My first memory of using a camera was not far from my home on a beach at Scarborough in Yorkshire. That camera was a Box Brownie. Later, I got my first simple camera as a kid in the early 1970s and loved taking shots of birds, buildings, plants and landscapes. I think my inspiration came, in part, from knowing that my grandfather and great-grandfather were professional photographers. The latter flew with the RAF taking reconnaissance shots over Germany where, tragically, people he knew before the War, resided. I recall remarkable portraits in my grandparents’ home, of my mother as teenager and various relatives, and of Winston Churchill taken by my great-grandfather. For some reason I never pursued my interest in photography until very recently.
I work with six cameras; two digital and four film:
Sony NEX 7 which tends to have a single lens on it all the time: Zeiss 24mm 1.8
Nikon D800e for which I have three lenses: Nikon 50mm 1.4G, Nikon 24-70 2.8G and Nikon 70-200 2.8G
Nikon FM 35mm (circa 1975) with a Nikon 50mm 1.4 manual focus lens. This is a simple mechanical camera with a light meter.
Hasselblad 500 CM medium format (circa 1970) with a Hasselblad Synchro 80mm 2.8. This too is a simple but elegant mechanical camera with no light meter.
Zeiss Icon Nettar 518/2 medium format (circa 1951) with a folding 105mm 3.5 lens. There is no through the lens focus so guesswork and measuring are needed. There is no light meter so I depend on my basic mechanical Sekonic light meter.
I develop my own black and white negatives and have my C41 film processed locally. Using a Canon Canoscan 9000F II and the very good VueScan software I scan my negatives for adding to this site. Thanks to courses taken at Emily Carr University of Art and Design (summer of 2015) in Vancouver and a brilliant teacher, Diane Evans, I have learnt how to make my own basic prints with machine and tray processing. This has inspired me find a public darkroom. More on that later…
I now find myself obsessed with photography. Many weekends, when time permits, I wander the streets or beaches and, walking around town, can’t stop seeing things as possible compositions. Photography really does open one’s eyes to details. I am keenly interested in exploring the conceptual side of photography, though am well aware that my lack of technical ability renders such pretensions premature.
My latest acquisition (May 2016) is a Leica M6 TTL with a Summicron 50mm-M f/2. I had not planned to join the “Leica club” but fortune smiled upon me. In May I visited my mother’s sister in the town of Knaresborough, in Yorkshire about five miles from Harrogate, the town where I was born. I still write letters to her and mentioned my work with film and B & W print-making. She wrote that her friend’s husband had died and she had given one of the cameras from his collection to my aunt along with a lens that had never been used. After presenting a paper at a meeting in Paris I flew to England and stayed with my aunt for a week; I came home with the virtually untouched camera and lens. My clunky and cheap Nikon FM is still my favourite 35mm camera but I am getting used to the Leica and used it for a recent course at Emily Carr U. of Art and Design on colour printing with (again good fortune) Diane Evans.
As for my day job, I am a professor at Simon Fraser University. My research is in Chinese intellectual/cultural history though my interests are much wider than that. Anyone curious about the academic subjects on which I write can have a look here.