Friday, May 8, 2015

Featured Photographer: Jon Burtoft

"I am 40 years old and live with my wife and 2 children in Cornwall in England. I was born and raised near Manchester in the North of England, I moved away in my mid twenties. The village I live in is on Bodmin Moor which has a history of mining, there are lots of engine houses and quarries about to explore. The coast of Cornwall is about 20 minutes drive away. I am lucky living in such a beautiful place which is quite diverse in landscape."

"I first started photography in school when I was 13, I studied at GCSE level. I never really shot much after leaving school and I didn't photograph much until I was 29. The turning point was a trip to Paris with my fiance and I wanted to capture the lovely city and our travels. I used my fiance's old Canon film slr. I shot one roll of film on the trip and I was hooked, unfortunately the roll was messed up during processing at the local lab. After this disappointment I bought a compact digital camera, just a point and shoot, this went everywhere with me and I started to really enjoy photographing things around me and just experimenting. A year later I enrolled on a Photography A level course at college, this was a big inspiration to me as the tutor was very passionate and taught me about the masters of photography both classic and contemporary artists. I studied the work of Kenna, Salgado, Parr, Winogrand and Brassai. I tried to emulate their style, in doing so I learnt a lot about composition, timing and seeing the scene, developing an eye for the photograph. Following on from the college course I started to study more photographers and read many many magazines and books on photography. Through emulation I found the style which suited me and eventually over the years I have found my own signature look."

"All of the work I produce is personal to me, in many ways it is an extension of my character and personality, it is a medium which allows me to express myself and to be creative. I enjoy working on themes and projects, this keeps me focused and has kept me looking around for possible images to be added to the projects. I have a number of projects on the go at all times and I have these in mind when I go out with the camera. One aspect I particularly enjoy is looking for compositions which cover everything from large vistas to quirky details. The ultimate aim with my photography is to be able to tell a story and try to evoke an emotion from my work."

"For the past 10 years I have shot solely on digital cameras, I enjoy the instant gratification and ease with which I could photograph and if I made an error I could just take another photo. In many ways shooting digital has allowed me to be more creative and experimental as there is no monetary cost once I have the camera and a memory card. In the summer of 2014 I started to get the urge to try something new, I was looking at all of these amazing photo books and it occurred to me that the majority of them were produced using film cameras. I found I liked the aesthetic look to film which can sometimes be quite rough with pronounced grain and flawed with light leaks; this for me gives the images another layer of interest and adds to the atmosphere. In June 2014 I managed to find my father in laws old Yashica Electro 35 rangefinder. I replaced the light seals and started to run the odd roll of Ilford XP2 through. I used a local lab to do the processing. I really enjoyed the look and feel of the camera. From this point on I wanted to try more cameras and processes and decided to try my hand at medium format photography, pinole, and instant film. I went on to buy a Mamiya C330 with an 80mm lens and then an old Voigtlander Bessa 1 folder, a Noon pinhole camera, and a Polaroid Land Camera 250. I now shoot both film and digital. When I shoot black and white film I do the processing myself at home. I scan the negatives and tweak them in Lightroom. I really like the hybrid workflow of shooting on film and finishing in digital Lightroom. Over the last year my philosophy regarding photography has changed, I used to think that the end result was the only factor which mattered, I now enjoy the cameras I use and the different methods of producing an image. I believe that through using different formats my knowledge and more importantly my enjoyment of photography has grown."

"The majority of my work is now black and white. I like how it allows me to concentrate to shape, form, light and composition with no overpowering colour element to distract. A lot of my work is shot contre jour and is therefore very monochromatic in nature. I enjoy colour photography and every now and then I have an image which works in colour. I tend to think that if the colour doesn't add to the image I produce it in black and white." 

"I tend to like both content and visual form in equal measures. Sometimes the content of the photograph can be so strong that even if it is not a technically perfect photograph it still works and holds up on viewing. Visual form for me can be something which is quite abstract, just concentrating on shape, texture and lines, placing things within the frame which produce a compositionally interesting image. I spend some of my time shooting things around me which can be often mundane items, things which are often overlooked, I try to make the best image I can from the few elements available. In general the work I admire most has both content and visual form."

"When I photograph I try not to force things too much. I go out sometimes with no preconceived idea of what I am going to get. When I feel a rut coming on I just take my camera out and just shoot for fun, no pressure, no projects just simple no pressure shooting."

"I am inspired by many things, as a family we are always outdoors and enjoy walking the moor and the beaches. Through photography I am inclined to explore new places which in turn provides new possibilities.

The process of learning is ever present and continues on a daily basis. I view lots of photography on both social media like flickr and twitter. Over the years I have come across many photographers whose work I find inspiring, my current favourites are Martin Bogren, Saul Leiter, Yasuhiro Ogawa and Giacomo Brunelli.

I always feel that my best ever shot will be taken tomorrow."


(Interview by Carli Rentsch)

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