This week we spoke with the multi-talented Alan, a brilliant photographer and the owner of SpainBuddy.com website, as well as a writer with a strong public relations background. Alan will share his professional viewpoints on photography and insights into becoming a photographer.
1. Why did you move to mainland from the Canary Islands? What are the main differences?
We’d spent six years on Lanzarote and although it felt very much like “home” small islands can very easily become claustrophobic. I used to get off the island regularly through work travelling to the Middle East but that changed and I felt a little “trapped”. I guess the decision to move finally came after I walked across all seven of the islands (a journey of over 400km) in 2012. I felt I’d seen all I needed to see and done all I needed to do there. Also at that point our business needed to find a “bigger pond”.
From a photographic point of view, many friends and others in the islands will scoff at this, I didn’t find the island inspiring. It has stunning landscapes, it’s beautiful, but clichéd picture postcard and chocolate box landscapes aren’t really my style. I love the place, but photographically, perfect landscapes, pristine beaches and an island full of tourists is not my thing.
Here on the mainland I feel much more connected to the world than in the bubble a small island creates. Gritty ‘real life’ is what I came looking for and I found it. Whilst the landscapes of Spain are still incredible there are more stories to find and to tell with photographs. I can also travel in a way a small island makes difficult. I can just jump in my car and wander without the thought of the hassle, time and expense of flights and ferries.
2. How did you discover photography? What was the initial feeling about it that made you want to continue and pursue it as a hobby/career?
I was introduce to photography by my uncle Alex when I was about 13, he gave me an old Russian rangefinder (which I still have) and a ten minute lesson in how to use it when he ‘upgraded’ to a Zenit SLR. I never looked back from there, I was hooked, if pretty bad at it early on. When it came to me wanting to go into further education I didn’t have much direction and decided I should just do something I enjoyed. I enrolled at a local college on a photography course, and from there went on to complete a degree in Fine Art Photography at what is now Derby University. That was one of the very few ‘non-commercially biased’ degree courses available at the time, and I thought the best option for me.
3. What type of photography do you like to shoot and what are your preferred shot types? This could be the style of photography (i.e. macro, wide angle), landscapes (where and what), people (what about it is appealing to you), buildings or objects.
I don’t have any favourite subjects, I’m open to anything be that street photography, landscapes, people or anything else. I’d say I look for a feeling, a mood, I look to ask questions, and sometimes to challenge. I was asked to sum up my photography recently and at the risk of sounding pretentious came up with “I look for the macabre in the mundane and the mundane in the macabre. The simple in the complex, the complex in the simple. The tragedy in everyday and the everyday in the tragedy.” I don’t know if that would make sense to anyone else, but it does to me.
4. Who/what is your biggest inspiration? This could be a photographer, picture, or a certain location.
There are so many influences Elliot Erwitt, Robert Adams, Cartier Bresson, Ansel Adams, Sebastiao Salgado, Diane Arbus, William Eggleston and from more recent history the likes of James Nachtwey and Tom Stoddart. There are simply far too many to others mention.
However, the one image that made me realise I wanted to be a photographer, and always would be was Nick Ut’s “Napalm Girl”. The first time I saw that was the moment I began to appreciate the real power of photography. I was hooked.
5. Throughout your photography career, what has been the best picture you took and why?
I can’t say I judge my work in that way. I don’t have a favourite or a top ten or anything like that. The images that stick in my head, much like a fisherman, are the ones that got away in that split second I wasn’t fast enough. One of those particularly sticks in mind was a lady at the top of the Empire State Building who’s skirt blew up to reveal her early 20th Century style “bloomers”. I missed that one by a fraction of a second!
6. What are your secrets to taking such beautiful photographs? Could you share a thing or two to help aspiring photographers at Lobster to capture breathtaking photographs?
Humility. Your friends and family telling you that you are a genius means little. You can always be better. Listen to those who you respect as photographers, not the sycophants. Be self critical.
Look at good work and study it (you can do worse than start with the short list above), and then look at some more. Keep learning and keep taking photographs.
Lastly, don’t over process! Over processed work will almost always fall into the category of “cliché”. If an image doesn’t work straight, it doesn’t work.
7. Lastly but not least, what else do you like besides photography?
My wife, my kids and my dogs. I spend a lot of time with my dogs!
But, seriously most of my time outside of photography is spent growing our website SpainBuddy.com. Of course I also like to travel when I can, there’s nothing I like better than a good road trip. However, you could argue that is mostly photography related.