Lockdown Sessions Ashley Carr Posted On 3rd June 2020 To Magazine & Lockdown Sessions
This week for our 9th Lockdown Session we spoke to Ashley Carr, who you may remember was nominated by Hamish Gill in week two. Ashley is a well know member of the film community and is always happy to share his thoughts and experience.
SECTION 1 - THE BEGINNING
SHARE YOUR FAVOURITE IMAGE / PRINT SHOT ON ILFORD FILM AND TELL US WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU?
It was very difficult to choose a single favourite image! I think this photo is a favourite as it’s one of the first photo’s that represents a turning point in my personal work. At the time this photo was made I’d been a full time photographer for 14 years but had never really concentrated on serious personal work outside of my day job.
JUST IN CASE ANYONE DOESN’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE OR WHAT YOU DO CAN YOU GIVE US THE OVERVIEW?
I’m 47 years old and have lived in Birmingham, W. Mids all my life. I trained in Fine Art as a painter and occasionally used photography throughout my painting practice for visual source material. Through a bizarre series of events I fell into photography as a career, it very much found me as oppose to the other way around. I’ve been full time as a photographer for nearly 20 years now and I mostly shoot interiors/architecture for commercial clients all over the UK. I started primarily as an event photographer and still have a few clients from back then that still hire me. The event work serves as a great counterpoint to my usual work shooting things that don’t move!
HOW AND WHY DID YOU GET STARTED SHOOTING FILM?
When I left school and started Art college in 1989 my father gave me his Pentax ME Super with three Pentax M lenses, 28/2.8, 50/1.7 and 75-150/4 all stored in a very early Billingham bag. That year I was also gifted a full darkroom kit from a family friend, which I set up in my parents loft. So I’m lucky that at aged 16 I’d not only got a decent camera kit but also my own darkroom.
Digital photography wasn’t around then so photography was film. Shooting film and printing my work was just what photography was. The only choice really was colour or black and white!
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST PHOTOGRAPHIC INSPIRATION / INFLUENCE TO DATE?
There have been a few. Bernd and Hilla Becher were a very early inspiration long before I had a deeper interest in photography. I discovered their work whilst studying painting and was immediately drawn to how they presented their work. I’ve always liked work presented in series and their studies of ‘types’ made a huge impact.
Gabriele Basilico has been a long time influence as well as the photographers involved in the New Topographics movement from the late 1970’s particularly Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF PHOTOGRAPHY ADVICE OR TIP YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
Apart from the few modules of photography I did whilst at college I’d consider myself ‘self taught’ as a photographer so I never really had input from teachers in that field. The piece of advice that made the biggest impact on my approach to my personal work, both in painting then and photography now, was from my painting tutor. He taught me that what you learn and discover whilst in the process of making can often be more important to personal development than the end product.
SECTION 2 – IN LOCKDOWN
WHAT PHOTOGRAPHY RELATED PROJECTS ARE YOU PLANNING TO DO WHILE IN LOCKDOWN? / DO YOU HAVE ANY PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS / IDEAS / PROJECTS FOR PEOPLE TO TRY?
Printing, printing and more printing!! All my commercial work planned for the next 6 months completely evaporated when the Corona Virus kicked in. Looking for ways to generate an income during this time led me to look back at a project I’ve been working on for the last 5 years to see if there was any way it could earn me a little money.
Inspired by a good friend and fellow full time photographer who’d started a print sale to see him through the lockdown I did just that. I advertised on my Instagram feed that I’d hand print any photo from my feed in either 8x10 or 11x14. Although not really expecting much interest the sale slowly started to gain momentum. I’m now busy in my home darkroom printing up orders to send around the world!
WHAT KEY PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD GIVE OTHERS TO SEE THEM THROUGH / STAYING MOTIVATED WITH THEIR PHOTOGRAPHY DURING THE LOCKDOWN?
For me photography isn’t just about going out and making more pictures. Sometimes taking time to look back through work you’ve already made can be incredibly productive and inspiring. For me going back and looking at my work has often resulted in me discovering narratives and themes emerge that, at the time, I had no idea were present. These narratives and themes can inform work going forward and even lay foundations for future projects.
Also photobooks, not the technical ‘how to’ books, but other photographers work, both classic and contemporary, can be incredibly rewarding and motivating.
WHERE IS THE FIRST PLACE THAT YOU WILL BE SHOOTING ONCE THIS IS OVER AND WHAT KIT WILL YOU TAKE WITH YOU?
I have no idea! As long as there’s a man made structure in front of me I’ll be happy. With regards to Kit…If there’s still somewhere after all this that can repair my Pentax 67 (which developed a problem not long before the lockdown) I’ll be using that with the 75mm shift lens.
Or I might go for a long walk in the countryside in which case it’ll be my battered old Leica M2 with 35/50/90mm lens kit that accompanies me. Either way I’ll be shooting the only two film stocks I use, ILFORD FP4 and ILFORD HP5.
THIS PANDEMIC HAS GIVEN MANY PEOPLE THE OPPORTUNITY TO REASSESS GOALS AND AMBITIONS. WHEN THE WORLD RETURNS TO NORMAL WHAT ARE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC GOALS GOING FORWARD? (CAN BE BUSINESS OR PERSONAL).
Well I’d like for my commercial work to start up again obviously as it pays my bills! After 20 years of doing this full time I have been thinking about moving into teaching photography. I was an early adopter of digital capture for my commercial work yet I’ve always continued to shoot and print film outside of my job. It seems like utilising the knowledge I’ve gained in the two mediums would be put to g ood use in an educational environment.
For my personal work I need to get some serious editing and sequencing done for a long term project that’s drawing to a close. Thoughts of a book and exhibitions of that project have been bouncing around for some time.
ON A NON-PHOTOGRAPHY QUESTION - THIS IS A BIT MORE DEEP AND MEANINGFUL BUT POST CORONAVIRUS, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THE WORLD TO DO DIFFERENTLY (WHAT LESSONS COULD WE ALL TAKE FROM THIS)?
I’d like to see a shift from ‘It’s all about me’ to ‘It’s all about us’ way of thinking. It would also be nice to see a return to some kind of civic pride. I’ve walked all over Birmingham for a project and the amount of rubbish I see everywhere is saddening. We all live here together its shouldn’t be that difficult to put your rubbish in a bin!
SECTION 3 - SHOUT OUTS
WE ALL NEED A BIT OF INSPIRATION AND LOVE SO THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO TELL THE COMMUNITY ABOUT YOURS. FROM THE FILM PHOTOGRAPHERS WHOSE WORK INSPIRES YOU, TO THE LABS YOU TRUST WITH YOUR FILM. YOUR ‘GO TO’ FILM PHOTOGRAPHY STOCKISTS, YOUR FAVOURITE COMMUNITY DARKROOMS OR JUST ANYONE IN THE COMMUNITY WHO YOU FEEL DESERVES A SPECIAL MENTION.
GIVE A SHOUT OUT TO YOUR 3 FAVOURITE FILM PHOTOGRAPHERS CURRENTLY ACTIVE ON IG OR TWITTER AND BRIEFLY TELL US WHY OTHERS SHOULD FOLLOW THEM?
I find this difficult because I look at photography that moves me in some way as oppose to what medium has been used to make it. Out of the people who’s work I like that I know shoot film here goes:
- Kit Young: Instagram @kityoung135. Kit has darkroom skills in abundance!! His work is very evocative, he seems to be able to catch a moment, a fleeting glimpse. I only wish my work could feel as free as his does.
- Steve Ferrier: Instagram @stuconflo. I don’t know Steve but I love his series of work within a theme.
- Robert Walton: instagram @carmenthekitten. Bob for me represents what Instagram can be about…connections. I met Bob through Instagram a few years back and he’s become a great friend and shooting partner. We talk daily and some aspect of film photography always pops up be it, shooting, developing or printing. He also shoots a 1924 RB Auto Graflex 4x5 hand-held. That in it self deserves the upmost respect!
There’s also a lot of people on Instagram who’s work I enjoy immensely but don’t know (or care) if they shoot film. It’s black and white and that’s good enough for me!
GIVE A SHOUT OUT TO YOUR FAVOURITE PHOTOGRAPHY YOUTUBE CHANNELS (APART FROM THE @ILFORDPHOTO ONE)?
I think as many people are turning to darkrooms in this crazy time then I’d have to say the youtube channel of ‘The Naked Photographer’ is a great resource for darkroom knowledge. If you’re just starting out or interested in making unsharp masks from Ortho film this channel has it covered.
GIVE A SHOUT OUT TO YOUR FAVOURITE PHOTOGRAPHIC RETAILER (NAME, LOCATION AND WEBSITE)
AG Photographic (www.ag-photographic.co.uk) here in Birmingham. They’re a great bunch of people, incredibly helpful and have great stock levels.
GIVE A SHOUT OUT TO YOUR FAVOURITE LAB SERVICE, IF YOU HAVE ONE, (NAME, LOCATION, WEBSITE)
On the rare occasion I need lab services I’ll go to AG Photolab (www.ag-photolab.co.uk).
SECTION 4 - FAVOURITE KIT
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FILM CAMERA YOU OWN (OR HAVE OWNED/USED)? (SEND US A PICTURE OF IT IF YOU HAVE ONE).
My favourite camera is not my most used as it doesn’t really do what I need a camera to do (no shift lenses on a rangefinder)! But it means a lot to me, for a camera anyway, and that camera is my Leica M2.
It’s battered, I keep repairing pin holes in its shutter, its been dropped, it has flash settings scratched into the chrome from a previous owner and looks like it’s earned someone a living in it’s past life. I love it and doubt I’d part with it.
ASIDE FROM YOUR CAMERA, LENSES AND FILM WHAT ACCESSORIES MAKE IT INTO YOUR CAMERA BAG?
I always use yellow or yellow-green filters on all my lenses so I never leave home without them.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF PHOTOGRAPHY KIT YOU HAVE FOUND OR BEEN GIFTED?
The Pentax ME Super kit from my dad. Certainly not the best but it put me on the right track.
AS THIS IS AN ILFORD INTERVIEW IT WOULD BE REMISS OF US NOT TO ASK ABOUT YOUR FAVOURITE ILFORD PRODUCTS. TELL US YOUR FAVOURITE ILFORD FILM, PAPER AND CHEMS AND WHY?
This one is easy. ILFORD FP4 rated at EI 60 and ILFORD HP5 rated at EI 250-320 both developed in ILFORD Perceptol. I’ve used this combo for years now and the results never fail to amaze me. I use my Ilford Perceptol at 1-3 and sometimes 1-2 dilutions. At 1-3 you lose some of it’s fine grain characteristics but the sharpness is addictive. It’s also capable of amazing tonality if you’ve got the right light.
I’m really liking the new Ilford MG V RC papers in both glossy or pearl depending on the subject. Also Ilford Warmtone FB paper is very nice.
WE’VE SEEN PICTURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD OF PEOPLE STOCKPILING ITEMS SUCH AS TOILET ROLLS, PASTA, HAND SANITISER ETC. IF YOU COULD STOCKPILE ONE ILFORD PRODUCT WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I don’t agree with stockpiling, I think it’s selfish.
NOMINATE ONE OTHER PERSON YOU THINK SHOULD FILL IN THIS FORM AND WE WILL REACH OUT TO THEM
Kit Young (@kityoung135). - We're coming for you Kit!
About The Author
My name is Ashley Carr and I’m a commercial photographer based in Birmingham, West Midlands. I initially trained as a painter but also used photography in my practice.
I went full time as a photographer nearly 20 years ago starting as an event photographer. I’ve always had interest in Architecture and the built environment and eventually moved my photography practice into that area.
Alongside my commercial work I also undertake personal projects, which I shoot entirely on film only using digital capture for my commercial work. I set up my first darkroom at home 31 years ago at the age of 16 and continue to print my own work at home to this day.
I’m currently offering prints from any photo on my Instagram feed @acarrphoto .
My website www.ashley-carr.co.uk shows some of my commercial work.