In the first of our interviews with some talented Photographers, we got in touch with Paul Turner to find out where he likes to wander and what inspires his photographic style. We originally found Paul on Flickr and we were drawn to his urban landscapes devoid of people, documenting his own surroundings in a modern way.
We particularly liked the way Paul’s urban landscapes resembled the works of American artist, Edward Hopper and how the effects produced by ‘modern’ artificial light are explored in Paul’s photographs in a fine art style.
What is your name?
Hi, my name is Paul Turner.
Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1968, but have lived in Congleton, Cheshire for the majority of my life.
Your photos often find you wandering around at night. How do you decide what areas or things you’re going to photograph?
I will usually pick a place from a map and wander around looking for things that hold together to make an image. At night I am looking for the interaction of artificial light against things and how it affects textures, whether man-made or natural. The change from daylight is so stark that banal things can look more interesting. Shadow play from a point light or a mixture of light sources cause things to happen as night falls. I will also look at how layers work together as the light fall-off changes the landscape.
Do you ever run into problems taking pictures at night?
I have been approached by people who ask what I am doing; usually when you explain that you are just taking photos for your own enjoyment they are ok. Sometimes they are confused as to why you are pointing your camera at a dingy, poorly lit place at that time of day but mostly people are fine. I have been approached by security guards and told that I need permission to take pictures here, but often when challenged they can’t tell you from where the permission is to be obtained. I don’t want to upset people when out and about; it seems if you have a reasonable camera and possibly a tripod it is more of a threat than people taking pics with their phone.
Are there any particular stories you’re keen to document with your photography?
Up to this point I have not documented stories. I think my style of photography is possibly closest to landscape. Although often urban, it is about scenes, relationships and light. I think that maybe a particular set of images may be considered a story but as yet I haven’t focussed on a project of that nature; if I come up with an idea I would definitely go with it though.
I see you’re also a fan of Medium Format, how do you decide when to shoot with film?
Medium format is great and I love my Yashica camera; film is beautiful, the film tones and clarity are so lovely as well as its ability to not blow highlights. I usually take pictures of my family with it and I have used it alongside my DSLR occasionally, but for convenience my DSLR is the one I seem to gravitate to. I may however do a set of images solely with the Yashica, I just need to be a little more strict with myself.
Is there a particular camera or lens that you would love to own?
There is always another camera you see and it gets your attention. The Pentax K1 has caught my eye currently; the depth of image quality and its dynamic range are wondrous. I have only owned my Nikon for a relatively short amount of time so I don’t see me changing just yet. Lens wise I am happy because my 24-35mm Sigma suits my shooting style but I have thought about getting a tilt shift lens to give me more options when doing architectural work. A tilt shift brings a whole new set of tools to the table and would be interesting to use.
What kind of ideas are you working on at the moment? Would you ever consider self publishing a book?
I would consider a book, absolutely. I need to have enough images that work well in a series though; it is something I try to do with my website but categorizing images can be challenging. A thread is important to hold a body of work together and a book would need to exemplify this.
Do you prefer to create setup photographs or just wander the street until you see something you like?
Without a doubt, I shoot what I see and try and marry up a certain balance or harmony/disharmony within a frame. For me it about relationships between what I see and a light situation or relationships with items and their surroundings: they may fit together or jar. The scene is one that just becomes apparent. The most satisfying shots are the ones where all of these facets exist and work together. Those times are what keep you going out for more.
What other photographers do you love?
I love all areas of photography and some of the classic photographers really stand out, Stephen Shore is wonderful; his Americana is a time capsule and the photographic subject and framing are superb and were ahead of their time. I adore the work of Gregory Crewdson. It is pure cinematography and the perfection of light and shadow is an absolute joy; but it is a world, very much created rather than found. A person I have recently discovered is Frank Herfort; his series on Russia is amongst the very best photography.
I can never even begin to enter the head of someone that can do street photography, but when done well it is magical. Matt Stuart is one that springs immediately to mind and of course Martin Parr is a great; he manages to encapsulate places and make fun of people in a gentle way. Portrait photography is also a great area and I am always full of admiration for people that can capture character in an image
There are lots of contemporaries that I admire too, and I love how the internet allows me to contact them and sometimes meet up with them. It is an exciting time to be a photographer, the quality available out there is overwhelming but exciting too.
Most of your street shots are devoid of people, is that deliberate?
Deliberate, yes. I have images with people in but they are at a distance so that they play a small part in the image, generally I am about the environment and the way nature interacts with it or the way people leave their mark on it. People as a subject change the dynamic of an image; that is not to say I will never include people as the subject but it is not how I see my photography at the moment.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not taking photos?
Talking about taking photographs…. 😉 No I have a family and a busy job. I love spending time with my family above all, oh and taking pictures of them too…