Taking war photography back to the 1640s?


Shouldn’t one’s photography always seem an eclectic, even contradictory mix? Long before I owned a camera I admired the work of Don McCullin, Brian Harris in the early Independent, Chris Killip or Sebastaio Salgado, and that may have led me to long term documentary projects like Speakers Corner. On the other hand, I was also a big fan of Robert Mapplethorpe and yet studio photography has always left me cold. Maybe it was McCullin and my having read history at Cambridge that led to my interest in historical re-enactment, but I’ve also a decent knowledge of art history and often bring that to bear. How my other photographic love – landscape – can be explained is beyond me. But does one really need to explain?


Unlike many authors of books on the topic, I didn’t approach digital photography as a graphic artist. I was a “suit” whose career had taken me to the printing press manufacturers Heidelberg where I was familiar with Photoshop from about 1990. But my working days were spent with spreadsheets and databases, and I needed a change in my spare time, not more time on computers, so I stuck with the darkroom and built up my Photoshop skills very gradually by a “wet and dry” route of scanning negatives and slides. Then in 2003 I mentioned on my blog that I had bought my first digital camera, a Nikon D100, and this led to the opportunity to write my first book on digital B&W. I’ve since written 10 or so books on digital photography, the latest two being published in 2014.


To destroy any artistic credibility I may have, my murky past does contain many years as a spreadsheet warrior (a chartered accountant, no less). Learning how to automate Excel led me to financial IT consulting and implementing big accounting systems, OLAP cubes and “business intelligence”, migrating databases. These skills and aptitudes lend themselves to managing lots of photos or “digital asset management” and improving clients’ Lightroom productivity, and designing web sites. But after 25 years, I do know Photoshop pretty well too.