Artist in Focus: Peter Bolton
Hi Peter, let me start with the obvious, do you have a favourite place to photograph?
Because I don’t restrict my work to one genre of photography I don’t have a favourite place. What I try to do, is ask questions of myself at whatever location or whatever situation I find my self in. “How can I tell the story and show what this place is like?”, “How can I portray this event for those who weren’t there?” if it’s a portrait, “How can I show the real person beyond the pose?”.
Of course, I have been involved in projects that I found particularly inspiring such as when the Poppies came to Southend on Sea for two months as part of a nationwide tour. The breathtaking sculpture Wave, a sweeping arch of bright red poppy heads suspended on towering stalks, was originally seen at the Tower of London as part of the installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.
I was honoured to have been appointed as ‘Official Photographer’ for this event. My coverage went from the build, to the official launch and then throughout the display period.
What do you believe is a key element in creating good composition?
I think to a large degree, composition is instinctive. Sure, you can learn the widely accepted rules and work rigidly to them and always fall within ‘the lines’ as it were. Most people looking at an image whether drawing, painting or a photograph, are not at first glance consciously considering composition. Mostly, they accept that ‘it looks right’ without analysing why that is so. I think the key element is the ‘balance’ of the elements within the image. Of course some images have many elements within the picture while others may have just one or two. I believe that the creator of the work has to work harder on composition when there are many elements involved.
Of course as we know rules are made to be broken and we have all seen many examples of this where the resulting image speaks for itself. Maybe it shouldn’t work but it does! In the final analysis, if the picture communicates its message and reaches the viewer on an emotional level then that is all that can be asked.
Do you have a photograph that you are particularly proud of?
Having been a photographer and graphic designer for over 30 years and professional for at least 20 of those I have photographed hundreds of different subjects from people to landscapes, to street, to travel, to personal projects and a lot of commercial work too.
I have made a lot of images that I have been happy with, if it was a commercial image, then did it do the job for my client? If it was a fine art print and somebody bought it, they wanted it enough to hang it on their wall and live with it. Surely, reward enough.
I enjoy the process of creating the work, making the image, getting it on my screen and making decisions about what I see. Does it tell the story or evoke the emotion I am trying to convey?
I am always hoping that the image I am going to make next is the one that I’ll be most proud of.
Is there any preconception about art and artists that you particularly dislike?
While photography is the medium I chose to pursue I also painted in the past. At the beginning I took photographs purely as references for my paintings or for use in graphic design projects when I couldn’t find what I wanted anywhere else. Over time photography became my passion and later, my job.
I came to realise that I could be just as creative with a camera, painting with light on film, or since the advent of digital photography, painting with pixels, as I could with paint on a brush. I began to show my work in exhibitions, galleries, print fairs, restaurants, cafés and anywhere that would have me! Now, years later, my work is pretty much worldwide either in photo libraries, in print or as artwork on the walls of my clients.
In answer to the question “Is there any preconception about art and artists that you particularly dislike?” A general misconception by some people regarding photography is that it is easy when compared to what they call ‘real art’, painting, drawing, and anything that begins with a blank sheet of paper or canvas. Everybody is a photographer these days of course but not everybody is an artist. Is photography art? Most definitely in my opinion.
What question about your work do you get asked most?
As a photographer I hear the usual things I’m afraid, “Great picture….you must have a good camera?”. “It’s easy now….all done on a computer?” I was often tempted to think of replying that I have button on my computer with ‘Great Picture’ engraved on it….print now!
I was also often asked at shows and print fairs, usually by guys with huge camera bags and large camera and lens combo resting on their chests, “What camera, lens, speed, aperture, etc.etc.?” Not the gear, the camera is the tool, my eye is the secret!
All good fun, but there are those who want to know more about the image itself because they have a genuine interest. I am always happy to pass on any of my knowledge and experience.
Can you describe ` typical working day for you?
The nearest I get to a typical working day is when I spend days at a time in front of the computer processing images after an assignment. Then on other days there is admin to take care of, emails to answer, marketing tasks, images to upload to various websites, updating my website, keeping abreast of the photographic news, social media marketing. When I need a break I will go for a walk along the coastal area where I live.
Oh!, almost forgot, there are some days when I’m out actually taking photographs.
What’s the driving force behind your work?
I love the challenge that photography offers. Getting the image right is important to me so I tend to have a plan worked out before a shoot, but as with most things in life, things don’t always go to plan and being prepared to adapt to changing conditions is a necessary prerequisite for a photographer as I have discovered many times during my career.
What is your favourite thing about photography?
I feel privileged to be a photographer. It has enabled me to visit places I never thought I would go and to witness events I never dreamed I would see. And, more importantly, never removing or taking anything that belongs there, coming back with nothing but images to support the memories.