Composer James MacMillan for Boosey & Hawkes
So, why the dogs? I’m not some dog-obsessed nut, but my long-standing commercial background in still-life led me to photograph these extraordinary animals in a monumental, still-life fashion. From there came the flowers (who doesn’t think flowers beautiful? – especially these. Long, hot days in dahlia fields in Cornwall produced these photographs), and of course the budgies. “I have never seen so much personality in a bird” was how one art-director described them. Commercially, I have spent years doing, among other things, corporate portraits. The link is neither conscious nor obvious, but, with all their ‘personality’, perhaps the budgies are something of a wry look at what it means to photograph a board of directors for endless annual reports…The 'Pedigree' series has won international awards, including International Color Awards and IPA.
All the images in the Pedigree folio are available to use.
After years of planning, I spent six weeks at the end of 2009 living with and documenting the beautiful and striking indigenous tribes. Having set up a temporary studio with lights and a simple background, I then chose not to over-direct the subjects but to allow them to present themselves in a way that felt natural to them. Eschewing use of the rigorous, unnatural post-production processes of digital enhancement on life-sized exhibition prints, the resulting collection of analytical, reverential and honest photographs give the viewer an insight into the individual characters of these proud people and their culture.
I knew that I didn’t want to make beautiful, prettified pictures in Ethiopia. I wanted to make portraits of these extraordinarily self-aware sitters that were my response to the subject, but without the hundreds of colour adjustments that I may make in my other work. I didn’t want to bring my pre-made plan (crop, pose, lighting) to bear on these much-photographed people. Above all, I wanted to make respectful portraits.
Perhaps I am referencing my past, as the folio I have just completed entitled ‘Stable’ is a set of studies of white, sliced bread. I was born in a bakery, and the delight of sitting by the slicing machine scooping tiny mountains of crumbs from all over the white cast iron frame with my 4 year old hand, is a memory that remains strong. Of course that was well before ‘Health & Safety’ and wheat intolerance.
The ‘Pigeon I’ folio is a further set of portraits that are not people. I have been all over England to shoot these strange beauties. And trust me, the as-yet unfinished ‘Pigeon II’ set get weirder and more beautiful. Thanks to Gary Eaton from the Corringham Fancy Pigeon Club.
Nike, Conde Nast, Elle Decor, Phillips, Cadbury, Boosey & Hawkes, Coca-Cola, Heineken, V&A, Design Council, Heals, Easy jet, Nat West, CinVen, Premier foods, Compass, Wrangler, SES, Sky, Thorn, Lloyds, DSGI.
© Philip Gatward 2010