Click after jump button for a feature of Graham Alexander and his photography
1. Please tell us a little about you and what you do with photography.
I am married with three grown-up children. They all continue to live with us on and off which is absolutely terrific. I have lived mostly in the UK but have also lived for periods in the USA; and have also travelled widely. My career, after a lot of false starts and modest jobs, took off when I pioneered in Europe the idea of coaching in business. I continue to be a Partner in an Executive Coaching Partnership that I started in 1986 which coaches senior executives and senior executive teams in major corporations and organisations. These days I don’t work anything like as hard as I used to which gives me a lot more time for photography. My other interests include music of all types, sport (particularly tennis), philosophy, psychology, reading, movies, sunshine, and ‘loafing’. Having said this my major interest is PHOTOGRAPHY.
I am never without a camera and shoot pictures most days. I often shoot into themes/series that I put together over months or years. When I am photographing I am completely absorbed and immersed and, at best, ‘in the zone’. Photography makes me really look at the world and day-to-day life and exposes an endless variety of things that I would otherwise not see. I believe that photography is a very profound activity with a magic and mystery of its own and is a way of looking deeply into life and the human experience. To me life is inherently mysterious and unknowable. My photography sets out to show this mystery with all its joy and sadness; the beautiful, the ugly, the humorous, and the surreal. My hope is that my photographs trigger an emotional response and that they cause us to pause and reflect.
2. What inspired you to want to be a photographer?
I have always had a deep interest in the ‘big questions’ in life, self-exploration, and what makes people ‘tick’. In parallel, from a young age, I always loved taking photographs. The older I have got the more I have seen that photography is a fantastic medium for looking into life and that has been coupled with an ever-increasing interest in art in general. And once I started looking at the history of photography and its past and current ‘greats’ I became completely hooked.
3. What genre’ are you most interested in?
My primary loves are Street, Beach, and Documentary photography but from time to time I also take other types of photographs if they come my way landscape, sport, animals etc.
There are many photographers of different genres that I admire and who have inspired me including (I hope the list isn’t too long!): Diane Arbus (my favourite), Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Eggleston, Joel Sternfeld, Elliott Erwitt, Bill Brandt, Eugene Atget, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Robert Frank, Constantine Manos, Martin Parr, William Albert Allard, Alec Soth, Sebastiao Salgado, and Pavel Wolberg.
4. Could you provide some ideas as to where you seek and find inspiration to keep working?
The real buzz is in walking the streets or the beach and suddenly encountering something extraordinary, moving, surprising, surreal, and lucky! It is the ultimate experience of “you never know what’s around the corner”. I always have a number of series on the go at any one time. For example I have built and am currently building a number of Street series, a number of Beach Series, a number of Graveyards series, and so on. I sometimes go out to specifically photograph for these series but I always keep my eyes open for any other great shots.
Sometimes I just go out as a “flaneur” to see what my wanderings and life bring to my camera. I particularly look for and notice surreal aspects of the world and life in general, juxtapositions, extremes of human emotion particularly sadness and ‘lostness’, and disturbing and scary things. I also often see geometrically or spatially (the Rule of Thirds etc seem natural to me) and thus spot compositional opportunities. My recurring themes are people on the street and on the beach (or indeed anywhere), isolation, signs, graffiti, the surreal, humour, decay, and death.
5. Do you prefer B&W vs Color or do you work in both and please explain why you work in what you do?
I like both B&W and Colour. I decide whether B&W or Colour best suits the theme and then, having decided that, I then choose a look/palette etc that will further enhance the impact of the photographs.
6. What cameras and lenses are you currently using?
I have a range of cameras – a Leica M9 (with 21mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm lenses); a Ricoh GR; a Fuji X-Pro1 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses); a Canon G1x (always carried as it can photograph anything including having a very long zoom and is relatively light and invisible), and a Fuji instant camera. I am currently using the Ricoh for most of my street photography as it is so light, unobtrusive, and brilliant particularly when close to subjects. But I also generally move around with two cameras (plus the Canon go-to) so I sometimes supplement the Ricoh with the Leica or the Fuji X-Pro1 (sorry Don I haven’t got names for my cameras yet!).
7. What processing software do you use?
I post-process in Lightroom 5. I find the post-processing a very creative process but one that used to be quite laborious and time-consuming. However since using pre-sets a lot (creating my own, using Lightroom and Alien Skin pre-sets, and particularly since purchasing the Inspired Eye pre-sets [buy them folks!]) – this has considerably accelerated the process – which is great. I now also have a well-grooved post-processing workflow which, again, makes this much more effortless than in the past.
8. When it’s all said and done, how satisfied are you with your images and your journey as a photographer?
I am very satisfied with the progress that I believe I have made and which my wife and others validate. I seem to be quite good when I come up with a theme, and shoot into this theme with a narrative/story. I believe that I have improved very significantly over the years which is extraordinarily encouraging and I think this is largely as a function of studying many of the great photographers, analysing carefully the photos I take, and the feedback from my wife. Also particularly the discipline of spending many minutes with individual photographs that appeal to me by other photographers and trying to figure out what it is that has led to my reaction.
Images & comments
I was coming out of Bond Street Tube (subway) station in London when I spotted these three nuns with the Backstreet Boys. Not something you see every day! I followed them for a while and took other shots but this first one is the one I liked the most (I find this is often the case – that the first shot is the best). I shot it with my Ricoh GR.
One series that I am working on at present is shooting the tourists and street-entertainers in Trafalgar Square in London, UK. It is always packed with people and extraordinary sights. I love this picture for a number of reasons – the absorption of the four people in their ice-creams and/or their thoughts, the different sizes of the people, the different paces that they are eating at (maybe says something about their personalities?), the diagonals in the composition etc. In a photograph like this you never know what the relationships between the people are like but we can speculate! I shot it with my Ricoh GR.
I was sitting outside a pub in Margate, Kent, UK having a beer (an occasional enjoyment!) with, as ever, my camera in front of me. Suddenly this juxtaposition presented itself and I only had time to shoot this one frame. I love the innocence of the child pulling forward wanting to touch the dog, the wariness of the dog, the anxieties of the two lead (leash) holders etc. I shot it on a Canon PowerShot G11 which has since been replaced by a Canon G1X.
We went to New Orleans for Christmas and I spotted this as we walked back to our hotel late in the evening after going on a ‘Ghost Tour’. It seemed to fit perfectly – very spooky but off-set by Christmas lights. Shot with a Leica M9 with 35mm lens.
I am currently working on a number of Graveyards series (including sad, spooky, beautiful, people using graveyards for leisure activities etc). This photograph is from a series on monumental gravestones taken in a graveyard very close to where I live in London. To me it’s disquieting but also has a majesty. Shot with a Leica M9 with 21mm lens.
This photograph is overwhelming sad to me as the image is at such odds with the words on the stone. I don’t know whether the flowers etc were trashed by human-hand or by the weather. But either way it shows what is so often the case – the intent to remember those that have died that is not sustained. Photographed at a crematorium in Margate, Kent, UK. Shot with a Leica M9 with 21mm lens.
I am also better, bolder, and more creative with the day-to-day shots that I stumble upon than I used to be. A priority that I am also currently working on is taking my web-site to the next level (www.fashfoto.co.uk). I do believe that I will continue with photography as a key part of my life and hope and believe that there’s masses and probably endless improvement that I can continue to make.
And finally I would like to thank you Don and Olivier for Inspired Eye magazine which, bar none (both traditional print and on-line magazines), is absolutely the best that I have come across. I love the wisdom (both photographic and life), technical knowledge, humour, inspiration, and interviews with “real” people. A BIG thank-you for the opportunity to do this interview.
Also please check out my Instagram account here