Shapeshifter No. 4 Photograph 2018 Manchester, UK Print on A3 paper, Edition of 25
In 2018, a good friend (and an exceptional photographer) shared with me some images he had made of a very special place. I knew right away that I simply had to go there and create my own photographs.
Although the location (which I’m keeping secret, for now) is only a couple of hours from our home in the Midlands of the UK, the logistics proved challenging. Being in a city centre, transportation and parking were of concern. But more important was the fact that this is a very public—and very busy—area. I hadn’t been there before, and I was unsure about the conditions I would find when I arrived.
Nevertheless, I optimistically planned the day of shooting. I decided to take the train from our town to the big city, even though that meant lugging all my camera equipment. I took my full complement of gear: a large camera backpack full of various lenses and a backup camera body, and my trusty tripod. The train ride took several hours and required a change of trains at a very busy station.
The journey went as expected, with no major issues. But when I arrived at my destination, it was cold and pouring with rain. I walked through the city as quickly as I could, hoping it would all be worth it.
When I arrived at the location, there were a few people here and there, but otherwise it was relatively quiet. I spent some time walking around, standing in various places, just looking, and thinking, immersing myself in the feel of the place and getting a sense of the kinds of human activity I might expect once I got into doing some serious photography.
I enjoyed several hours in the location, shooting diligently for long periods and taking a few short breaks. I had an amazing time!! I made nearly 500 frames, representing a fantastic variety of angles and a range of focal lengths, from quite wide to very close up.
This type of situation is a perfect example of the critical importance of composition, framing and visualisation in photography. The most subtle shifts can make a huge difference in the total composition, and this relatively small space provided an infinite number of possibilities for interesting images.
It’s not every day that I have so much fun and feel so immersed in the process of photography. On my return journey home I felt the deep satisfaction of knowing I had made some images that I was very happy with and that would make incredible prints.
After later reviewing, sorting and editing the day’s images, I selected 25 which make up the final collection. I’ve given the series the title Shapeshifter, illustrating the amazing way that even a tiny shift in angle and perspective creates incredibly different pictures in this special location.
(And if you’re wondering what exactly this picture shows, it’s simply a reflection in a mirrored surface. This is exactly how it appears to the naked eye—I haven’t manipulated or altered the image in any way.)
I’ve previously produced this photograph as large format, original canvas and metal prints. Now, for the first time, I’m releasing it as a limited edition print on paper.
Fusión Photograph 2018 Near Aracena, Spain Edition of 25
During the Spring of 2018, Ruth and I led a small group on a private photo tour of Portugal and southern Spain. Our carefully planned route took us through many authentic and rarely visited places, including the area around Aracena.
Our group stayed a few nights at a rustic family farmstead, situated on a vast tract of ranch land. The property also enjoys acres and acres of wild oak trees, the acorns of which are fed to the local pigs raised to make jamón ibérico.
One day, while exploring the woodlands on our daily walks, I discovered a huge, cast-iron disk half embedded in the forest floor. I don’t know what it was—maybe some leftover farming equipment, or remnants from mining or some other industrial activity.
In any case, I was captivated by the colours, patterns and textures of the metal dish. I made a series of photographs, working to get the angle of view and composition just right.
I’ve previously produced this photograph as large format, original canvas and metal prints. Now, for the first time, I’m releasing it as a limited edition print on paper.
PS—the photo tour mentioned above was one of many that Ruth and I have led for private clients. We create bespoke photo experiences anywhere in the world, so get in touch if you’d like to discuss your own private photo tour!
Sutton Harbour No. 1 January 2023 Plymouth, England Edition of 25
This photograph is one of a series of images I made during a trip to Plymouth, England in January 2023. Ruth and I had been to Plymouth a few times before, and during one of our trips discovered the beautiful and historic Sutton Harbour. I absolutely love seaside and maritime environments, especially for my abstract photography.
While wandering around the docks, I encountered huge stacks of lobster and crab pots, all stacked up and wrapped with cling film. The rain and sun combined to create wonderful, dewy condensation on the film, taking on the appearance of water.
When I find situations like this, I can spend hours deeply engrossed in my photography, exploring every nook and cranny to find the most intriguing compositions. This image stands out as one of my favourites from this particular shooting session.
Over the past few months, I’ve started working with a new printing and mounting process that I’m getting pretty excited about!
I’m printing my photographs on film and laminating them onto dibond, a composite material made of thin aluminium sheets on the outside, with a plastic core on the inside. It’s lightweight, rigid and durable, and the panels can be hung on the wall with or without a decorative frame.
Mounting prints onto dibond isn’t really new, but what’s exciting me is printing on clear films and laminating those to dibond with lovely surfaces, such as brushed aluminium. This allows the surface of the board to show through the films. The combination of layering the printed images on the dibond sheet creates some very interesting opportunities.
I print the clear film using my Epson large format printers, which provides very wide colour gamut along with archival permanence. Then I laminate the prints to the dibond board.
Shown here is one recent example, titled Fusión.
First, I printed my photograph in reverse on the clear film. This allows me to flip the film over so the printed image ends up on the back side, the film thickness creating a protective layer. I mounted the print film to the brushed aluminium dibond using optically clear laminating adhesive film.
As you can see, the clear film is very glossy. So I made another variation of the work by applying a matte laminate afterward (see the last image below). I like both looks—it just depends on the specific image, and the planned installation.
Next, I will be working on layering multiple printed images on separate films to create a composite 3D effect.
I’m really loving this new process, and it opens up a lot of new possibilities. In the past, I have also had metal prints made by directly printing onto the brushed dibond… but this requires a very large, flatbed printer. And the UV-cured solvent inks on flatbed printers provide nowhere near the quality I can get from my Epson pigment-based printers. The best thing is that I can produce these entirely in-house!
In modern societies most people learn to read written language, but many have never been taught how to actively ‘read’ pictures, such as photographs, paintings and drawings.
This is a shame, because a lot can be missed when our engagement with a visual work is done half-consciously and ill-informed.
Instead, you can get the most enjoyment from viewing a photograph, painting or other work of art by viewing it actively instead of passively. Here’s how.
Activate your awareness The first thing you can do when viewing a picture—whether it be a photograph or other kind—is to put yourself in a heightened state of conscious awareness.
Normally, we tend to go through much of our day not being fully aware of our surroundings—even what’s going on in our own minds! We are thinking about so many things at once that it’s easy to be distracted. As a result, we are often not completely ‘tuned in’ to any one thing in particular.
So, to actively read a picture, first bring yourself fully into the present moment, paying close attention to both your external experiences and your internal responses. …In other words, wake up!
Watch where you look Next, look away from the picture for a moment and then bring your gaze back to it. At first glance, pay careful attention to where your gaze is attracted. Then notice the path your eyes take as they travels across the image. Eye travel is an inherent part of viewing an image, but we usually do it without thinking.
What elements do you most strongly notice? What do they look like? …What do they remind you of? …How are they interacting?
Remember to also scan around all the edges of the picture—sometimes there are joyful surprises to be discovered there! You may also encounter elements that distract your attention from the main point of the picture.
Go deep Stand (or sit) at a distance that allows the picture to occupy most of your field of vision. Allow your eyes to relax and defocus a little, as if you were looking “through” the picture, not at it. This allows the edges of the picture to fade away into obscurity, immersing you more fully into the picture space. Then, once you’re deep into the image, bring your focus back to clearly observe the individual elements within the picture. You will pick out many of the same objects that attract your attention, but you may also notice new things.
Associations, themes and metaphors The brain is an association machine—everything we recognise and understand is based on something we learned before. The mind is constantly (and unconsciously) evaluating visual input to compare with what is already known. New stimulus provided by the unfamiliar creates new intellectual interest and new pathways in the brain. And even the most abstract imagery can trigger memories and emotions through these associations.
Many artworks are created to tell a story or convey an idea. While looking at the picture, consider what you interpret the artist is trying to say with the work. The best visual artworks have a clear point to make, even if the image is soft and the message is subtle.
Where do they want you to look, and what to see most clearly? Is the artist’s intention aligned with your physical experience of seeing the work?
Use language Try to apply some words to visual elements you perceive and your viewing experience in general. Let’s use my photograph of Castlepoint Lighthouse as an example.
Start with simple adjectives that describe individual elements, larger groupings and the work as a whole.
Keep it very basic at first: “blue”, “cloud”, “lines”, “water”, “rocks”.
Then expand your mental language to articulate more complex ideas: “twilight”, “coolness”, “outside”.
Work your way to broader concepts, such as “solitude”, “hope”, “safety”, “searching”, etc.
What you’re doing here is using language to translate optical input into ideas, describing the characteristics of the picture using terms and concepts that you are intimately familiar with.
You’re also engaging multiple regions of your brain in the process. This is how viewing a picture becomes an active experience rather than just a passive, disengaged stare.
Importantly, whether or not you actually find the image appealing, this process allows you to make a more direct connection with the work, to determine what you think it’s trying to say, and to recognise and clearly understand your own personal response.
Broaden your horizons Active seeing can not only enhance your experience viewing art but throughout your life. This state of awareness, in and of itself, is likely to bring you surprising revelations as you begin to notice much more in the world around you. It’s also in these ways that photographers and artists find such a deep, meaningful connection to their subject matter and, more broadly, to their lives.
To review the basic steps:
1. Activate your awareness 2. Watch where you look 3. Go deep 4. Consider associations, themes and metaphors 5. Use language
Thank you very much for visiting – I’m thrilled to have you here, and to introduce you to my new website. I’ve been working on this site for several years, behind-the-scenes, as I was also producing many other projects. As a very significant labour of love, I am pleased to present the new site. I would love to show you around a bit. (more…)
Most of us go through life looking without really seeing.
While this doesn’t always directly cause major problems, everyone can benefit from practicing more active seeing.
For photographers and other visual artists, being able to see effectively is the most important skill you can develop.
See what I mean?
To demonstrate how easy it is to have your eyes open but not really be seeing, try this simple exercise:
Sitting comfortably in a safe place where you won’t be disturbed, fix your gaze on something around you. It should be in the middle distance; not too close nor far away.
Keeping your eyes open and trained on that same object, recall a favourite memory of a time in your life that you can vividly remember. It could be yesterday or years ago; it doesn’t really matter. Immerse yourself in this memory — put yourself back in that place and time as much as you can.
After spending a few moments with your mind fully elsewhere, bring your attention back to the present moment.
When you regain present moment awareness, immediately notice that while you were concentrating on that memory, the input from your visual systems was effectively put “on hold”. While your eyes were still open and generally taking in your surroundings, your brain was otherwise engaged.
In this state or mind, you’re looking without really seeing. This example demonstrates how the eyes and brain must be working in tandem to fully take in and understand what we see. (more…)
Like most people, I am blessed in many ways. The birth lottery has been good to me and I’m thankful every day for all the health, safety, comfort and opportunities that my life provides.
And I am most grateful for the gift of sight. Not a day goes by without experiencing moments of true amazement provided by this most vital of our human senses.
It’s a sad fact that most sighted people take their vision for granted. Maybe this is to be expected — but it shouldn’t be. Human vision can provide a gateway to the most awe-inspiring moments of a lifetime, and this should be fully appreciated and actively nurtured. Thus my guiding mission in life is to share the joy of active seeing and help other people gain the benefits that this awareness can provide.
Though I’ve had fairly normal vision my entire life, it wasn’t until I reached my early 30s that I really began to see. Like most people, while growing up I was never taught about the different states of consciousness, or even that there are varying levels of awareness that all people experience every day. So, like most, I experienced life in a pretty much semi-conscious state — just another zombie among the hordes!
As a kid, I had always been passionately involved in both music and the visual arts, pursuing both with zeal until my mid-20s. I played several instruments and long aspired to be a professional musician, all while simultaneously developing a career in graphic design and media production.
Ultimately, I chose the path of the visual artist. I studied life and figure drawing; I practiced airbrush illustration, I worked a day job designing logos, websites and printed marketing collateral. This all eventually led to my present business serving the fine arts.
Looking vs. seeing
One of the most important lessons I learned in my art studies is that it takes practice to see what is really there. What something really looks like versus what we think it looks like. With each encounter, we bring our past, our preconceptions and our personal bias to the experience. (more…)
When you share your photography with other people, is the reaction not what you expected? Or have you entered images into a competition or juried exhibition and been disappointed with the results?
Of course, photography — like all art — is subjective and beauty certainly ‘is in the eye of the beholder’.
But if there consistently seems to be something lacking in your photography, a new approach might be worth consideration.
To consistently make stronger photographs, you need to apply a design methodology to your image-making.
Design is just as important in photography as it is with other creative works. A design process includes identifying and solving problems, making conscious choices and working to achieve a specific outcome. (more…)
We had a super time at the Castle Ashby art festival last weekend… attendance and sales were good, and people really responded enthusiastically to my abstract mixed media works.
Here’s what one visitor said: “I was blown away by your stand! My wife and I are planning a big redesign of the house this summer and would love to feature your work. A big ‘thank you’ to you and Ruth for exhibiting at Castle Ashby this year – we visit every year and this year was made special by discovering your work.”
Ruth and I had a great time at the opening reception for my abstract art show at the Brick Lane Gallery in London! Thanks to everyone who came out to see the show, and thanks to Lucy and her associates at Brick Lane for putting on a fantastic exhibition.
For all artists, working in any medium, writing about our work is an essential practice that carries surprising power. The artist statement is usually written after producing the visual works, as a way to explain the motivation and rationale behind the work. Often, collections, series and bodies of work may have their own individual statements. Sometimes a statement will be written in advance, to guide the production of a series.
The process of creating a statement also has incredible informative value toward the production of future work. When we dig deep to find answers, the process of writing our main Artist Statement can be challenging—to say the least. I reckon my current version underwent at least three dozen revisions. Below is one of my later drafts, before I really started the severe edits that resulted in the final version.
(I’m sharing this draft because this gives deep insight into how and why I do what I do, and why I’ve chosen this path in life. Much of this material was cut for the final, concise version; still some people might be interested in more detail…)
As always, thanks for your interest in my work, and please get in touch if you have any questions or there’s anything I can help you with. — Cheers, Nat
Visual beauty and good design influence our happiness and well-being. Beauty can be found everywhere, but it’s not always obvious. Contemplating abstract imagery is beneficial for our minds.
My work is about discovering, sharing and appreciating the captivating, interesting and surprising imagery that can be found in any kind of place, natural or manmade. (more…)
On 13th November, 2014 we hosted the opening reception for my exhibition Anima Astratto: Journey Into Perception at the St James Hotel, Nottingham. The turnout was fantastic and we all had a great time looking at and talking about the art. Below are photos from the event.