful muse posing for you, ready to shoot. The afternoon light is perfect, and you decide to finally use that expensive Fuji Provia roll you bought some time ago. Basically, I had all the ingredients for a perfect photo-shooting. But what happens, then? Well, what happens is under your eyes: either I was not able to fully turn the wind lever, or the camera is not that reliable. I still have to investigate the cause of the superimposing pictures, but you can easily imagine how the huge expectations crashed badly this morning. Well, film photography can be frustrating at times, but I still find it much more exciting than digital photography. Still, I swear to myself that every time I will shoot a nice picture I will look back at this one as a lesson for the future, to remind myself how easy it is to fail even though you don't expect to’. 

Fuji Provia 400X | Pentacon Six TL    © All Rights Reserved | Nico Westlicht 2014

I still simply love the central image; arresting the viewer to look at the picture as a whole, the fabulous colours and the graphic light and dark lines. It became for me one of the best triptychs I had seen in ages; a true happy accident if I ever saw one and as I said to Nico at the time 'You may have been disappointed but I can assure you I'm not'.  You can see more of Nico's great photos on his Flickr photostream here.

What's in a name?

What's in a name?  I had often been tempted by the idea that a photo should just speak for itself; that the artist need not influence the viewer with anything other than the image. No explanation is necessary 'make what you will of what you see'.  Some people even believe that a good photograph does not need written guidance. I reckon that's missing the point; of course, a photo does not need a title but when it has one, one that compliments it, an audience can derive understanding, benefit, insight, curiosity, enjoyment and sometimes even puzzlement. A title, like a name, makes sharing easier, telling others about a photo in conversation by referring to its title rather than 'the one with the man walking on the wet pavement' or 'that one with the girl standing in the snow wearing a red scarf'. 

I love this photo by Ellen Goodman of St. Louis, Missouri. A little girl looking into the distance, it's cute domesticity meets artistic storytelling at its best. But with its title 'Gunslinger Stance during Hopscotch Delay' everything comes together completely. Her hands become important elements, she looks like she means business and you wouldn't mess with her. In short, a memorable image becomes unforgettable and a perfect example of what's in a name.

© All Rights Reserved | Ellen Goodman 2014

You can see more of Ellen's excellent photography on her Flickr photostream Analog Girl in a Digital World