Inspirations (7) - Simon Painter
Meet Simon Painter, a photographer who works with "ICM", or in camera movement, to create abstract, ethereal images of the natural and urban landscape. His images provoke thought, and offer a completely different viewpoint of everyday locations.
Simon can be found on the internet in these places:
Q) Could you explain your style of photography?
My style of photography is impressionistic and abstract. I use the camera as an instrument with which to create images with light and my surroundings rather than a tool with which to document things.
Q What do you want viewers of your images to take away from looking at your work?
There is an excitement and energy that I feel when I stop and really take in the particular environment I find myself in. It’s sometimes overwhelming and I think it reflects the wonder of just being here and being a part of something so amazingly complex and awesome. It could be the hustle and bustle of urban life or the majesty of a natural landscape but in all these moments, this feeling of something more than just what we see and hear is what I would like viewers of my images to sense. For me it’s almost as if I’m unlocking a portal to some different dimension of light and time that we can’t see with the naked eye.
Q What is it that interests you in this type of abstract work and playing with motion? I’m just fascinated with the shapes and textures that are created. I love that the light that is behind and between things jumps to the foreground and becomes the focus, displacing what we would normally perceive as the interesting subject of a scene. Camera movement can create amazing tonal and colour gradient maps that form beautiful rich and unique fingerprints of a scene even when, sometimes, one is not sure what the original subject was. I feel it’s still an organic thing though, so, although it’s abstract it still feels connected to the original. Having experimented with this technique for several years now, I obviously have techniques that give me the sort of results I expect but I’m also filled with a real buzz of excitement when I come across a new an unexpected result. Many of my experiments haven’t produced the results I wanted, or indeed anything worth keeping, but sometimes they reveal something wonderful and new. It’s this potential to create something that I haven’t seen before that envelopes me in a quest to try more and more.
Q How important is colour and light in ICM photography - do you feel that black and white images can have the same impact?
Colour for me is very important. I have tried many times to process images in mono but they never quite do it for me. Maybe I haven’t found the right moves or subject. As many of my images are quite complex I feel that the dimension of colour allows the image to have more depth and helps the viewer see more deeply into them. I love conventional monochrome photographs but one can make sense of them as you can perceive the depth and perspective but with Intentional Camera Movement it just often looks like a mess!
Q What is your preferred back drop for ICM - urban or nature? I’m not sure I have a preferred backdrop for my photography. I spend more time in a natural setting so this forms the bulk of my work. I’ve loved going into the urban landscape and getting a human element into my pictures but I have to admit to an element of self-consciousness in this environment that sometimes holds me back. It is, however, amazing moving the camera through a crowd of moving people as it produces trails of the figures as they pass which I find really interesting. The wake or path we leave behind us is not something we often think about as we rush through our busy lives and these images make you aware of that journey and the space you have left behind. The stillness of a natural environment provides more time to set up the shot and refine the movement and it’s exciting to see the final image evolve after many attempts.
Q how did you get interested in photography? I’ve always been fascinated by photography. My uncle gave me a Zenit E slr a long time ago and I would experiment with various things as a boy. For many years I didn’t really do much but when I got a digital bridge camera the fire started to burn again and has continued to gain momentum from that point on. My first ICM experiments were looking up through tree branches and spinning the camera round. Most of these were over exposed by miles but, as they were RAW files, when I processed them I was blown away with the textures that were created. That was really when this wonderful form of personal expression was really born in me and I just can’t seem to stop. I’m not even sure why I started to experiment in this way, I guess I just have that sort of mind that is restless and wants to explore, discover and create.
Q Could you explain some of your technique?
My techniques are fairly simple really. I use a neutral density filter to allow me to use longer shutter speeds even in daylight. Typically, I use between half to about 8 seconds shutter speed. I then just move the camera around during the shot. The various different paths I create are a combination of freehand and guided. Freehand is obviously just making handheld movements that seem to compliment the scene. There are many examples of people moving the camera vertically in woodland to create really nice textures of the vertical tree trunks but I wanted to try other movements as well. Some of my rotational images are freehand. I watch the lens and try to rotate the camera around it’s axis. It’s also interesting to rotate about a point that is off centre as you end up with a wide arc or just a segment of an arc. The guided shots are variations using a tripod. Panning is the simplest form of this technique. I have also created a tripod head template that allows me to trace circles and other shapes in a repeatable way. This has had several iterations and is working quite well at the moment. I have always wanted to try and create a computerised programmable system but as yet my budget hasn’t allowed this. I’ve looked at time-lapse automated tripod heads but they’re too slow and, usually, only move in one axis. Powered video heads all seem really big and heavy and expensive. I’ve even thought about building something from Maccano but I’m not convinced that would be a good way to go. With all these techniques one needs to think about speed of movement and also accelerations, decelerations and stops during the movement. They all add to the fun and yield different results.
Q Your primary work is based in the music industry - have you ever related your images to music?
I once wrote a piece of music for an abstract painting by my uncle, the same one who gave me my first camera. I haven’t as yet linked my own music and images. Having said that my creative process for my photography has been very much taken from my musical production methods. Taking interesting organic things and manipulating them with technology but all the while trying to not let the technology take over and get in the way but just using it to open up areas that would otherwise not be possible.
Q) Are there any other types of photography that you want to experiment with? I want to try so many things. I couldn’t write it all down but I would like to try portrait photography and indeed I am working on some portraits where I can use movement as well. My problem is finding subjects who don’t mind being guiney pigs in the process and those who don’t mind looking like aliens or horror movie characters a lot of the time! Architectural and interior photography also interests me, and……I could go on! I really do seem to have this whole photography thing under my skin. I was remarking to myself the other day how sad I was that I even just love the sound and feel of the shutter clicking away.