Meetings: John Spinks & David Chancellor

I met two photographers either end of summer and I feel each brought their own thoughts to the work. I had met John before in a portfolio review that Jim Campbell (BA Lecturer at UWE) had set up. I did not have much background information on John when I met him, the work I could view online was limited and primarily commercial. I liked a certain quality to all of this work, but it did not blow me away. I was under the impression John was more of a commercially minded photographer so that was the headset I went into the review with. I asked about agencies and making money. John gave his thoughts on the Albatross work, he liked it and also thought that it could potentially be used as a commercial bargaining chip. The first hint I got as to John’s sensibility was when he said I should stick to printing for people for money and focus on my work as my work. 

A few months later John came to give a talk at UWE and from it I realised the importance of his personal work. I liked the way he meandered about the work and his investment in it. But most importantly his new pictures were for me, a huge step up from his previous work. They had that illusive quality that elevates a photograph into something of myth and history. I got in touch with him after this admitting to my initial thoughts of his work and asking if we could meet again to talk purely about the work itself. We did this a few months later. Two important things came from this meeting, he introduced me to the work of Tony Parker and his book Criminal Conversations, and we had a conversation about the portrayal of the English landscape. John mentioned that he had not seen anyone show the English Landscape as I was attempting to put it across in certain images from my Folly work. This really helped to push my thoughts towards how I have viewed this work for a while now. I feel the images are thick with history and meaning, something I feel mirrors the landscape around us in a country as dense and old as England. 

I decided to get in touch with David Chancellor as I felt he was the typical documentary photographer and appears very successful at it. To continue my understanding of what documentary is I wanted to interrogate this way of working and get David’s take on the direction my work was moving in. David was a really nice man, generous with his time and not overbearing with advice. Like many of the photographers I meet he questioned the world around him as well as many of his own choices. David’s primary subject matter is the line where human and animal meet, mainly revolving around trades that work with or use materials from animals. David is an expert on this, he sources his own stories and in a way acts as his own fixer to get these stories to various news establishments including National Geographic. David has a large online following and because of the nature of his posts (including the killing of animals) he can get into some heated debates within these posts. He believes in weathering this and simply being more knowledgeable than most to be able to get these stories told and shown. It is incredibly admirable but obviously a huge investment of his time. Though he does get paid well for someone in his line of work he questions his choice to do this over the much better paid advertising photography. Talking about my work we came to know specific conclusion but from his documentary perspective he believed I should take advantage of my links to the Navy and make sure people know that is my thing, the only caveat being that he thought I would struggle to do this alongside making money from more commercial endeavours. 

I realised that all photographers face a multitude of options when it comes to situating their practice, and nearly all do a varying range of things to make ends meet. Some of these things are planned but often they fall into place through some guided circumstance. This probably is no different to humans going through the motions in general. It is hard for me to say exactly what I want to do but I would prefer to be comfortable than struggling, the alternate debate that affect this is that I prefer to be making work that matters to me than that feels vacuous. I will aim for a middle ground and see what happens.