Richard Boll

Category Archives: Fine Art Photography

My journey from Film to Digital Photography

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Filed under Artists, Fine Art Photography, Photography career, Photography education

Producing black and white prints in a darkroom at school fuelled my passion for photography. As corny as it sounds, seeing the images appear and develop in the tray of developer is a magical and spellbinding experience.

Differences between Film & Digital

What I think can be missing when working with digital is the tactile, hands-on element you get working with photographic film. The process allows you to consider every element very carefully, particularly focus, exposure and composition. Learning how to load the film into tanks in complete darkness, mixing all the chemistry correctly and to the right temperature to develop the film and produce negatives, is a meditative and thoughtful process. Most professional photographers find that the process isn’t practical however in the commercial world. Digital is the way forward as it’s far more efficient than processing film, but I do miss the creative and unique element that’s not always carried over into digital photography.

With film, you might wait days, or even weeks if you’re travelling, before you find out how the images turned out. With digital, you can check the images that you produce immediately. The ability to do this is very convenient but you lose that element of extra concentration applied to shooting film that I think can be beneficial to the end result.

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My journey to digital photography

When I was studying photography in the late 90s, I was taught purely on film and then I went on to teach people on film myself. Digital was starting to become more prevalent whilst I was teaching and I started to demonstrate digital cameras to my students. In those days, we didn’t have significant digital printers like photography departments would have now. I was largely self-taught when it came to digital. When I became a commercial photographer, I opted to go digital straightaway. I invested £6k in my first camera, plus more for the lenses and lighting equipment. I taught myself about the different file types, researching as much as I could and studying Photoshop textbooks to bring me up to speed.

I still use techniques today that I picked up then. Especially the shortcuts, such as cropping an image to the right size, setting up DPI (dots per inch) correctly for a printed image, manipulating images i.e. dodging (taking light away) and burning (applying additional light),
adjusting and converting colour and contrast, etc. There are certain elements that translate from film to digital. For example, a lot of the language that’s used for Photoshop tools references darkroom principles and processes.

Advantages of digital photography

One of the advantages of digital is an efficient workflow, such as bulk processing of images. You can apply the same adjustments to 500 images in one go, for example, rather than changing every single one as you go along. Even if you were a skilled darkroom technician, it’d be hard to make every print identical. Whereas, once you have the digital file you can make multiple identical prints.

Storage archiving is another significant benefit of working with digital. Back in the day, you would have had several filing cabinets full of negatives that you’d have to create a system for, and it’d be difficult to go back and find a negative that you shot 20 years ago. Nowadays, if a client asks for a particular image, you can easily search a large drive and find the image that you want in seconds, rather than hours.

Another significant difference between film and digital is the cost attached to film. You’re very aware when you’re shooting film that it’s costing you money. Each exposure has the cost of not just the film but also the processing costs.
I’m certainly not taking away the huge advantages of digital, which I very much appreciate day to day in my working life. But processing film will always hold a special place for me. There may be an element of nostalgia but whenever I get the rare opportunity to produce black and white prints, I still feel the same excitement today that I had at school all those years ago.

Read more about How I started my career as a professional photographer.

UK Visual Artist Photographic Portraits 1 of 4: Gavin Turk – artist and sculptor, YBA and Saatchi ‘Sensation’ Exhibitor

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Filed under Artists, Editorial Photography, Editorial Portrait, Environmental Portrait, Fine Art Photography, Gavin Turk, London, Portrait Photography

UK Visual Artist Portrait Series

When I initially developed an interest in photography and started learning about well-known artists and photographers, I appreciated seeing photographic portraits of them in my research. Even though I didn’t know who these people were at the time, an interesting portrait can tell a visual story and open a window into that person’s world. I found it very intriguing and was curious about why that person had been photographed in a particular way. I recently decided that I’d like to continue this rich photographic tradition by taking a series of photographs of well-known visual artists currently working in the UK.

Gavin Turk

The first set of images in this series features Gavin Turk, a British-born, world-renowned international artist, and one of the Young British Artists (YBAs). The YBAs were a group of visual artists who were noted for shock tactics, use of throwaway materials, and often controversial works of art. They attracted considerable media coverage and dominated British art during the ‘Cool Britannia’ scene of the 90s.

Turk’s work deals with issues of authorship, authenticity, and identity. He has pioneered many forms of contemporary British sculpture now taken for granted, including the painted bronze, the waxwork, the recycled art-historical icon, and the use of rubbish in art. Spotted by the art collector Charles Saatchi, he was invited to take part in ‘Sensation’, the highly controversial contemporary art exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts (London) in 1997. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, this significant exhibition drew a lot of media attention at the time and showcased work by 42 different artists, including Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.

On the day of the shoot, I spent around three hours at Gavin’s studio in East London. The original concept that I had for this visual artist series was to take a range of photographs with four distinct elements depicting images of the artist and their work: behind-the-scenes studio shots, details referencing their work and processes, the artist at work (where possible) and more formal photographic portraits.

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This image is a reference to Turk’s work on identity and the frequent use of signatures in his work and also mimics a project carried out by the photographer Gjon Mili, who photographed Picasso drawing in the air with a torch. The effect of this portrait was created by taking a long exposure of Gavin writing his name in the air with a torch and then firing a flash to expose the room in which the photograph was taken.

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This double portrait combines two photographic portraits taken in quick succession and references Turk’s artwork: ‘Portrait of something that I’ll never really see’ (1997), a self-portrait of the artist from the neck up with his eyes closed against a blank background.

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These photographs of the interior of Turk’s studio provide an insight into the artist’s work and his influences. I’d like to thank Gavin for being so open to my ideas and generous with his time on the day of the shoot. It was a particular pleasure for me both to meet him and to take portraits of him. It’s also been great to see some of the images I’ve taken being shared on the artists’ website and social media platforms.

Watch this space for features on 3 more visual artists, currently working in the UK that I’ve also photographed, namely Adam Chodzko, Gordon Cheung, and Jake Wood-Evans. Future plans include an exhibition of the complete series of portraits of visual artists working in the UK today.

Discover more about Gavin Turk and his work by visiting his website and read about the controversial 1997 ‘Sensation’ exhibition here. More of my photographic portraiture can be seen here.

 

Portrait Photography: The Day I Photographed Sir David Attenborough

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Filed under Editorial Photography, Fine Art Photography, London, National Portrait Gallery, Portrait Photography

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Sir David Attenborough by Richard Boll/ Commissioned by The National Portrait Gallery, London

In 2007, I had the privilege of taking this photographic portrait of our nation’s favourite, Sir David Attenborough, in London. Of the photographs I took I chose this particular image for the final portrait as I think it captures the calm, thoughtful, and highly intelligent nature of his character. There’s a reflective, meditative element to the portrait that I hope represents him effectively. I’m proud to say that this portrait went on to form part of the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery, leaving a fantastic ongoing legacy for my work and professional photography career.
Although some time has passed since that day, I can still vividly remember how I felt at the time. It was an exciting and enjoyable shoot, as Sir David was someone I had always admired and respected. People often ask how I came to take the photograph in the first place and what it was like to meet Sir David.

Joe and The National Portrait Gallery Photographic Prize

It was a lovely, sunny day on Brighton seafront. I spotted Joe, taking his dog for a walk along the promenade past my flat. I thought he looked like a very cool and interesting character and Iasked if I could take some portraits of him. Joe was very happy for his portrait to be taken and gave me a few minutes of his time. We’ve kept in touch and maintained a positive connection over the years since the photograph was taken. I entered this portrait of ‘Joe’ into the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, awarded annually by the National Portrait Gallery. The competition celebrates and promotes the very best in contemporary portrait photography. It was very exciting to be awarded first prize in the competition. I knew I’d been shortlisted but only found out that I’d won on the evening of the prize-giving.

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Prize-winning photographic portrait of Joe on Brighton seafront

Britain’s Greatest Living Cultural Icon

After winning the portrait prize, the National Portrait Gallery arranged a special opportunity for me, to take a photo of the winner of a public vote for ‘Britain’s Greatest Living Cultural Icon’. 10 British icons including the likes of David Bowie and Sir Paul McCartney were shortlisted. The public voted overwhelmingly for Sir David Attenborough, and I’m pleased to say that I also voted for him. Thankfully, he agreed to be photographed after the result of the poll was announced. On the day of the shoot, he was extremely polite and very generous with his time. He patiently allowed me to take several portraits against a couple of different backgrounds.
I’m incredibly proud of the final image and people respond well to it, recognising what I was trying to capture of Sir David’s character and legendary status. There was never any guarantee that the portrait would be accepted for the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery which makes me particularly proud that it was sufficiently well-received to be accepted, ensuring a great ongoing legacy for my work.

Sir David Attenborough awarded Knight Grand Cross

Sir David Attenborough needs no introduction, enjoying a very distinguished broadcasting career, spanning the last 60 years when he
first joined the BBC.

Best known for writing and presenting his many acclaimed television documentaries exploring the natural world, including Life on Earth, The Living Planet, and The Blue Planet, he received his first knighthood in 1985 from the Queen.
In recent news, Sir David, now 96 years old, received a ‘second’ knighthood, the even more prestigious Knight Grand Cross from Prince Charles. Attenborough is one of only 120 people with this honour, which was awarded for his services to television broadcasting and
conservation. Let me end with some final words from Sir David himself, “I just wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored”.

Click here if you’d like to read more about Attenborough and his career, and more of my portrait photography can be seen here. Signed, archival-quality prints of the portrait can be purchased here.

Sill life photography: Bespoke shoemakers John Lobb showcase their 170-year history with inspirational wooden last photographs

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Filed under Editorial Photography, Fine Art Photography, London, Product Photography

For over 170 years, John Lobb have been hand crafting bespoke, exquisite, and elegant footwear and leather goods. The world-renowned family-run business spans five generations, receiving its first Royal Warrant in 1863. The firm still produces unique and bespoke handmade shoes to this day one pair at a time. Today, they’re loved for what they’ve always stood for: the celebration of the unique and the original.

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At the heart of their process is a pair of unique hand-carved, sculpted wooden lasts, custom-made to the precise form of the customer’s feet. If you walk into their shop for some custom shoes, their master craftsman will draw around your feet to produce the wooden last. They can then continue making shoes to your exact specification using this bespoke last.
Every pair of shoes produced for a customer of John Lobb goes through a 50 hour, 190 step process. Their experienced fitters will discuss the endless possibilities that only truly bespoke footwear can provide. Every single element is carefully considered, resulting in a creation that is truly unique.

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Not only are these wooden lasts beautiful sculptural objects in their own right lending themselves perfectly as the focus for still life photography, but they are also historical artifacts of a unique and fascinating legacy. Since 1849, John Lobb has nurtured an impressive range of famous clients over the years from royalty to household celebrities.
I first became aware of the collection of lasts from their historically significant customers whilst on a shoot for a magazine. I thought that the lasts would make a great subject for a photographic project and approached the owners of John Lobb to ask if I could begin photographing them. I was consequently granted exclusive access to shoot the collection of famous people’s wooden lasts.

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Form & Void II in International Photography Awards

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Filed under Fine Art Photography, Photography Award

I’m thrilled to have received an honourable mention in the 2018 International Photography Awards, for the project Form and Void II.

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These images were produced in Iceland and seek to examine the interconnectedness of the forms and voids that exist within the landscape, and how these elements translate to the pictorial (specifically photographic) space.
Parallel to this is a consideration of aspects of cultural geography; humankind’s place within this landscape and its relationship to it.

The Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou (born 370 BC), often known as Zhuangzi, proposed the notion that all things and events in the phenomenal world are dependent on one another, summarising existence as,

“This comes from that, and that is caused by this”.

In the same way that certain aspects of eastern philosophy sees the form and the void as one and the same, East Asian depictions of landscape generally intend to show that humankind is an inherent part of the landscape, and of nature, rather than ruling over it. This view is distinct from the more Western attitude of human society being a separate (and typically conflicting) entity in relation to nature.

A significant part of the project was a personal photographic “grounding”. The specific use of relatively traditional photographic equipment and techniques, including the use of a large format camera and black and white film, provides a clearer, more refined photographic language that is better suited to my intentions towards more considered and meditative compositions. The cumbersome nature of the camera is paradoxically beneficial for the production of stronger images. Slowing the process down and taking up to an hour to take an exposure is beneficial for encouraging a more analytical mode of seeing.

The whole of this project can be viewed here and fine art limited edition prints from the project can be purchased here.

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