Sunday, September 14, 2008

Az Rehman: Spotlight 7 Week 15

Archive of week 15 interview.

Welcome our Week 15 Spotlight presenter, Az Rehman brought to you by guest curator, Made in Sheffield

1) When did you first become interested in photography?

I first became interested in photography in my dad retired and decided to treat himself to a brand new camera. It was a Pentax ME Super. He is almost 90 now and uses his mobile phone to take pictures with.
Luckily for me, he lost interest in photography soon after his purchase. It was a beautiful little camera and a perfect introduction to the medium.
I would photograph my family most of the time, especially my two younger brothers. I used to drive them mad. Thinking back now, they were actually very patient for me as I would take ages to get thinks looking how I wanted them to. Ultimately the pictures never quite turned out as I had hoped they would. It didn't really matter...I enjoyed the process of making the image.
In my last year of school we had an activities week, and the geography teacher was a keen amateur, so he decided to have a week long course on photography. I spent the beginning of the week photographing the rest of the pupils, doing their chosen activities. On the Thursday and Friday I had the opportunity to dev and print my images. When I saw that first print come to life in the dev tray I was hooked.

2) You work on both digital and film formats - do you have a preference?

When I started on flickr I shot on a digital camera, I loved creating the images and was very proud of the fact that everything was done in camera. I decided to go back to film for several reasons. The main reason was that I found with digital I would shoot too much and it became easier and easier to get the result that I was after. I love using flashguns and using the screen on the rear of the camera I could fine tune everything to get the look I was after. It almost became boring, so using film was a chance for me to think more about the shot and it has helped me to see things in a different way. Now on film I rarely shoot more than one exposure of a subject and I try very hard to crop in camera. Ironically it has also meant that I am having to spend more time in front of a computer, as now I am having to scan before I can upload to my stream.

3) Which photographers do you admire, and have they influenced your work?

That's easy to answer, Sebastião Salgado, Brian Griffin, Norman Parkinson, Helmut Newton and Duane Michals. When I studied photography (many moons ago) I was a huge fan of Brian Griffin. I was lucky enough to meet him and take his portrait at an exhibition of his only a week ago. For me it was almost like meeting a musical hero. I spent a good hour talking to him and I was glad to see that he was still as passionate about photography.
I wouldn't say that I am influenced by anyone really. I am influenced by everything around me...and every photographer should be. Every day has its photo opportunities.

4) Tell us a little about your Bargate portraits set.

The Bargate Project started over a year ago. The original idea was to take some pictures of my home town to add to the Southampton Group on flickr. As I walked around the city centre I was lost and didn't know what to shoot. I thought I may as well just start with a picture of the Bargate. As I began focusing the lens I focused on the people walking towards me and loved how the depth of field looked. So I asked a few people to stop for me. When I saw the negs I was really excited by them and decided to turn it into a project.
I have shot over 100 frames now and 99% of the time only shoot one frame. I decided to keep the aperture at F4 for all the images to keep the depth of field uniform throughout the project. During bright days I have to use very strong ND filters to get the lens to F4.
I hope to get them exhibited one day, but so far the local people who are in charge of displaying art/photography have shown little interest in the images. It is VERY important to me that they are displayed out on the street. I want the general public to see them.

5) What method of approach do you use when asking strangers for their photograph?

Generally I find that I ask people first for their permission. When they ask why, I usually tell them that I am a street photographer or I am making a book. I love to talk photography and will happily talk to the people I shoot afterwards until they are bored. The downside of asking people is the rejection, and believe me there is plenty of it. I don't worry too much about it, but I am deeply concerned about how photographers are treated now by the public and officials.
I try to shoot members of the public very quickly and the shot can be over within seconds...I find that most people become self-conscious if you take too long, and when this happens I don't even want to take the picture.

6) Do you direct your subjects at all?

If I am shooting the public and have asked their permission I will usually direct them before putting the camera to my eye. This way I can subtly add the direction into the conversation. It will often only be a simple request like getting them to step back or to just turn slightly.
If I am shooting someone I know then yes I will direct them as much as is required. If I am shooting digitally I always get them to look at the shots so they can see what I am trying to get.

7) What photography do you prefer - staged portraits or candid work?

I love to have as much control as possible when shooting, so I would say that I prefer staged portraits. I have a list as long as my arm that I want to get around to shooting. I do feel that it is important to be open-minded when you are in a portrait session, sometimes my favourite shots have been the ones that developed into new ideas during the session.

8) I noticed that this portrait is a personal fave of yours - tell us why...
In my job I get to travel a great deal around the south of England and always have my camera with me in the back of the car. I am always darting my eyes around looking at peoples houses and one day I saw this gentleman outside his garage working on his bike. I loved how the colour of his shirt worked so well with the bike, so I pulled in at the nearest opportunity to walk back and ask if I could take his picture. I ended up spending a long time talking to him about his bike. Him and his wife married in the UK in the 50's and rode the bike to Monaco for their honeymoon. He told me that they ended up getting a police motorbike escort to their hotel from two motorbike police in Monaco. He was now the chairman of the Douglas Dragonfly Club and the members still meet every summer to go to classic bike events to show off their machines.
It's a personal fave because it was shot around the time I began using the Hasselblad, and it gave me a huge amount of confidence to carry on shooting with film. I always try to send a print to the people who pose for me, and he phoned me a couple of weeks later to say how grateful he was.

9) What piece of equipment is on your wish list?

I would love a Nikon D3

10) Finally, show us a photograph on Flickr that you wish you had taken.

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