Next up in our interview series is Alistair Dickinson.
please introduce yourself. what is “your style” of photography? I studied architecture and do that as my day job. Since graduating I’ve slowly been drawn back into the world of photography. I think my style will always be shifting but I think I’m getting closer to understanding what I am drawn to photograph. I tend to look for signs and details that inform us of our relationship with the social and physical environment – how we have shaped that environment to fit our needs, and how that environment has in turn shaped us.
how long have you been shooting film? I’ve been shooting film seriously for about two years now. I was into photography back in high school – taking pictures of friends, skateboarding, bands – whatever fun we were up to. I got more interested in other things like girls, painting, and other stuff and stopped taking pictures.
When I started studying architecture I got a compact digicam to take photos of things and places for assignments. For the five years I was studying the camera purely remained a recording device. I wasn’t thinking photographically. The information in the pictures was what was important – not the way it was photographed or how it looked in the photograph.
But after graduating I was starting to look at photos a lot more, and really taking time to digest them. Photos from Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, Robert Adams, among others. Naively, at first I thought they were just doing what I had been doing – recording. But after some time looking at this work it occurred to me that they were not making a raw recording, but making a reading of what was there in front of them, and their images were unique to them because they were the product of that reading.
So I bought a DSLR (because I was no longer a broke student ) and started taking pictures again – like I was when in high school – thinking photographically again, but fusing that with all that I had learned in uni the past five years as well as all these photographs I was now consuming.
Getting the DSLR really pushed my interest in photography into obsession, but I really hated using it. It felt so big, the viewfinder was tiny, and I didn’t like shooting a 28mm lens to regain the field of view of a 50 due to the sensor crop. So I picked a Minolta X-700 and 50/1.4 for cheap and instantly felt at home again.
Working with film also makes me more critical in editing as there’s more time between shooting the picture and viewing it. For me this makes it possible to be a bit more subjective or detached from the memory of the moment when assessing whether the picture is a keeper or not.
do you prefer colour or black & white? do you have a favourite film or camera? I think I prefer colour (but not too much of it) but I do shoot a fair amount of black and white as well because I like it as well. There’s also a lot of fun to be had in processing black and white film at home.
As far as favourites go. My favourite camera would have to be my Leica M4-P. It just oozes “No frills” “Let’s just get the job done shall we!”
Favourite colour films would be Kodak Portra 160NC and Fuji Pro 400H. I haven’t found a favourite black and white film yet. There’s just so many to try and I’ve hardly scratched the surface. So far though I’m finding the older types like FP4+, HP5+ and Tri-X to please me the most.
show us one of your favourite shots and tell us a bit about it – how did you take it? is there a story behind it? I saw something that intrigued me. I assessed it, studied it. Then I took the picture, and I think I hit the nail on the head. I can’t ask for more than that.
show us a favourite shot from the MSM pool. what do you enjoy in other peoples’ photos? A shot that has always stuck in my mind from when I first saw it is this one from **sasho – It’s just absolutely stunning. Love the soft pastel colours, the whimsy of it all and it’s composed so well. It should be in a book I reckon.
why photography? Photography allows me to work through and test concepts and ideas at a good rate and I think I’m at a point now that everything I do I’m thinking about it and looking at it photographically. It has become a way of life. Painting and drawing did not give me the ability to digest the world around me at an appropriate rate so it was not something I could ‘live through’. They always felt as a separate pursuit outside of everyday existence whereas photography feels an integral part.
Kicking and Screaming
what question would you like to see us ask one of the next interviewees? Was there a moment for you when you realised that photography was maybe going beyond the level of being just a phase or fleeting obsession to becoming a way of life? And if so, could you tell us about that moment?
Thanks very much for your time, Alistair!