Archives for posts with tag: Interview

Tim Ashley interviewed me for his fine art photography blog. Here’s a reblog as featured on his website also interesting is his interview with Nadav Sander and post “What is Fine Art Photography” 

Quintin and I first met some years ago at the same crossroads in our photographic careers. It’s a long story but we were both thinking of taking the same big step and, as it happens, neither of us did. But we kept in contact and I became a great fan of his work.

Quintin is ‘mainly’ an architectural photographer: that is the core of his business, his primary bread and butter. But like many photographers, his career is also his passion and his Fine Art work, which often combines elements of his architectural practice with travel, documentary and landscape styles, is a very natural extension of this core practice.

The two series featured here, Chernobyl and Sweet Thames, are very different. Chernobyl is a fusion of architectural discipline, documentary bravery, intrepid travel photography and a Fine Art sensibility. Sweet Thames, one the other hand, is far less structured, more fluid (as befits its theme) and more obviously lyrical. Both avoid cod narrative in favour of a form of quietly passionate dispassion, if that makes sense.

It’s worth adding that it’s not just me that rates his work highly: Quintin has recently been awarded 1st place in the ‘Architecture – Historic’ category for the Chernobyl series in the 2012 International Photography Awards. He also received three honourable mentions in the categories for Fine Art – Landscape, Architecture – Cityscapes and Architecture – Buildings.

The rest of the words that follow are Quintin’s, and I hope you enjoy them and the images as much as I have. Because both series are quite long, I have embedded them as slideshows to expedite loading of this page.

I also recommend Quintin’s blog, where you can see some of his architectural work, as well as more of his landscape and travel photography.

Finally, don’t miss the ‘Methods and Approach’ section at the end. It is brief but highly informative!

Pripyat: 21 years after Chernobyl

A silver birch tree grows through the floor on the terrace of Hotel Polissia. The hammer and sickle is visable atop the distant appartments.

A silver birch tree grows through the floor on the terrace of Hotel Polissia. The hammer and sickle is visable atop the distant appartments.

When reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in 1986 the result was the worst nuclear accident in history. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were severely contaminated, requiring the evacuation and resettlement of over 336,000 people.

Pripyat, 1km from the reactor, was designed as an exemplar of Soviet planning for the 50,000 people who worked at the power plant. A funfair, with bumper cars and Ferris wheel, was due to open two days after the reactor exploded.

These photographs, inspired by Robert Polidori’s earlier images of Chernobyl, were shot in 2007 over 5 hours, apparently the safe period of exposure. Although a Geiger counter was carried in case of localised high emissions, certain areas of vegetation which attract a higher concentration of radiation were avoided.

The physical devastation stems from looting and gradual building collapse, not from the explosion. Over the last ten years people have intruded regularly into the military exclusion zone, stealing everything from irradiated toilet seats to the marble cladding from hotel walls. Photographs of the town capture a memory of three traumas: the invisible radiation, the visible looting and the gradual collapse of a ghost town.

See the full series here

Sweet Thames, Run Softly

Thames Waters IV5 Miles downstream (near Ashton Keynes)

Thames Waters IV
5 Miles downstream (near Ashton Keynes)

The idea for the project started when watching the first few minutes of Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening ceremony. Seeing the sped up aerial journey starting at the source of the Thames and ending up in London I immediately realised I wanted to walk the length of the river and try to produce an artwork based on that experience. I’ve recently got married and live with my wife in Cheltenham near the source, my childhood was in Oxford, half way along and I lived in London for seven years as a student so the river has a very personal connection for me. Earlier in the year I’d been in hospital with meningitis and then immediately afterwards witnessed the birth of my son so I started the journey with more sensitively to the notion of the river as a metaphor of life than I might have done otherwise.

I’ve always been a keen long distance walker having backpacked Land’s End to John O’Groats and many of the long distance trails in Britain. I always travel alone and camp, as its cheaper (much cheaper in the Thames valley!) and gives me a greater connection to the landscape and allows me the concentration necessary to think about and notice interesting light for photography. It was surprisingly difficult to camp along the Thames as it relatively populated and I prefer to wild camp so I often pitched after dark and broke camp at dawn. The journey was 170 miles and it took me ten days.

Whenever I work on a photographic project I think of the images as a series, to which I endeavour to give a particular and constant feeling. I never know what this feeling will be before I start a journey which is part of the thrill. In the artic this was the play of light, In Iran it was the architectural symmetry and on the Thames I felt it was the pattern and texture of the water. I purposely cropped out the landmarks to emphasise the difference of the texture and colour of the water. Before I started the journey I would never have thought that the water at the source could look quite so different to the same water as it passed under the M25 bridge.

See the full series here

Practice Statement

I make photographs of things I’ve never seen before. The desire to understand the visual world is the inspiration for my work. Geometry and stillness are qualities of space I’m particularly fascinated by. My background in architecture means I tend to abstract the world in terms of line, surface and form.

My working method involves two parts. Firstly extensive walking and looking, photographing intuitively if a place interests me. Subsequently I’ll edit the material I have collected while thinking consciously about a theme or idea that the images suggest to me.

Methods and Approach

My background was working with a 5×4″ sinar view camera but now, the 20+ megapixel full frame 35mm sensor cameras more than meet the technical demands of the industry (architects, developers and design press). I’m not excited about the new generation of 40 megapixel full frame sensor 35mm cameras as I consider the extra detail excessive and it increases processing time. Far more important than resolution is a flair for composition and light. The cost of buying or hiring a Phase One back and associated digital lenses is not proportional to what the industry pays and this type of camera reduces the propensity to experiment and play which can reduce creativity of composition.

35mm full frame lenses with excellent corner to corner sharpness and low distortion are essential. Tilt shift movements are useful not just for correcting perspective but for shifting the compositional emphasis of a scene. I work with Canon and my preferred lenses are 17mm f4 TS-E L,  24 f4 TS-E L and 70-200 f4 L. The ubiquitous 24-105 f4 L is also fantastically versatile and most of its problems can be removed in Lightroom; the Chernobyl series was shot with this lens as I was so short of time due to fears of radiation exposure. Architectural Photography is particularly sensitive to lens/ body calibration and I send my equipment to be calibrated annually.

Useful techniques for architectural photography depending on the situation are exposure fusion which is a naturalistic version of HDR which increases the dynamic range by blending bracketed exposures. I use LR/Enfuse lightroom plugin for this. For interiors, tethered shooting can be very useful for previewing often complex Lightroom adjustments on the fly. Mirror lock up and a high end tripod and head are essential for pin sharp results. Aperture is best kept no higher than the f8-f14 range to avoid problems with diffraction softening the image. A Hoodman loupe helps focus the manual tilt shift lenses. Wearing a fluorescent worker’s jacket when using a tripod reduces people’s suspicion in urban areas and tends to make people walk quickly past the building. And I always carry a couple of door wedges for interiors photography!

More from Tim Ashley’s blog here

Outdoor Photography Magazine, September 2010

10 Questions interview with Quintin Lake in Outdoor Photography Magazine September 2010 Issue 130

Acclaimed architectural photographer, Quintin Lake, tells Nick Smith how he made the transition from architecture to photography and why geometry really matters

Quintin Lake is recognised as one of the top creative architectural photographers at work today. Before embarking his photographic career, Quintin graduated from the world renowned Architectural Association in London where he held a scholarship and worked at Grimshaw Architects on the Eden project. His architectural training gives him an understanding of the subject, while his photographic approach is characterised by a fastidious attention to detail, which translates into intelligent and refined images.

Quintin’s clients include architects, interior designers, various publishers and magazines. His new book Drawing Parallels: Architecture Observed is a source of architectural inspiration from around the world, with material drawn from travels in over 60 countries. Quintin is a member of The Association of Independent Architectural Photographers, as well as a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society of Arts.

1 When did you realise you were going to become a photographer?
I was an architect before I became a photographer and I used a camera
as a sketchbook for ideas. Gradually, I became more interested in the images, rather than just using a camera as a tool.

2 What was your first camera?
It was one of those rotating disc cameras with which I used to take blurry pictures of my thumb when I was ten. But while learning photography as a teenager I used a Praktica SLR film camera. I became a ‘Canon person’ when I was about 20.

3 What formal training do you have?
I studied architecture for seven years and did modules on photography during that time. I learned what I needed to learn to do the job.

4 How important is it to specialise?
I think it’s important from some clients’ perspectives, but as an artist I don’t think so. I have different portfolios to show different clients in architecture and other areas; it’s called market segmenting, I think.

5 What is the best assignment you’ve been on?
Going to Pripyat, a large deserted city within the 30km ‘zone of alienation’ around the Chernobyl reactor. It was the most focused shooting I’ve ever done and a very harrowing time. It’s an entire city with no people in it; no one will live there for hundreds of years.

6 What’s the worst thing about being a professional photographer?
On the commercial architecture side it’s waiting for the sun to come out. Clients don’t want pictures with grey skies. Also, there’s keeping the work coming in. If ever I got an assignment that lasted more than a couple of weeks that would feel like incredible stability.

7 Film or digital? Why?
Digital. Half of the creative process is taking the shot, and the other half is the post-production. Commercially it can be a chore, but if it is an artistic image this is where you refine it and make it your own.

8 What’s the most important thing you’re learned from another photographer?
Cartier-Bresson had it right when he said it was the mind, the heart and the eye that meet in the moment. But geometry is vital. No matter what else is going on in the image; I think the viewer reacts to it first graphically.

9 What does photography mean to you?
It encapsulates the enigma of life. It seems so simple as a still image and yet it can have infinite meaning with a unique visual language. In terms of my own life, it’s an excuse to keep a childlike curiosity.

10 What makes a great photograph?
It just grabs you and you know you’ve been grabbed. It’s an emotional thing.

Quintin – IN BRIEF
Age: 34
Time as pro: Ten years
Where based: Oxford
Specialities: Architecture, documentary and expedition
Studio or home: All on location, but post-production at home
Digital or film: Digital

In Quintin’s kit bag
Cameras: Canon 5D, Canon 5D MkII
Lenses: Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L, Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5, Canon 24-105mm f/4 L, Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS

Quintin Lake’s new book Drawing Parallels: Architecture Observed is available from all good bookshops. RRP £25

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