“You don’t take a photograph, you make it” – Ansel Adams
For this series of work I have pioneered a new method which I refer to as Physical Photography. I use an adapted document scanner as my camera, which lends a very particular look to the images. It offers the opportunity for a decidedly painterly approach, taking photography in its literal sense of ‘painting with light’. The resulting images evoke an Old Master style and palette with their soft focus and chiaroscuro modeling of flesh. In contrast, though, they are highly contemporary and cutting edge, pushing the equipment beyond its intended purpose.
This is an emphatically collaborative and intimate process. The lens is in physical contact with the model as the images are slowly produced. I’m thus redefining the relationship and the distance between the photographer, the equipment and the model. The resulting images are honest, intimate and imbued with a strong sense of personality. It can take up to two hours to shoot all the individual panes to make up a portrait, subverting the blink-like speed of modern photography and harking back to a bygone age. It is very physically demanding for me and the model to work in this way as I hold the equipment over their body, piece by piece producing an image like some weird game of photographic Twister. Hence the Physical Photography title.
The limitations of the equipment require a particular way of working that is difficult and intensely experimental. I can achieve results that are impossible with an ordinary camera and it is here at this new frontier that I am at my most creative.
This unique process gives us a new way of looking at the body, at hair, at clothing and at the props and backgrounds I set up. The effect of the equipment’s contact with some areas is profound, flattening them to some extent depending on their resistance. An intense, delineated plane is thus created beyond which the rest of the image extends into darkness and soft focus. The high resolution allows us to find beauty in the micro world of flesh and fabric. Printed up to life size or even larger it’s like looking at them through a microscope as well as being able to pull back and reveal the whole image.
From single shots to collages of many images they have a unique quality that offers a new window onto the world of portraiture.