Gigi Williams – Artist’s Statement
I can’t imagine a world without photography - capturing a unique moment in time that will never be repeated.
My photos are the result of meticulous planning and often involve costly and difficult-to-get-to locations; physical endurance of hostile environments; gale force winds; freezing ice; desert storms and searing heat that require technical mastery of both capture and post-production processes.
Even after all this work there is an element of magic required when Heaven and Earth; the moon and the stars, all align and I am able to capture that unique moment.
Cartier-Bresson described this as ‘the decisive moment’. My images reflect those decisive moments in the natural world. My role is to decide when that moment is.
Sometimes even after all that planning I have had to walk away with nothing because the magic just doesn’t happen but other times Mother Nature smiles on me and the most magnificent scene reveals itself.
I’m never sure exactly what I will come home with. And this is what excites me so much about landscape photography. I love the rare moments when there is magic and it’s these magic moments and the unpredictability of the whole experience that I find the most inspiring.
It is my pleasure to share these places and unique moments with you.
Robin Williams – Artist’s Statement
The artist and the scientist in me are always in restless juxtaposition. It is my Ying and Yang. At school I loved both arts and science subjects. Photography is of course a remarkable blend of art and science and in photography I found my natural habitat.
As a scientific and medical photographer I was required to be objective and to make not just faithful reproductions, but ones which were consistent and accurate to the extent that measurements could be taken from them. And yet amidst this pure science I found beauty – photomicrographs and contour maps of patients that were at once both tools of investigation and also an expression of pure natural beauty. At their most harmonious the artist and scientist in me allow me to capture a faithful image that also engages the viewer in the sheer beauty of the natural world. I am obsessive about details; moving camera position, changing focal length and yes, sometimes moving the subject matter until I have concentrated the image’s essence without distraction. Removing the errant twig, framing out the distracting white rock, ensuring the diagonal flow of a river meets the corner of the image frame: these are the obsessional tasks that help me compose the essential image.
The artist in me wants the viewer to experience the same emotional rush as I did surrounded by nature’s beauty, the scientist wants me to objectively record the evidence.
In fact the camera is still woefully inadequate at recording the human experience: the ability of the eye-brain combination to encompass a huge range of brightness, to accommodate radically different coloured light, and to scan around a scene to gain a complete understanding of spatial relationships whilst at the same time ‘zooming’ in to see a minute detail all exceed the current technology. I utilize a range of techniques, including in-camera processes such as polarization and graduated filters, shift and tilt lenses, and in-computer techniques such as high dynamic range, exposure blending, and focus stacking, to produce images that are as near to the human experience as the current technology will allow. When compared with human vision it is still an imperfect representation – but using all the skills and knowledge available it is much better than the average record.
There is currently a great debate amongst the purists in landscape photography and those who embrace the creative possibilities offered by the digital darkroom. Indeed the word “photoshopped” has entered the Oxford dictionary with the slightly pejorative definition of “to alter a photographic image digitally using Photoshop image-editing software” – the emphasis being on the word alter. Friends regularly comment on my images saying ‘that’s amazing – but surely you must have photo-shopped it!’ Surely I must – because I shoot RAW images and the basic adjustments of image contrast, exposure, colour hue and saturation, sharpness etc., that everyone’s point-and-shoot camera applies in-camera must be applied by me in Photoshop (or an equivalent program) to create an acceptable image. “Photoshopping” my images is not an elective matter – it is a critical task – just as the darkroom techniques were that I used in the analogue film days, selecting film/developer combinations, dodging and burning, flashing, hot water baths etc., were all part of my kitbag of tools to “alter” the image to achieve a faithful and pleasing result. In this context I am proud to say all my images are ‘photoshopped.’ I do not take sides in the current debate – important though it is – just as was that which fired the huge schism that developed in photography between the ‘manipulators’ who followed Henry Peach Robinson’s teaching and those who supported the ‘naturalistic’ view of Peter Emerson in the 1880’s. For me as an artist it is all about the experience of the image – the scientist in me keeps the ‘photoshopping’ in check.
The way we witness a scene through photography has always been flawed. The inadequacy of the technology always distorts the experience. Daguerre’s iconic photograph of the Boulevard du Temple, Paris, taken in 1838, shows a seemingly empty street except for a man having his shoes shined. The reality couldn’t have been more different. That Paris street was bustling with fast moving people, horses and carriages. The ‘films’ of the day however were so insensitive that the exposure time was long enough for every moving object to become completely blurred. Only the static objects – including the man having his shoes shined – recorded on the photograph. Since the birth of photography the technology has forced an incorrect perception of the world. The technology has changed radically since Daguerre recorded that image, but 175 years later it is still impossible to replicate the human experience. Ironically contemporary photographers are now using “big stoppers” or ten-stop neutral density filters to slow down their cameras’ sensitivity in emulation of Daguerre’s inadequate technology!
The greatest reward is when a viewer connects with an image emotionally: when the say they wish they had been there to experience what they see and feel when they view my photographs. The peace, the excitement, the solitude, the awe inspiring visual feast that is the natural world. I hope you enjoy my images and derive as much pleasure from looking at them as I certainly did in creating them.