Philip Berryman
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The Rake

80% of all good photography is based on the snapshot. Good photographs originate in the act of recording, simply and directly, a subject that is emotionally or intellectually engaging.

David Hurn

Upon reading this I immediately connect with the last line regarding connecting emotionally and intellectually with a subject. This is paramount and separates so many of us when we view any kind of art.  By separate I mean it divides us into those that are positively moved, influenced and admire the work, with those that are simply not bothered or moved in any way and those that are at the most extreme angered or repulsed. But that anger is still a response and many artists would be happy with any response.  Its not often one is repulsed so much, that’s harsh but essentially I’m fascinated by how we respond to art and photography.

I recently attended the private view of a very successful photographer that I know personally. We regularly bump into each other from time to time and he was close to a young girl that I know who works in fashion. I appreciate and respect the work that he does and totally understand his place in the industry. He deserves his success and he is extremely talented. But his work does nothing emotionally for me really. I don’t feel much when I look at the images although I totally get it and know why it would appeal to many others. The images are very good indeed and deserve to be in this great gallery. I scanned the images in the show and felt that I had seen the same picture too many times before and was searching for more. I wanted my heart and soul to be touched. I reached for a book on the shelf in the gallery and suddenly I was enriched, fascinated and amazed by the images. This was a photography book by Gary Winogrand. I was wondering how on earth I’ve not bought this book before or better, bought some of his work. I was so engrossed in the images and touched by his vision and talent. 

As I wandered around the gallery I got chatting to another collector and had a great conversation about buying photography. She was significantly older than myself and declared that she was only interested in buying contemporary work. I was the complete opposite and being younger I was only interested in buying older work. She liked her photographs big, shiny, colorful, new and digital and I preferred my images older, black and white and shot on film and un-retouched. It’s a good job we are not a couple of trying to style a house. I immediately had a Family Guy flash back in my mind. Me dressed as an old man smoking a pipe wearing slippers in an old leather armchair. This more senior lady dressed in a boob tube, hot pants and dancing in a nightclub holding a martini glass. She adored the work on the walls and was pondering spending a small fortune on one of the larger pieces. I on the other hand kept wondering how many more rewarding individual pieces I could purchase for all that money. Images that have a real significance, images that touch my heart and soul and seem to have a place in history. But this is all good stuff and it is how it’s meant to be. Neither of us are right or wrong we are simply responding to some emotional connection that we have made with the art on the walls. 

Much of the work that I have bought over the years to a degree links with my past and historical love of photography. Images that I used to look at in books in my art college library now adorn my walls. Or images that simply resonate and trigger something emotional inside me. For a long time I was very tempted to buy a lesser known Elliot Erwitt image taken during the Vietnam war. The image is of an American soldier on patrol in the jungle. He is caught mid step sticking his tongue out to the photographer in a playful gesture. His duty to kill, hostile environment and imminent danger juxtapose sharply with the almost child like glee and joy on his face. It’s a surreal image and for many years I’ve been fascinated with Vietnam and its history and the story of the war. So that images touches me.  For a while I owned the very famous portrait of pianist Igor Stravinsky taken by Arnold Newman. It reminds me of when I was younger and I would read books on composition and balance and the rule of thirds. This image would often appear as a great example of pleasing and harmonious composition. It is in fact cropped by Arnold Newman during the printing stage and not composed in camera as such. Other images I’ve owned all have some appeal to me and have been invested in on an emotional level. I’ve always been utterly fascinated with beautiful faces and for a while I owned the incredible portrait of the handsome young mid west crofter taken by Paul Strand. This image has been copied many times by fashion photographers as a respectful homage to the image. Most notable a stunning shot of Kate Moss for a Calvin Klein ad. The young boy is very attractive and the power of his confidence and defiant gaze strikes you. I certainly regret selling this particular image. 

Elliot Erwitt

Elliot Erwitt

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Paul Strand

Paul Strand

One shop that although it’s not a gallery does certainly appear to look like a gallery in places is the flagship Ralph Lauren store on Bond St. I shoot there regularly and I can’t help but stop and take in the incredible framed images throughout the store and particularly on the staircases. The images are such an inspiration and when I take them in I’m reminded to get out there and focus on some more creative personal work (all photographers struggle between their commitment to paid commercial endeavours and their personal work that may truly express who they are as an artist). This commission was to record the 10th anniversary of The Rake Magazine and the 50th anniversary of Ralph Lauren. On this occasion I was working for the brilliant photographer Chris Allerton who I regular assist on such events as this. The Rake’s founder Wei Koh was the gracious host for the event and enjoyed yet another great evening at the shop with guests such as model David Gandy, author Nick Foulkes and director Paul Fieg in attendance. The queue to get into the party stretched down the road and round the corner. Please see the image in the slide show that shows the amount of people queuing to attend. It’s the largest event I’ve ever seen at this flagship store.  And as it was the joint party of Ralph Lauren and a leading men’s magazine you can imagine there were some very well groomed well-dressed men. I think on this occasion the men were wining the wow factor when I came to stylish wear. I also managed to photograph Geoffrey Moore, son of the late Roger Moore at the party. He was there with his charming wife and I found time to talk to them both about his father. I have just finished reading Roger Moore’s autobiography and so I was dying to discuss how much I loved the book.

I doubt if any of the images taken at this party will make it to the walls of my home or the walls of a luxury Ralph Lauren store but I hope that they capture not only the elegance of the store but also the beauty and style of the numerous guests. For sure it was an opportunity to see people in their finest and enjoying the opulence of this incredible store and brand.