Welcome once again to our monthly Spot Focus
Poor planning on my part has left me without an interviewee this month so please forgive me for filling in with a bit about my own photography.
As it seems a bit strange to interview myself, there is also a slight change of format.
So, here we go!
My name is Eric Tatham. I have been fascinated by photography since seeing a photographic image ‘magically’ appear on paper in a developing dish back in the 1960s. At school I joined a photographic club. We used to meet in the dark, dank cellar of the rundown stately home in Norfolk that housed the school. With a dirt floor and a resident family of rats this was our darkroom but, with no teachers directly involved, it was also a perfect place to escape from adult oversight.
Later, as my father ran an advertising agency in London, he would give me work as a way of allowing me to earn an allowance to support my studies. Amongst other things I used to have to photograph Aston Martin and Lotus cars for a local dealership, although this was never as glamorous as it might sound. During this time my darkroom was in the loft of my parents’ house; freezing in winter, stifling in summer, and cramped all year round. Wasps and bluebottles would occasionally creep in under the eaves and, blinded in the orange light, settle in the developing solution.
Surprisingly none of this put me off photography entirely but, after starting a family of my own, the faff of setting up a darkroom and chemical processing caused my photography to lapse for quite a while.
My career, first in the printing industry, and then teaching computer graphics, has always to some extent involved photography, however, it wasn’t until recently that I have again taken it up as a hobby.
I’d like to be able to tell you what type of camera I first owned but I honestly cannot be sure. I think it was some brittle plastic affair from Woolworth’s. I may even have it somewhere although I seem to recall that one hot summer’s day it turned into a molten amoeba on the back parcel shelf of my parents’ car. At some stage I also owned a Kodak Brownie. I have since acquired several ‘ancient’ cameras, mostly cast-offs from family and friends who know I have an interest.
My favourite camera, which I bought with money bequeathed by my Great Aunt Bertha when I was 21, was an Olympus OM-1. I still remember it cost £125; an astronomical sum for me in those days especially considering that my old Ford Anglia had only cost me £70. I loved the Olympus for its small size, smooth quiet action and its metal construction (unlike my car which was mostly held together with plastic filler). I still have it although, sadly, the shutter curtain came adrift some years ago and was too expensive to repair.
I now use two cameras; a Nikon D810 which has fantastic resolution but is large and heavy, and a Sony a6000 mirrorless which is just about small enough to fit in a coat pocket.
As far as developing my own style is concerned, I feel I am still experimenting with techniques and genres. I am continually inspired by the work of Dunchurch Photographic Society members, members from other clubs and photographs I see on the Internet.
I particularly enjoy photographs that succeed in making the ordinary look extraordinary. I especially like trying to create images that could loosely be classed as ‘Street’ photographs, although I mostly use colour rather than the more traditional black and white. I love being able to find everyday scenes that can be turned into something more arty, hoping perhaps to make people see something new in a scene or place that may already be familiar to them.
Here are few taken either locally or in London.
Car Wash (photographed near Dunchurch)
The Man on the Clapham Omnibus (formerly Last Bus to Rainham) (photographed on Regent Street – London not Rugby)
As can be seen in the images above, I often use filters in post-production but cut back the effect using hand painted masks, for example, to emphasise the subject against its background. I also, usually and to varying extent, colour grade to control or restrict the final image palette.
With street-style photographs, as a matter of integrity and based on the idea of ‘a real moment captured in time’, I do not like to add people or new objects to a scene that were not there when the picture was taken, although for some reason I feel less uncomfortable about removing secondary things that spoil the composition and I occasionally do this. I did not feel the need to do so in the case of any of the above images, although I have altered the colour of the woman’s coat in Embankment Tube and supplemented the real rain streaks in Oxford Circus. I did the latter by adding a small amount of motion-blurred noise in Photoshop.
I like experimenting with different techniques and am intrigued by the possibilities of intentional camera movement (ICM) and multiple exposure. I like their serendipitous nature and the hunt for worthwhile images within the raw photographs.
The above is one of my first ICM images although it is more accurately described as ACM (Accidental Camera Movement) as I was moving my tripod at the time and accidentally pressed the shutter remote that was in my pocket.
In relation to multiple exposure I have been impressed by the work of Stephen D’Agostino whose ‘In the Round’ photographs inspired me to try it myself.
Then a variation on the same idea but not sticking to multiple shots in a circular arc.
And finally, after seeing David Townhend’s work at a recent RPS meeting, taking four superimposed shots in the camera rotating 90 degrees after each shot.
This last shot is just a portion of the original frame and a case where the high resolution of the D810 comes in handy.
Very occasionally I do take straight ‘unadulterated’ photographs such as this one of the Forth Bridge on a visit to Edinburgh last year.
I even have a straight shot of a train!
As far as the future is concerned, there is still plenty to learn and explore.
I am quite interested in developing ideas based on mixed media, possibly combining painting and photographic imagery.
I am also interested in trying out some of the early Photographic processing techniques even though I feel that digital photography has opened up a wealth of creative possibility that wasn’t available when I was younger.