Groundwork - International Women's Day


Shot with the X-T3 with 56mm f/1.2 and 35mm f/1.4 lenses and the X100F - Processed in Capture One Pro

The process of discovery and interpretation, that’s what drives photography and that’s what drives dance. That fight to capture with a little black box shape and form, movement and moment, it’s kind of thrilling. When I was asked to document a set of performances by Eef Bonnet, Jess Lerner and Rose Leighton for International Women’s Day at the wonderful MADE Gallery in Cardiff, I jumped at the chance. Okay, so there was a quantity of free beer involved, but with MADE’s history of showcasing compelling performance pieces, music, dance and exhibition art they really didn’t have to resort to bribery.


It also afforded me a chance to complete an ongoing triptych of posts all concerning expressive physical performance, all in black and white and all featuring women with stories to tell - one being a modern retelling of a classic fairy-tale, the other a surrealist nightmare and finally with this piece a look at Eef Bonnet’s fraught emotional work on domestic violence. Still images don’t capture the physically exhausting work she threw herself into, nor the soundscape she mixed for the performance, and I kind of wish you had seen it - but I do hope you find the pictures striking. One of the elements I’m finding most compelling in capturing performance art is in how it can utilise common everyday spaces and work them into strange and powerful narratives. There’s something dream-like about such close-up performances when replayed in memory, because unlike watching events on a screen you are in and amongst them, you can share the same space physically, emotionally and find yourself a bystander in a strange unfolding story. It’s leaving me hungry to see more and more dance and theatre. As ever click the thumbnails to see the full version.

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about how I’m processing my images. I haven’t always been satisfied with how my images look - both in the act of taking the image and in the post-processing. It’s leading me to whittling my images a lot more in the editing, to being more disciplined and to really think about the exposure and framing and… somewhat shockingly… to finally move away from my image editing suite - the standalone Lightroom 6. Although I once loved the program dearly, I was dissatisfied with both Adobe’s new subscription only model for future releases and the way they seemed incapable of improving the slow, buggy and chugging nature of the geriatric beast. Then I acquired the new X-T3 camera and found that I would have to abandon their last standalone release of Lightroom and commit to a monthly subscription in order to have the image files recognised.

It was with faint heart that I began to cast around for alternatives; but once Adobe’s up-and-coming rival Capture One announced their alliance with Fujifilm, I was ready to take the plunge. You see Fujifilm had shared the secret sauce of their film simulations with Capture One, allowing me to accurately replicate the look of Acros, Classic Chrome et al within their processing suite’s digital innards. The bonus half-price discount offer sealed the deal, I was the confused but proud owner of Capture One 12: Fujifilm Edition. It’s going to be quite the journey further developing my look with all these shiny new tools. I think I’m going to enjoy finding out what makes it tick.

All the photographs in this post were produced from the RAW files after a good many evenings of experimentation, with a good many photo-books open on my lap. For the lead Groundwork image I was especially focused on Robert Mapplethorpe’s images of Patti Smith, especially the cover image for her album Horses with white shirt and black tie. I wanted to try for something simple, bold and iconic with no fancy lighting tricks. Obviously it’s no Mapplethorpe, but I’m happier with it than most shots I’ve taken recently. I’m also still very taken with Vanessa Winship’s inspiring book ‘She Dances on Jackson’, her outdoor black and white portraits I simply find beautiful.

All the same after a long run of black and white I think I’m nearly ready to go back into colour. For a while. Nearly.