SP-445 Film Processing System

I have a new review over at emulsive.org. It's of the excellent SP-445 sheet film processing tank:

Printing 'Pingliang Road'

Good morning folks.

I've been printing my Pingliang Road image today. I went for an A3+ size to get a measure of the print at a good dimension, although it strikes me this image would lend itself to a much bigger form. Below is a mini photo essay in celebration of this simple but joyful photographic act. I hardly ever tire of seeing an image 'released' onto paper.

There are lots of reasons not to print your work - time, money, storage space and so forth. Perhaps you might like to go against this today, and give your image(s) a well-deserved reincarnation.


Blog note

Some photography blogs are as autobiographical as they are directed to photography. I have deliberately played down the autobiographical on these pages, for better or worse. However, sometimes the work and the author come together whether one likes it or not.

I haven’t been very active on these pages of late, so if you are a regular reader who has been checking in for new material, I apologise. My teaching has been all-encompassing this term, and Richard Pickup Photography HQ has at last received some long-overdue attention in the form of some pretty hefty DIY. I must admit that even a weekly blog schedule can be challenging at times, life simply intervenes.

For the time being I intend to stick to my broad weekly schedule, although it is something that I may review in the not so distant future. In any event, I will let you know. As I have hinted at recently I have some new photography adventures planned, and so hope to pick up the quantity of posts soon.

Thank you for your patience.

In praise of amateurs

For many of us who engage seriously with photography, we are unavoidably amateurs. We practice photography in our spare time and fund it through our main mode of employment. Without earning a living from photography, we lay no claim to professional status, although we may have ‘professional’ aspirations, and may even make a modest dividend from selling prints or similar.

For some, the term ‘amateur’ will have negative connotations. In this little post I want to argue that it is something we should embrace, a title that conveys significant dignity and, in some senses, status.

The latin root of the word points towards ‘lover’, and so we may think of an amateur as a lover of the medium. An amateur is someone who is able to pursue his or her interests unfettered by the needs of a client, or the conventions of an organised group. Indeed, many amateurs gain considerable expertise in niche areas of photography, simply because of the freedom to pursue exactly what they desire, and to direct their resources to such an end.

There is a tendency for a great many amateurs to look longingly towards professional status. Quality photographic equipment is marketed on the back of these desires. Ironically, much gear that bears the ‘pro’ label is in fact sold to an advanced amateur market. Professionals don’t have it easy. They are shackled by the demands of work and the necessity to marshal resources to make the bottom line pay. They cannot indulge in frivolous purchases, nor can they alter a work schedule to follow an experimental whim. In many ways, they are a lot worse off than those who would aspire to be them.

There is another, more subtle, reason why one might not actually want to aspire to professional status. To be a professional means to speak a very particular aesthetic language. We teach ‘professional’ methods and outcomes to our photography students, but what this really means is ‘make images like this’. Professional images look like, well, other professional images. This is a problem that is well recognised in the visual arts, a problem for which the term ‘academicism’ was coined. We can trace very precisely how the language of fine art developed from the French 18th century academies through to contemporary art today. For the painter in the first academies, to be an academician meant precisely to follow a set pattern of working that very much determined how the painting would turn out. This isn’t to say that there wasn’t any innovation, but the parameters in which you could work were highly codified.

So, for me as a practitioner, the label amateur has a number of attractions. It reminds me of the considerable freedoms I enjoy, both in what I do with photography and how I do it. The medium itself has a special place in my philosophy of photography, and so I find the idea of a lover of the medium to be a description of great dignity. As an amateur, I am free to be as idiosyncratic as I like, an idiosyncrasy that has the potential to lead to aesthetic innovation.

The recent rise in the popularity of analogue photographic media may well be a case in point. I can’t help but wonder whether a key attraction of film is precisely that it frees the photographer from so many of today’s picture making strictures and technical processes. This isn’t to say that film is somehow ‘not technical’ (it is, of course), but there is a directness and rawness that comes from an engagement with film that gives the user a sense of oneness with the medium. Additionally, film demands a commitment in time and inconvenience that a large majority of photography professionals have long turned their backs on in the name of working expedient. I don’t think it’s far fetched to say there is a relationship between the analogue resurgence and amateurism in my qualified sense.

Today, I am indeed happy to be an amateur.



Ilford Friday Favourites Best of 2017

I'm honoured to be included in Ilford's final 'Friday Favourites' of 2017. There is a fine selection of images here, so do check them out. There is a lot more to explore on Ilford's newly refurbished website too, included lots of educational content. I especially like the Learning Zone, which is building into quite a collection already.

The photographs that spur you on

This post is a more developed version of a question I asked on Twitter about black and white photography (although it pertains to any photographic work, colour included). Which of your images inspire you and make you want to make more?

The question is simple enough, but it does bear a little qualification. I have a handful of images that to my mind represent what the medium of photography can do. They are not necessarily ‘great’ pieces in a wider sense, but they do ignite my photographic imagination. They normally have a least one outstanding technical quality; perhaps they are also subconsciously tied to pleasant memories and therefore quite personal. The point is that they are markers in my mind for what I can achieve in other situations, and they spur me on.

Do you have such images (I wager you do, of course)? Just to be clear, I am writing about photos that you have taken. If anyone would like to share within these pages, send me a high resolution version of your most evocative one and I’ll construct a little gallery post.*

* Send a high resolution version of your image, along with a title, your name, and any technical details you feel are relevant to: richard.ianpickup@gmail.com. By submitting your image you grant me free use of it on my website and related social media, and demand no payment. You confirm that you have complied with any legal restrictions bearing on its making, and have secured all necessary model permissions. The photographer retains copyright of their image.