I am thrilled for the new book. Of course, along the way was hard work, a bit of deadline stress and self-doubt. But now the book is finished, it is a complete product done and dusted, it is what it is: imperfect perfection. My books have been the best part of my career so far.
Front and back:
It meant a great deal to me for Ilex Press to express interest in me doing a second book, back when I was signing the contract for the first one, Self-Portrait. The suggestion of having a longevity beyond the first book cast out fears that I was a self-portraitist gimmick. That was two years ago, when I wondered to the future, and thought how would I do a book on general portraiture? I considered that I had a long way to go to garner the necessary material. But now I sit here with the finished second book in my hands, a book’s worth of new stuff shot with a multitude of new models, confident and happy with every word and picture within it.
I have had more confidence in writing this book. Because instead of wondering how my take on ‘portraiture’ will fit onto the conventional bookstore shelf (as I first thought back when the suggestion was made) I have believed in my own work’s aesthetic and written about my process from my own heart. Of course, part of writing a book that will go out into the mainstream world is to think about which of one’s work is the most saleable, and not to fill the book simply with pictures you love. But what you love comes to be what you are best talking about. I think there is a nice balance between pleasing myself (enough to be genuine) and pleasing the readers (enough to be of interest to others).
So what’s in this book?
Self-portraits, nudes, fashion portraits, commissions/projects, collaborations; a collection of ’stories’ going from urban space, to nature, to interiors, over three hearty chapters. There is an initial chapter looking at aspects of portraiture, from lighting to depth to shape. There is also a special contributor chapter, followed by a final chapter with advice and tips on career progression, continuing on from the last book with new material on working with teams and models, through to putting together an exhibition and portfolio.
This book doesn’t patronise you or tell you the obvious things. This book talks to you as an equal, as an artist. If you’re looking for ’step by step’ recipes to cook your own clone of a generic pie, this is not your book. But if you want a book that treats you as an autonomous artist, and wants you to act on real inspiration and not imitation, this deserves a place on your shelf.
I love the value that contributors bring my two books. I love sharing the work of people whose work I admire and fills me with that ‘yes, that’s why I love photography’ feeling. All 5 contributors have said something in their text that makes me empathise with them.
And here they are:
“I never want to be a photographer of other people’s ideas.”
Kirsty Mitchell is a wizard making legendary pictures, and yet doesn’t even think she knows much about photography. I am honoured to feature her some of her incredible Wonderland series in my book along with her stimulating earlier work, portraits and self-portraits. Kirsty is like no other artist I have seen. She could have the fashion world on its knees for her but that is not her main goal or vocation; her work is beyond fashion or any definitive label. Her work is beautiful fashionable art with remarkable set and prop design – and behind it, a inspiring and heartfelt story to tell. Sheer hard work and preparation is behind her work, reaping her well-deserved recognition, on the exciting cusp of stardom. It’s fascinating to see where she will go.
“The feeling I get when I capture something I am proud of is indescribable. I am filled with a happiness so intense that I know the reason I am here is for this.”
Susannah is a spring chicken and a dark horse. I first came across her work when Matthew sent me a link. I knew at once that I wanted her in my book, but didn’t expect a reply. So I was surprised when she said yes. Her work is such quietly top quality. I love her b/w portraits in particular, so subtle and powerful. Her written text is beyond her years… smart, devoted, insightful. She shoots fashion but wants to move it in a fine-art direction. Her devotion to applying concept to her work is admirable, because it’s not easy to take compelling popular images that also have some profundity. I also like that fact that she is wracked with confusion about the world with every picture she puts up on flickr. Because that’s how I have always felt too!
“My ideal picture is in my mind long before my camera clicks, but seldom does the picture come out as it is in my mind.”
I stumbled across Peter’s work at the same time that I was looking for a fifth, male contributor. Ideally I wanted someone who shot portraits indoors. And here was my answer! Not to mention the relief that I was representing someone outside of UK/US! Peter’s work is quite astonishing. I describe Peter’s work as a ‘more fashion-based Gregory Crewdson’ and a ‘darker Tim Walker’. His subjects look like possessed waxworks. Like any great artist he is addicted to making art for art’s sake, whatever the means. He has a great ability to turn a blank wall setting into a warped scene of beauty and bizarreness.
“In everything that I do I want to question what it means to be alive.”
Brooke Shaden’s earliest images fits this ethos of this book perfectly: creative portrait photography. Brooke has managed to hit the spot between conceptual and visually arresting, making ‘dark art’ popular – not easy! And yet her work is not necessarily ‘dark’ in aesthetics but a tapestry of colour and form. She has a huge cult following and a style which, through the internet, mass-inspires people of all ages and countries to learn how to make images like hers. She’s also been asked on occasion to shoot fashion but listens to her gut instinct to steer her one-woman ship the way she wants. Brooke is inspiring in the sense of working harder and never stopping pursuing the creation of amazing images. She believes that magic can be made with modest means and simplistic approaches.
“Saying that my initial start with photography was anything but narcissistic would be an awful lie.”
Having learned of Alex’s work through Flickr, Alex’s work is diverse yet also strong. I empathise with so much he writes in the book about starting out with the ‘heavily contrasted’ vanity self portraits! Alex’s smartness is both funny and stimulating to read. His section includes some of my very favourites of his, as well as favourites of his flickr audience. He is an embryonic talent that will definitely shine the further he pursues photography.
You get EIGHT pages of each contributor, and you get to learn a lot about them you may not have known before.
And please, please, please post your reviews! On Amazon, on your blogs, or wherever – but if you post it on Amazon also, I’d be truly grateful. I really want to hear what you think of the book. Thank you!
Amazon links again (but available from plenty other retailers):