If you look up the word ‘accomplished’ in a dictionary you will find the following definition: ‘highly trained or skilled in a particular activity’. If you would like to fine-tune it by picking up words that would further clarify the definition a thesaurus will offer the following vocabulary; expert, skilled, masterly, virtuoso, master, consummate, proficient, talented, gifted, adroit, deft.
Leaving the discussions about English vocabulary aside, this is was my first reaction when for the first time I went through ‘Lensless landscapes’ – a book of pinhole photography by Steve Gosling. It was no more than a few minutes of flipping through its pages to record that sensation and deciding that this well-presented work deserves a lot more of my time.
Steve Gosling – this information is for those how have not yet have the pleasure of meeting his work – is a professional photographer based in the North Yorkshire, UK and specialising in producing creative & contemporary landscape images (his ‘signature’ style – as he himself states – is moody, atmospheric and minimalist black & white photographs).
I have known Steve’s camera work for some time now from his website and have been waiting for an appropriate time to invite him to be interviewed by LEMAG and present his images on our pages, which finally happened this month. The interview gave me – and hopefully our readers too – a much deeper insight into his work and a lot better understating of his approach to the land- and seascape photography.
However much I was impressed by Steve’s website presentation of his images though, the true delight awaited me when I received ‘Lensless landscapes’ and took time to go through its pages slowly. Every single image in the book quietly states that Steve is an accomplished photographer.
I tend to read introductions, comments or forewords only AFTER I go through a book myself, a little ruse I play to look at the content with an untainted eye and so I did this time too. Joe Cornish wrote a foreword to this one and that in itself should make any person interested in photography think of ‘Lensless landscapes’ as a serious proposition and give it the time it deserves.
There are forty nine images presented in the book, all taken with a hand-made wooden pinhole camera by Hong Kong based manufacturer Zero Image Company. All are presented in square format and the same kind of toning. Although I am myself rather in favour of approaching each image individually and seeking diversity, presented with Steven’s collection I must admit that his approach only adds to the very positive experience – it shows what truly hides behind the word ‘accomplished’ – consistency in vision, approach and in fine-tuning the final result. The choice of format and toning adds to the tranquil unity of those long exposure images that successfully venture beyond an instant.
I want to discuss just a few of the images to give you the taste of it and hopefully entice to purchase this jewel of a book.
Hole in the Sky, Dappled Down, Cloudscape and Good Morning Sky are four seascape images of a similar composition and subject. Instead of discussing them here one by one – or indeed picking up just one to discuss – I decided to look at them as a short series and in doing so reflect the completeness of the book. Those four images are ‘a series within a series’.
I am no different to thousands of photographers around the world who are mesmerised by the constant beauty seaside offers. The combination never-resting sea and clouds moving at different pace draws us over and over again to those places and quest for the very special sense of inner calm that can be found in all weathers there. Neither, clearly, is Steve. His appreciation of sea and clouds is transparent, and not only in those four images I am mentioning here. Each of them presents different combination of the never-ending play between the sea and the clouds as if he wanted to alert us to seascape versatility, its captivating power of emotions and the simple fact that it is possible to spend a long time in one spot and witness changes so dramatic and yet often going unnoticed inn our hectic life. Slow down, take time, see for yourself and let it all come into you, this is what Steve images are trying to say. They do convince me.
Piers are also well-represented in the book. I image called Receding Tide caught my eye but it was the two images of Whitby Pier called Under the Pier 1 and Under the Pier 2 that I would like to say a few words about. Whitby Pier has been done to death so you might be surprised I chose those two.
The two images are significantly darker and a bit heavier in toning than others in the book. If put one next to the other, as I believe they should be presented, they create an uneasy feeling. On the one hand all is as it should be – the vanishing point in the middle between the images and the leading lines that draw an eye to it. At the same time though the light is on both sides and drags the attention away from the center, away from the obvious and the easy. As if the artist was suggesting leaving the comfort zone and venture out and seek the new and the unexpected, embrace and enjoy the journey into the unknown. However nicely rendered here it is not the Whitby Pier that speaks to me but the message which Steve is sending to the viewer.
The same message is, I understand, hidden in the images Exit and Front Line.
Being a fun of old school and pinhole photography I might be a tad biased but am happy this book has reached me and allowed me to meet – albeit not yet in person – a strong series of images by clearly a contemplative photographer, dedicated to his careful approach to his subject, creating thoughtful photography that capturing an instant takes us well beyond it. Those images were taken without lens but not without the focus.
Derek Michalski, Editor, LEMAG