Interview with Richard White
Richard is a freelance photographer who lives in Mansfield, Victoria in South Eastern Australia. He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP), a regular judge at their annual convention and a past president of the Victorian Division. In 2003 he won the Landscape division of the Victorian Awards and received an Arts Council grant for overseas study. He is also a regular exhibitor of landscape photography and keynote speaker at photographic conventions.
Richard writes regular articles for Australian and International photographic magazines. Each year he produces a high quality black and white calendar on the High Country of Australia using large and medium format cameras and holds photographic workshops throughout the year under the Art of Photography Workshops program.
When, how and why did you first become interested in photography?
My interest in photography began at 17 because of my interest in motor racing. I wanted to have my own photographs of cars hurtling around a track so I bought a camera to record these events. I went to the local shopping centre and bought myself an East German Practika camera. About all I could afford at the time. It served me well for a number of years then I upgraded to a Canon.
After I spent 31/2 years travelling I pretty much fell in love with the landscape and also other things that I discovered on the way, especially in Europe, where nearly everything is photogenic, or was then. The history captivated me. I grabbed it with both hands and still haven’t let go.
What influences you? Photographers, artists, musicians, anything else?
I think its fair to say that I am influenced by many things. Photographers of course. Uncle Ansel was a great influence in the early days. Sometimes today, depends on my mood. Brett Weston showed me that there are photographs everywhere. His body of work is really quite brilliant and many today often ask, Brett who?
Bill Brandt, Sam Abell, Galen Rowell. The list goes on.
Rembrandt, Monet and many other painters. They gave me ideas, inspired me with their paintings. Their use of light and composition. It’s all helped.
Arnold Newman and Irving Penn for portraiture. Tom Waits for his poetic music. I put images in my head to his words. The minister who preaches and says something that challenges my mind or thought process. No politicians unfortunately. They are the ones that should inspire us of course with their innovative ideas and decisions, but alas we seldom hear any. Oh their was one poly, Winston Churchill, a glow worm amongst so many ordinary worms.
You’re a large format film photographer – what equipment do you use?
That sounds like I am being pigeon-holed. I consider myself a photographer. I use large format and medium format for film and digital for most other things. My preference is to use film, but I don’t discount the other.
I use an Ebony 4 x 5” mostly with Tri-X film and occasionally T-Max, with a variety of lenses. I think my favourites are the 90mm, 105mm, 150mm and the 210mm. Most of my pictures seem to come from those few and the odd one or three from the other lenses I have.
With medium format, which I mainly use for portrait work, I still use my trusty Bronica GS1 also with a variety of lenses and of course B&W film. And for that other medium, that some consider is of the devil, I have a Fuji X-E1. It delivers great quality, and for me quality is just so important.
With digital seemingly reigning supreme among professional photographers these days, digital sensors getting bigger, megapixels becoming more mega, why would you continue to use large format film?
That’s an interesting question. I often ask it of people who attend my workshops. The answer I get is usually because, it’s more convenient, it’s easier and it doesn’t cost anything to take a picture. Or words to that effect. I always find that a somewhat amusing answer because, when has photographic art, which I consider is what I do, been convenient, in fact when has any art been convenient. It requires hard work and dedication. It certainly isn’t easier as we all know and with regard to cost it seems that most upgrade their cameras every 2 to 3 years. That would add up to a pretty sum and selling your old DSLR, as we have found out, is not the easiest thing in the world, as most folk want the latest and the greatest which is what the camera companies love.
So having got all that out of the way, I will attempt to answer your question. Why continue to use large format? Mainly because I want to. I love using it. I understand it. It’s simple to use. It delivers quality that is unsurpassed and a really strange one, I love my camera.
Nothing strange about me in case you were wondering.
What challenges or difficulties do you face working with film these days?
Well in a word, none. Product is readily obtainable. If I photograph for myself then it doesn’t matter what I use. I process my own film and still make prints in the darkroom, which interestingly is becoming a little more sort after. In some ways they are the vinyl records of the digital age. If I do a commercial job then I use digital. This is where it is more convenient. It’s instant and clients want it NOW!
What subjects do you enjoy photographing? How would you describe your style?
I enjoy photographing the landscape mostly and people. People are so interesting and faces are often so captivating. The landscape in itself is also captivating and nature presents itself in some glorious situations and it is up to us to be there to capture it and of course do it justice. It’s a great challenge and one I enjoy.
My style. I have never really thought about it. We often just do what we do and photograph things that we respond to. I know I am a romantic by nature and I am sure that this trait manifests itself in my work.
What have been your favourite locations or projects and why?
The High Country has become a favourite location because of its diversity. I have been photographing in it for over 25 years, but it still manages to get me excited when I am out there. Nature always delivers and it is just so exciting when we capture that moment.
With regard to projects, for the last 14 years I have produced a black and white calendar on the High Country so in a sense that is and has become a project. I don’t think I hone in on anything else with the same veracity. I do love photographing the landscape in any country I am in. I suppose within the High Country environment, I look very hard for Snow Gums. Sort of a project within a project. I try to photograph them as much as possible if I am attracted to a particular tree in the first place.
Can you name some Australian photographers you admire?
From the past Harold Cazneaux, Athol Smith, some of Wolfgang Sievers. And of the now, Anthony Browell, Peter Adams, Michael Coyne.
Where has your work been shown? Where can we see your work now?
My work has been see mainly in exhibitions that never seem to last long enough. I suppose the main ones are 101 Collins Street, Ballarat Biennale, Meyer Gallery in Sydney, Muse Gallery in Milawa, Benalla Art Gallery, Horsham Art Gallery, Shepparton Art Gallery, quite a few times in Mansfield and of course on the www on my web site.
At present I have a small display in Mansfield in a craft shop that represents artists within the shire. Not ideal, but better than nothing. Rent is so darn expensive, so having a specialized gallery myself is somewhat prohibitive.
Apart from that it seems the mystique of photography has faded mainly because everyone these days is a photographer and we are flooded with so many images, mostly ordinary, that when something good comes along it just gets lost in the wash. Sad really. A result of technology unfortunately.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Well firstly thank you for inviting me to respond to your interesting questions. We all know that photography is in a state of change or maybe that change has finished. What ever happens from here, the original concept of photography will not alter for me, which is about discovery and recording those moments that we come across.
I hate deception in photography that modern software allows us to do. Yes it’s clever and that is the best I can say about it. If you primarily photograph the landscape then it has a lot to offer and because I chance on this so often, I just can’t for the life of me understand why people want to make composite landscape images. It really is misrepresenting nature when we do this and really shows that their vision must be lacking. The world is a beautiful place and it is up to us, as photographers, to see past the ordinary and isolate the incredible that the world offers. That in a sense has become my goal where ever I am and I just can’t see myself deviating from that.
Visit Richard’s website at www.richardwhite.com.au.