From: 22nd January 2022
Until: 12th March 2022
Viewed with an Older Eye
The work of photographer Simon Williams (oldparson.art)
I am an artist-photographer, formerly a science teacher and a church minister, living and working in Weston Super Mare and Clevedon.
Drawing on all my working experience, I mainly make images using antique cameras and historical processes, but do use a digital camera for large landscape work in colour.
The speed and ease with which we can now take photographs is amazing - but in the haste we can lose the pleasure and mindfulness that a slower form of the process can offer. Taking a stand against the relentless drive for ever more MEGA-images that are becoming more “real” than reality, this work celebrates the imperfections of a more basic process. With no batteries or micro-chips these cameras can be used to create evocative images that invite the viewer into them. Pristinely clear images from our modern cameras and phones can be scanned, appraised - re-tweeted or ignored and then forgotten, but an image that draws you to explore, think, imagine - can create and deposit something of value in us, that will last.
I hope I carry some of this ethos across to my digital work - much of which is landscapes and nature. The motivation is to share the awe and wonder I find in these subjects, believing that through that they point to their creator.
For my historical work my equipment is almost entirely antique, mostly over 100 years old. My out and about" camera is a Thornton Pickard Imperial, full plate, 8.5x6.5”, bellows, triple extending, field camera with a roller shutter and Beck symmetrical lens (f8 to f64). I also enjoy using a 10x8” New Countess field camera for indoors work and for large collodion wet plates.
I love working with the old cameras even though they present problems. There is something special about using an historic camera which D.H. Lawrence understood;
“Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into
are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing
for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely
warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.”
I keep to the mahogany and brass bellows cameras for this work My “film” can be ordinary sheet film, but is most often X-ray film which can react to ordinary green and blue light (not red). When I first started using these antique cameras it was with photographic paper as film and I still enjoy the special look and feel it gives. Most recently (as a benefit of being locked-down) I have been learning to make wet plate collodion photographs, the technology for which was 50 years old when my cameras were made in c1900. These images have a depth and life about that that is wonderful to see - but only visible in person, not on-screen. This is a beautiful medium for portraiture and that is something I am beginning to offer commercially. Examples of these form my “Guest” cabinet display for January and February in the new year.
The prints I produce from negatives are contact-prints and are therefore the same size as the original negative. I print on ordinary photographic paper but enjoy more, hand-coating watercolour paper with solutions of iron and silver salts to make blue toned “cyanotypes”, “Vandyke Browns" and creamy "Argyrotypes".
The hand-made nature of the images allows me to exercise artistic control over the look and feel of the images producing images that, when it works well, convey the sense of the subject as much as its looks.
My website does show each type of image but digitising them loses a lot - they must be seen in person to be fully appreciated so it is great to have space to show them at Studio 3 in Clevedon Craft Centre, where I am available to talk with every Tuesday 10am - 4pm.
To contact Simon via email at email@example.com.
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Come and see Simon’s work at Studio 3 Gallery