Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New book

A small fishing boat in need of a new coat of paint or two, casts a shadow deep into the translucent waters of Morro Jable harbour, Fuerteventura.

I've not been around for a bit. You may have noticed. Anyway, yesterday I finished putting a book together of Magda and my images, and I'm exhausted. It was one of those marathon's to get it all done within production deadlines.

The image above almost made it into the book but fell at the last hurdle. I chose another one of the boats instead. Still I like it and hope you do to.

I've learnt a lot going through the creative process of putting the book together which will soon be available to buy on Once we take delivery I'll be able to photograph it and then create a small flash animation to show what it looks like. Well that's my idea to market it anyway. There will be a limited number of signed copies available. I'll let you know when.

In the following weeks I am planning on writing a series of articles on using design principles in the creation of an image. This involves going beyond the traditional examination of composition. I hope that it will help photographers. Watch this space.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

The portrait photographer's motivation

Easy access to the Internet and digital photography has resulted in an ever growing number of photographers uploading their images for comments and ratings from peers.

Online communities evolve and these mini-societies each have their pecking order, internal groups and communal preferences. Photographers learn from each other. On sites that have a rating system there is often pressure to conform to certain styles, techniques and even subject matter.

Although I participate in numerous sites (it's great fun), I recognise the danger of becoming a herd animal and losing the edge of individual creativity. There will always be the creatives that lead the way and the imitators that can only try to follow in their footsteps.

This lead me to think about classifying photographers according their inner motivation. So as a bit of fun here are a few different types:

The innovator
Driven to always find something new, different and creative. Wants to be leading edge. Motivated by creative satisfaction. They pay no attention to popularity and resolutely follow their own path. The innovator sets the future trends.

The imitator
Dreams of being an innovator but is always playing catch-up. Does their best but hasn't got an original thought. Once inspired they can deliver good images. They are swayed by popular trends and whatever's in fashion.

The second hander
Slavishly copies the work of the popular photographers but lacks the ability to critically evaluate images and doesn't have a clue about the difference between popular and good. They also can't see the difference between their images and those winning accolades. Doomed to oscillate between frustration and megalomania. Winning popularity is everything.

OK, the above is a bit tongue in cheek. However I do have a serious point to make as well about photographer's motivation.

A professional photographer commissioned to do an advertising shoot, for example to sell perfume, will use a model. The model stands for all the woman looking at the advert. The image says, if you wear this perfume you will be as beautiful and as glamorous as this model. She embodies perfection and some of that will rub off on you. The model is objectified. She becomes a symbol, not a real person.

Many amateur photographers try to take pictures of friends, family and acquaintances in a way that turns them into visual objects, like the model, rather than in a way that brings out their true personality and character. The photographer turns them into a shallow representation of themselves and the image lacks life, soul, honesty and truth.

As viewers we quickly recognise an image that is visually decorative and well designed, and on our upload sites we praise the photographers skill and artwork, but ultimately a portrait without soul, that has no character will be seen today and forgotten tomorrow. Just another empty vessel to be discarded on the digital image scrap heap.

So what's your driving passion and motivation. Is it truth? Is it popularity? Is it graphically designed beauty? Is it to sell a product? Or is it about your subject, showing their real character and a glimpse of their soul?


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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Authentic portraits

Portrait of Magda Indigo, out enjoying the landscape in Flanders, Belgium.

Yesterday I was looking through my library of photography books. Being a bit of a collector I've got quite a lot. The book that caught my attention for a relaxing browse on the sofa was Annie Leibovitz's Woman.

It's a magnificent celebration of woman and includes portraits of the famous, of high achievers and of ordinary woman. The thing that all of the images have in common is an honesty and an authenticity. She uses a variety of techniques and styles; black and white, colour, grainy, smooth, candid, posed - it doesn't matter. Each image speaks to the viewer.

She often breaks the photographic rule's of composition, but each image works. You never get the feeling that technical considerations get in the way of making a good image. It's all about the subject and the honesty of the photograhers eye. No wonder she is ranked as one of the world's top portrait photographers.

In her tribute to woman there is not a single sign of airbrushing or digital manipulation to enhance her subject's looks and yet young and old look far more beautiful than any cover model photograph for a fashion magazine or slick high street portrait shot.

The ultimate beauty of photography for me lies in authenticity, showing the real person and letting their image speak to us.

I hope all those photographers out there uploading glossy, staged portraits that are empty of meaning will take a moment to consider what I've written here. Next time you're in a book shop pop in and take a look at Annie Liebovitz's photography.


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Sunday, January 21, 2007


Visitors Tracker
The ocean and in particular waves breaking has fascinated me as long as I can remember.

I used to sit as a child on the granite boulders of Cape Town staring out at the Atlantic as it pounded the coastline.

Later as a surfer I got to know the joys of harnessing the power of the ocean as I sped across the steep faces of waves just like these.

So there I stood on the Southern most point of Feurteventura, enjoying the experience and longing for my surfboard. I shot gigabytes of images to add to the photographic diary of my life.


Friday, January 19, 2007

New design

Don't get a fright. You are visiting Paul Indigo's blog. I've decided to update the look. Consistency is good but every now again you need to freshen things up.

I have added labels and other new features will follow soon. I intend to write even more articles in 2007, lots of useful stuff and more strong opinion pieces too like the article I published earlier tonight. You may see a slight change in the style of my writing too. My blog is going to be short, sharp and to the point.

When it comes to giving advice I am going to ensure maximum clarity. If anything is unclear then please let me know. I realise that for many readers English is not their first language. Please tell me if there is something you do not understand.

Besides opinion pieces and advice, I will make this blog more interactive by sharing the thoughts of other leading photographers and the opinions of experts with you.

I hope you like the new look and you will continue to visit my blog.

All of the very best,

Airbrushed portraits

There are a few things that irritate the hell out of me and one of them is the overuse of airbrushing techniques to smooth out portraits. Worst of all is when this technique is used on children and young people with perfect complexions.

Turning everybody into a porcelain doll is just nauseating. There are several amateur photographers who, as is often the case with people where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, seem to delight in turning everyone they photograph into a plastic effigy. I've even seen the technique used on babies. For heavens sake! A baby’s beautiful pure skin airbrushed and all those cute little wrinkles wiped out.

What on earth are these photographers thinking? Look at any leading professional photographer’s work. Yes, they airbrush their models but you can still see skin texture and pores. The gradations are subtle and smooth, colours blend beautifully across cheeks but you can still see that it's skin, except in a few highly stylised images where the obvious intention is a 'plastic' look.

I hope this article is food for thought. Portraits are about showing character through every line and crease in our faces. I've got far too much respect for life and reality to airbrush my subjects out of existence.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Basil Pao and Martin Parr

The styles of Basil Pao and Martin Parr are very different and there’s absolutely no academic reason to group them together other than I’d like to draw your attention to their brilliant work.

Having said that there are two similarities. Both photographers are constantly taking pictures wherever they go and whatever they’re doing. The second similarity is their visual wit. They both frequently juxtapose elements in the image in a clever and very visual literate way and for me it is one of the key strengths of both photographers.

Martin has brought out a lovely book called Fashion. I think it is brilliant although very garish. Basil has been Michael Palin’s photographer on his BBC travel expeditions for the last 14 years. If you’re not aware of their work then you’re in for a treat. Get to a bookshop and take a look at their work in print. The screen just does not do it justice.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Appreciating photography

What goes through your mind when you see an image? There's an emotional and an intellectual response.

Firstly, I'll try to describe the emotional response. When I see an image I really like, a feeling of pleasure rises up from inside me until it touches my lips and forms a smile. But images can evoke the full range of emotions from tears, to anger, to laughter. An image's ability to evoke an emotion is one of the measures of its strength.

It's fascinating that everyone reacts differently to images. In essence the image brings 50% to the party and the viewer brings the other 50%. Appreciation is the sum of the viewer's experience and the image itself. That's why some people can look at a print and it leaves them absolutely cold while the same print can have a profound effect on another person.

There are a few images which strongly affect virtually everyone because they sum up a powerful emotion or statement about the human condition in a universal way.

On the other hand intellectual appreciation revolves around understanding and acknowledging the context of the image, the implications of its content and the analysis of its aesthetics.

Overall when I see a good image, there's a feeling of recognition, a clicking into place of both emotions and intellectual understanding, which produces a sense of fulfilment and ultimately leaves me with a feeling that my soul has been enriched. I can't begin to describe how profoundly an image can move me, the deep joy it can give me as I discover its beauty. I really do love great photography.

Strangely enough the images that have the most profound impact are ones that I see in printed form. Pictures on the screen never have quite the same impact. The feelings I experience viewing a printed image are much stronger than seeing the same image on a website. The tangible print is the ultimate product. It completes the life-cycle from light reflecting off a subject through the lens on to the film or sensor, until it is again reflected light, this time from the surface of the print.

It's wonderful to go and see prints in as many galleries as you can, to look at photographic books and even magazines. That's what photography is all about; the final printed image.



Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The uncertain future of the professional photojournalist

You may well have already read this interesting article and in some ways even more interesting commentary. But just in case you missed it, take a look at Dan Gillmor's article The Decline (and Maybe Demise) of the Professional Photojournalist (article published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.)

I think he's stated the obvious when it comes to on-the-spot news. However as others have pointed out, merely recording the moment does not equate to journalism. I certainly do not feel threatened by ubiquitous image recording devices as there will always be a market for a sensitively told story in pictures and words.

My prediction is that we will see a polarisation between on-the-spot recording of events and high quality photojournalism. There's a market for both.

Feel free to leave a comment here too.


Monday, January 08, 2007

A question of lenses

We start of in photography wanting to own and buy everything and then as things progress we realise that we need less and less. The image and the vision takes over.

I've just read a lovely book: The World's Top Photographers: Photojournalism: And the Stories Behind Their Greatest Images (World's Top Photographers) (Hardcover)
by Andy Steel

Their are some astonishing ommissions from these pages including many of the photojournalists I rate highest in the world, but perhaps they weren't willing to collaborate and I know it's impossible to include everyone. Anyway...

Something struck me reading through the pages. The diversity of cameras and equipment they use is amazing. However, it is clear that many stick to just a few lenses, often fixed focal length. Of course journalists working for daily newspapers who need to cover every eventuality from sport to hard news will have a wide range of lenses but even then it seems that they settle on a few favourites to get various jobs done.

My message as ever is focus on the vision and the image. What camera and lens suit your vision best?



Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy New Year

A very Happy New Year to all my blog readers. Yes, I'm back from a gruelling commission in the sun on the Canary Islands. Jokes aside, I did work hard but came away with stunning images which now need to be processed and edited.

I'm missing the sound of the wind in the palm trees. Now back in the cold and wet of the UK.

I hope you had a good festive season wherever you are in the world.

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