Learning by example

The best photographers innovate, not imitate. One of their best tools is originality. It shows when you can look at a picture you’ve never seen before, but can tell instantly who took it.

I’ll probably never achieve that level of recognition, but any master artist in any medium has something that you just can’t fish out of a camera bag, or a box of paints. It’s inside, deep down, somewhere.

I don’t possess this great gift of originality, but I do try to absorb what the best photographers have done, and learn something from them that might just help my own photos along a little. Composition, maybe, or timing.

With that in mind, I try to go to as many exhibitions as I can – not easy, here in North Wales – and to study collections of work by esteemed artists. Occasionally, though I come across work by photographers that I’ve never heard of that just stop me in my tracks. This happened recently, when I received, unexpectedly, a gift in the form of a book called “Is Britain Great? 2” with photos by Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale, and published by The Caravan Gallery (http://www.thecaravangallery.co.uk) – part of a series that now extends to three volumes.

The book contains pictures of the less glamorous parts of the UK and its people. Viewed individually, these photos would’t attract a second glance. They aren’t “clever” or posed pictures, there’s almost nothing obvious by way of post-processing, apart from cropping perhaps. They’re just pictures of people and places as they really are.

The originality, for me, lies in the way that they have been assembled into a collection that shows the real, everyday Britain that we don’t notice, that we pass through without a second thought when we leave our homes. But it’s done in a gently humorous, honest and affectionate way that it opens our eyes in a way that no collection of glorious HDR-enhanced landscapes that present the UK as a holiday destination (beautiful though they are) ever could.

I loved it instantly, and sought out another collection by the same photographers called “Welcome To Britain”. It covers the same sort of ground, but it does it oh, so well.

So, if you’re looking for something to inspire you, or make you look at the mundane in a different light, I completely recommend the work of Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale.

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