Meeting 28 March 2023

Chris’s talk was a refreshing counter to those tired old camera club commandments that get trotted out on a regular basis. He torched some of them with comments such as: “There are no rules”, “A photograph doesn’t have to have a focal point”, “You can take photos on a dull and overcast day,” “Bad weather is good for photographs.”

His approach was that the photographer – you – are the best judge of your photographs, it is what the photograph says to you that is important.

He started his talk explaining why he had titled it the “Eloquent” landscape. He said that the landscape speaks to him, he feels something when he is in the landscape, he gives the landscape time to speak to him and he hopes that his images speak to you. He added the adage: Don’t look at a photograph, look into it.

He said that when he visits a landscape the will walk around it, his camera around his neck and tripod on his back, looking and engaging with the place. It is a spiritual moment, a mental exercise, he slows down and explores, gathering and understanding the location. He likened it all to cooking, you look in the cupboard, the fridge, and from what there is you cook a meal with the chosen ingredients. Throughout his talk he mentioned his photographic ingredients: shapes, lines, texture, colour, light, patterns, rhythm, balance etc.

Lots of his photographs were taken on dull overcast days, he says it is easier to add contrast to an image than it is to take away. He added that he doesn’t do a lot of post-production manipulation preferring to compose his photographs in the viewfinder – another commandment thrown on the bonfire: cropping.

His photographs were at times very simple, the intimate landscape approach. He described some of his photographs which had trees in them as almost human scenes, with the trees interacting with each other. The more you looked into them the more you saw. They started to become playful.

He has been to Iceland four times and said that he has never met a photographer who has only visited once, it is that good a location. Many of his icelandic photographs were abstracts, close ups in a vast dramatic landscape, simple details and how they relate to other things in the landscape. His more conventional scenes were well constructed on interest in the foreground, middle and background. He likened these to visual steppingstones taking the viewer through the scene.

We were then taken from Nordic grandeur to a gentle rolling chalk downs of Hertfordshire which he visits regularly. There is no drama in the landscape, no focal point, except occasionally when the farmer, Paul Moss, is ploughing the hills. The images are abstracts, gentle, calming and he said he has to push himself to find a composition. They reminded me of the photos of the South Downs taken by Slawek Staszczuk, who gave a presentation to us in pre-Covid times:

From Herefordshire Chris took us to a place, Stoke Common, which is close to his home. He has been photographing this place for the past 15 years through all the seasons. He said the images are the response to the ‘fight for life in nature’. He added that ‘familiarly breeds content’ and it must be a happy time going back over and over again searching out texture and colour and a sense of rhythm. One of his photographs on a silver birch tree festooned with autumn leaves looked very impressionistic, the capturing of the leaves echoing the work of post-impressionist Georges Seurat. Chris commented that he always wanted to be an artist but couldn’t paint or draw so took up photography instead.

His final set of images was of a tree somewhere in Worcestershire. He came across it on a foggy morning while returning home. The fog gives the plantation an eerie feel, a sort of a foreboding sense comes through.

An enthralling evening full of thought-provoking images and comments.

See Chris’s website for more images here



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Oxford Photographic Society