RCPS Press Report 2nd November 2017

The Ripon City Photographic Society has had a great start to the season and on the agenda tonight was a ‘monochrome talk’. At first glance it innocently offered some information about black and white / monochrome photographs, however it was so much more.
Iain Cairns, who works as a photographer in North Yorkshire but also works in Cornwall, Dorset and Snowdonia and is known for his fine art photography and black and white images, started the evening with a thought provoking statement – ‘Creativity is breaking out of the established pattern in order to look at things differently’. This set the tone for his talk, the focus being, not on the actual technical process of taking images but, on the idea of stretching your own creative side and not conforming to others ideals of ‘the perfect competition picture’.
A friend said to me the other day that he may join ‘to learn to use his camera’, I think that maybe this is the first thought of people interested in camera clubs and although you learn loads about camera use it is the important composition of the photo, to question exactly what your expectations are and how to use the image processing thus enabling  you get the picture to look how you want it to look that is the unexpected bonus of the club.
Iain explained that processing of images has always happened and while some artists such as Constable used more direct translation of what he saw, Turner used a more creative interpretation to create an image of something he wanted to be admired. This difference merged into photography. In the 1800’s processing was so different with maybe 5 or 6 plates being merged to bring a sharper photograph to the audience. Iain really highlighted the importance of ‘feeling ‘ an image and if it didn’t evoke an emotion then not to take it;  questioning whether it matters whether the image meets the ‘normal’ criteria of photograph rules, pointing out that many photographers in the past have broken rules only to become well recognised and admired. In the 1800’s JuliaCameron became known for her portraits of celebrities using the idea of soft focusing and treating the photograph as an art piece. Thinking of the image as an art piece led us to the black and white / monochrome images that Iain had chosen to examine and critique. They were starkly contrasting in depth of shadow, some avoiding the well known assumption that you need black, white and grey in a monochrome image. The strong lines creating atmosphere, evoking emotion through the grim images of back streets with soft light just brushing along the wet cobbles to strong dominant lines of bridges spanning the river with moody clouds and shadows bringing deep dark dusky moments of revelation.
Iain and one of the models he works with had also been working on a project inspired by Mental Health Awareness, the stark shocking fact is that 140,000 young people go missing in the UK every year. Of course the dreadful circle of abuse, abduction and addition often surrounds the inescapable prostitution that these young people find themselves immersed  in. The images that Iain then shared with us showed the portrayal of a young girl, locked behind closed doors, shut in by despair, held by invisible bonds, restrained by the situation, life ripped out from under her, replaced by dull deep eyes of the imaged drug fuelled cycle of hopelessness, resigned to the unknown person entering the room, no control over environment or her own outcome, fear replaced by sad acknowledgement that there seems no other option and no way out.
The images used all the contrast, shadows, and light of monochrome photography to raise awareness and provoke thoughts and emotions. A powerful display of how a creative photographer can reach out and touch the inner most feelings of an audience raising issues that often remain hidden from our softer easier way of life.

The fact that images are processed, in camera, out of camera, in the dark room with chemical brushing or with the touch of an app on the laptop was the next topic to be explored by one of our long term members John Elvin. John has many images that show a dark moody side of his photography, with an eye for detail and a knack for seeing the finished image before taking the actual photo. John took us through a journey of processing, examining the different applications on the market and helping us to understand the conversion of our images to monochrome. Monochrome can be toned but without colour highlights officially but, of course, it is the feel and authors perception of the image that is important as well as ‘official’ expectations.
Using picture manager, faststone, photoshop or other easily available applications were discussed. The main aim was to consider how the picture needed to feel, to look for areas to highlight or darken or whether to generically alter the whole image.
Using colour filters in some applications allowed for specific brightness or contrast to be added.
John highlighted good subjects for black and white conversion, these were those rich in texture and shapes, with dark and light areas, tones and contrasts. Portraits could be processed to highlight the character in the weather-worn face or to enhance the beauty of the subject. Whether you prefer dramatic and strong or soft and sculptural trying monochrome images has never looked so exciting and everyone found a renewed energy for practicing something new, taking a chance and believing in their own opinion, trusting a feeling, finding something that they really felt connected to and just enjoying taking pictures.

On the 6.11.17 we look forward to welcoming David Semmons who will be talking to us about his photographic journey including images of wildlife, landscapes, street photos and even some wedding photography. If you would like to come along and listen to, what promises to be, an interesting and informative talk please pop in as a visitor and enjoy an entertaining evening with a hot drink, biscuits and cake.