Uppingham Cricket Party
Its not how a photographer looks at the world that is important. It’s their intimate relationship with it.
I often think about this quote and wonder how my relationship to the people, places, objects and experiences around me affect my photography. How my relationship with people and life experiences has influenced my way of seeing the world. How has my childhood and adult life experiences affected the way I see the world and wish to represent it through my photography. For sure we can all go for a walk through the city and see many things around us but do we all have the same response and feeling as a result of seeing those things. I certainly don’t think we do and it’s a good thing too otherwise life would be rather boring. As an artist I want to not only reflect the world that I see but try to express my relationship with the world around me in my own unique way. Like any artists whatever the medium I want to be recognised and celebrated for my vision, for my way of seeing the world and thus how I represent what I am photographing. I remember I dropped my fashion portfolio off with a stylist at a well known magazine many years ago. When my book was returned there was a note from the fashion editor offering thoughts on why he would not commission me. It was actually a relief and a surprise to get some feedback, which is actually quite rare. I can’t recall the exact words but in essence he felt that I had not really created a singular vision and style. What is the world according to Philip Berryman and what am I trying to say? Despite being initially upset I was not to shoot for the magazine I was grateful for the feedback and I figure he was right. But I still wonder if my voice is honed even now and does my work reflect a style. I think my social photography certainly has a look to it and I would say it does have a feel and style to it that is recognisable. But I wonder about my fashion and portrait work and how that perhaps has lacked in some way.
But how does a creative person have a relationship with the objects, people and experiences around them and then reflect that in their work? Well it comes naturally, with time and by simply living life and absorbing everything around you. It comes from within, a voice that needs to be heard and expressed. Although it needs to be worked on and honed, the desire and passion should not only be evident but also a strong and irresistible urge. I spend an incredible amount of time people watching pretty much everywhere I am. When I am watching people I constantly try to work out how I would photography that person and how would I style them. It may be the stranger opposite me on the tube or a friend from a hobby or a person sat in a bar. Constantly staring at men, women and children has got me into trouble of course with girlfriends, friends and relatives. There are currently about 4 people in my gym that every time I see them I am mentally styling and photographing them and I am often close to asking if I can shoot them. I try to imagine what the setting and story would be and what would they wear and what would I ask them to do. When I have such thoughts I wonder at why is it that I desire to shoot them in that particular way and thus that tells me that is down to my influences and the relationship with the world that has built up over time. If I shoot them like this and not like that, then I am making creative decisions and thus I must have a style and a look.
I recall many years ago when I was an assistant standing faithfully next to the photographer that I was working for on a massive fashion shoot for Vogue. Things were not going well and there was a split and clear mismatch of creative vision. Essentially the worst thing you could have on any shoot. The art director was in one room declaring that the photographer was shooting the same old rubbish that he/she (see what I did there) has been doing for years and was tired of it. The photographer was in the other room ignoring the melt down and directing the models as if nothing was wrong. I was in the middle and had to take messages between them both. Sadly the shoot was killed and what a waste of time and effort it was. But the creative ideas and visions were not aligned and the art director didn’t see this story the same way as the photographer and one wonders how they go to this far with such a massive team in the first place. Anyway, for sure the photographer on that shoot has a very distinct and clear style and vision and pretty much all her/his shoots are instantly recognisable. The style is evident and according to the art director in this case, certainly not what is right for the publication at that time. It was all entertaining theatre but sadly the shoot was killed and everyone downed tools and went home. l hope that whenever I undertake a commission of any sort I am immersed in the moment and perfectly aligned with the client’s needs and the brief. And if it’s a personal project I’m working closely with my team and we are all on the same page and hopefully creating images that realise my creative passion and artistic dreams.
One client I feel I work well with has to be Uppingham School. A quick look through past blogs and you will see other shoots I have undertaken for the school. I cover their London parties, celebrations and old boys/girl reunions. I absolutely love photographing these events and perhaps it’s partly a connection with fond memories of my own boarding school days and I’m briefly brought back to that time. I connect with the joy of reminiscing the past days of a life in an English country boarding school and the friendships made. The guests are always hilarious, fun to photograph, charming and entertaining. On this occasion it was an evening at Lords Cricket ground and the alumni were treated to an evening with legendary England cricket players Graeme Swann and Chris Read. I'm no cricket fan but it was such a pleasure to hear the colourful stories of past tours, player’s antics and matches. The inside gossip on rivalries with other teams (Aussies mostly). The room was in tears laughing, the stories so hilarious and all round it was a thrill to try to capture the evenings atmosphere. The staff who commission me at Uppingham School are also so true to their word and continue to credit and promote me at every opportunity. My name is on the programme with my web site details. Online where ever the images appear they write something along the lines that they are delighted that the evening is to be photographed by Philip Berryman and continue to provide links to my web site and social media. So many clients promise such support but simply don’t deliver. If you are a keen fan of the property programme ‘Location Location Location’ you will spot the wonderful Phil Spencer thoroughly enjoying himself.