In 1993 I had a book published of photographs that had been taken over the previous few years. I was running an art gallery with my wife, the painter Debbie George, where we both worked. We had our own work that we wished to do and had three small children to bring up, so we came up with a plan to work three days of the week in the gallery in turn whilst the other was at home with the kids. Sundays were to be for the whole family. Evenings were for personal work.
Before having children, I had been used to going for long explorative walks with my camera, looking for new places and doing a lot of landscapes. This became impossible with the kids, so I decided to look for subjects around the home. The days were long and tiring, often I couldn’t get into the darkroom till after 10 pm at night, but I would work till 2 am and then crash into bed.
It may have been the most sleep-deprived time of my life, but it was also the most productive. I had a lot of prints of various home related stuff and showed them to the publisher who had recently done my Night Photography book.
They offered me the chance to do a book on the subject of photographing at home and I began writing immediately. Although I was passionate about photography and how important it was to see the things closest to you, I had no idea how to write it, there were no other books for me to base it on. I decided to just write about my philosophy and my attitude to many of the perennial subjects and topics of photography. The book became; Home Photography – Inspiration on your doorstep. The book was well-received and soon went out of print. I gave away all of my complimentary copies, and over the years sort of forgot about it.
March 2020. The recent outbreak of a new Coronavirus , COVID-19 was causing people to stay at home more and more, and on Monday the 23rd of March we were informed in the UK that we would be in lockdown from midnight. I was thinking about all of the frustrated photographers who would be at home and remembered the book. It suddenly occurred to me that I could do a new one called Stuck At Home Photography!
The realisation soon dawned that there would be no chance of publishing a book, but I could set up a blog and Instagram page that would inform and inspire photographers everywhere who were now housebound. The following day I set up another WordPress account (I’ve had a blog for over ten years at thewebdarkroom.co.uk). Unfortunately the new system made no sense to me, so I had to enlist the help of a friend who understands this stuff. I contacted Ian Barber in Doncaster and he understood exactly what I was after, he even had some very useful suggestions for content.
Less than 12 hours later I got a message from Ian saying it was all built and here was a link to start uploading stuff. I was impressed!
I set about putting some content in and filling up the media library with images I already had. By the next day I was ready to launch and had an Instagram page to go with it. The response was fantastic! I had so many encouraging comments via Facebook, Instagram and email.
I now have to give it some sort of cohesive course.
My original intention was to put up images taken on all sorts of cameras, from iPhone to 10×8, and to show behind the scene pics with some explanation on how the shot was created. I am aware that not all of my followers have a range of cameras to shoot on, but hopefully they will get inspired to look for things around their own home. I want to appeal to people who only have a phone, but also to the many frustrated landscape photographers who have never considered using their expensive kit to photograph at home.
At some point in the future I would like to introduce things to the site, which may generate a bit of income. I am thinking mainly of one-to-one tuition, troubleshooting, and demos of techniques such as Film Processing, Hand Colouring, Darkroom Printing and improvised Lighting.
I want to have a dialogue with my followers and encourage them to write to me. This has been my philosophy with Facebook too, I have made many lasting friendships with people I have never met, all over the world and this is an affirmation of my belief in how similar we all are, if we take the time to understand each other.
In the short-term, I’m planning to do a few posts on making simple cameras out of cardboard and another on pinhole too. If any readers have topics that they think are worth covering, please get in touch. Instagram messaging is probably the most immediate.
None of us know how this crisis will pan out, but we will be different people at the end of it. I think we will value each other more and appreciate how precious life is. Selfishness, and self obsession were becoming the dominant forces in society and things needed to change. Our grandparents who went through the war were still hoarding things under the bed when I was a kid. My friend’s granny had loads of bags of sugar.
One thing I really want to cover is portraiture. We have no idea how long we will be confined to our homes, and we have no idea if we, or those closest to us, are going to get through this alive. We all should be doing a really good portrait of our spouse, our kids, and a really good self portrait.
Because this idea is new, I’m still unsure of its direction. I can’t fully see how it should be, and I am open to suggestions from readers. At the moment it is an outlet for my current home photography work, which I am very excited about.
Some of the ideas I have so far inlcude;
- How to light simply and cheaply.
- Simple backgrounds. -draped cloth, brown paper, breadboards, and card.
- Hand colouring.
- Using reflectors.
- Making pinhole cameras from packaging.
Simple still lives
- Plants and flowers.
- Rubber bands.
- Light through glass.
- Juxtapositions; Small figures on paintings, or landscape photos.
Portraits of family
- Shooting a portrait by a window.
- Full figure shots.
- Cropped portraits for impact.
I hope you will join me in this exploration of our homes. I have always thought that the familiar was a rich area for photography. This COVID-19 crisis will make us appreciate many things that we took for granted before. Now we have the time to appreciate what we still have. We should be looking closely at the things we have collected. We should be noticing beauty in everything around us before it is too late.
Look around you, notice things, see how the light changes things. Hold things in your hand, turn them around and really look at them. Do this in different lighting and see how they are changed by the light and shade. Look at the people who share your house. Capture their mannerisms, their personality. Show the people of the future how you lived through this time.
I’m doing my bit and sharing ideas over at Stuck at Home Photography. If you’ve got a minute, please join me there.
Ps. If anyone reading this is interested in having a blog or website, Ian Barber can be contacted by email for web design and hosting.
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