James Randolph In Focus with Alf Myers

AM - Evening James. Firstly thank you for lending me some of your valuable time. I know how busy you are with balancing your day job, Uni, family life and building a photography business. It sure keeps you on your toes but you appear to be revelling in the challenge.

It was only the other week when we last got together for a little collaboration. You were after a little guidance on street photography and on the streets of Preston, but not an easy induction! You wanted to do it by night, between the hours of eleven in the evening to one in the morning. What an interesting experience that was. It was interesting to see how our different views compare as I think it is safe to say, the streets aren't your natural photographic home. You've matured over the past few years into an accomplished wedding/event/portrait/fashion photographer and you're now in the processing of adding product photography into the mix under the banner of Infinity Images.

If I'm correct I think I've seen you travel most of your journey so far, but for our readers out there can you look back for us to give us a few clues as to what moved you to take photography more seriously and, if I may, what then gave you the impetus to take a passion into a business?

JR - Thank you Alf for taking the time, its always a pleasure, you have been great inspiration to me and lots of other photographers.

Yes life is pretty hectic at the moment with lots going on. My first introduction to photography was perhaps at summer school when I was about eleven years old learnt how to build and use a pin hole camera.

I think my first camera was a Polaroid which I begged my parents to get.

I have always enjoyed making photos making lots of family photos.

I took a couple of night classes at college to learn how to use a DSLR properly. I watched lots of YouTube videos.

I suppose my introduction to professional photography was when I took on a huge task of photographing some work colleagues for a charity project. I cast my work colleauges as movie characters and recreated some DVD movie covers.

Finding a niche

It was a huge fifteen month project which was great fun and I learnt so much. From there I started photographing sport events I was associated with, judo, jitsu, football and ice hockey.

First Steps

A colleague asked if I would photograph their wedding which I reluctantly agreed to. Surprisingly in really enjoyed photographing that wedding . I think it was being surrounded by so many happy people at a joyous occasion. That year I booked three weddings and launched my website and the weddings just keep coming in.

I still work full time in my "day" job as a police officer as well as trying to start up a photography business.

I plan to retire from the day job and take up photography full time. I the mean time I enrolled on a three year photography degree course, which has led to our collaboration on Preston at Night.

Learning and building

AM - It sounds like cameras and photography have been around you for some time. Not to mention the willingness to learn in a formal way, rather than learning on the job like most photographers. Building a pin hole cameras, then nigh classes and recently your three year degree course. This course I seen you use it to not only lift your skills with the camera, but also with how you see and approach photography as a business.

I know the "Preston at Night" collaboration was part of a module in your final year and I found the experience really rewarding, An experience I'd like to repeat it again over the year if we may?

Let’s explore the degree course a little more, can you tell me more about it? What is it that you've covered? What has been the biggest challenge and what has given you the most pleasure from it? Now that may be an assumption, but I do believe you've had some good results from the course.

JR - The photography course is a Lancaster University 2 Year foundation degree with a third year top to a BA (Hons) which is run at the University Centre Blackburn College.

Having been out of school and an intense learning environment I wasn’t sure I was up to it as the course teaches the academic and art side of photography.

After six months I started to understand the concepts the course was teaching, it was far more than shutter speeds and ISO it became more about the creation of art and the concepts of vision and creativity. The degree course also teaches Business studies, industrial trends and working in a photography environment, basically preparing students for working within the industry.

The course has definitely opened my eyes and mind to the world of higher art.

I completed my two year Foundation degree achieving a commendation which I was most pleased with.

The End of Two Year - The Exhibition

My second year personal project module and Final exhibition I believe has been one of if not the biggest highlight of my photographic journey so far.

Inspired by Pandora's Box

After a very difficult personal start to my third year I almost dropped out the pressures of a having a full time job, a family, moving house personal issues and trying to create a photography business were taking there toll on me. My Course tutors were very supportive throughout giving me the motivation to keep going, I have been very lucky to have a such a wonderful supportive wife Susan and family to keep going and keep me from procrastinating.

I am nearly at the end of my third year now with the end in sight. I am most grateful to you Alf for your support and help in completing some of my year 3 modules.

Forums and Functionality and my Final major project “Preston at night.

AM - Thanks James, and you’re most welcome. From the sounds of it, the course has been a challenge yet at the same time rewarding for you. I’ve certainly noticed a change in you since you’ve been attending, both from a photographic perspective and also from the business view point. I’ll be asking for tips later!!! I’m glad you’re pushing through to the end and wish you much success in your final modules.

On that topic, the “Preston by Night” experience was rather interesting for me, as I’m sure it was for you. I’m very interested to hear your views on how the night went as street photography isn’t something that I associate with you and especially at night. I know you had a specific project in mind and therefore we could be drifting into documentary but skipping over that. On the night we were out what was it you were looking to achieve? How did you go about it and what challenges did you face personally in doing it?

JR - Preston at night was a great experience for me too even though as a police officer the sights and sounds were familiar. Of course I have had my nights out and many of those in Preston usually oblivious to all the goings on as I am part of the night. That said it was interesting on “our night out” to see the goings on , out of uniform and from behind the lens.

There were no specific photos I was looking for I wanted to try to make a portfolio of images that represented a typical night out in Preston.

Going out into a any large city at night with a camera from a safety point of view will have extra challenges. Always best to take a friend or fellow photographer. I was lucky to have both and not just any ol’ photographer I had you to accompany and teach me a few tricks and watch my back.

We did at one point encounter someone being manhandled into the back of a police van by Guild hall security, what looked like the head security tried to stop me from using my camera. I told him quite sternly I had every right to stand in a public place and take photographs.

What was most interesting , he walked straight past a fella using his mobile phone to video the incident to try and stop me!

I used my smallest DSLR Nikon D7000 and my shortest tele lens 24-120mm f4. This set up meant whacking up the ISO boosting the noise which coincidentally gave me an aesthetically final finish I was happy with. I know you used a SONY with and movable screen which allows you a different and less intrusive approach to you photography. Which is something else safety wise to consider. Late night revelers can get a bit giddy , its always best to go along with them after all it should be about having some fun as well. They may not be the subjects or images you are wanting to make but you can be surprised what later appears on your monitor.

If someone isn’t happy with you taking their photo , politely apologise and show them the image as you go to delete it. Sometimes this will have the revers effect and they ask you for a copy of the image.

I knew there would be plenty of cops about between 11pm-1am and town would be busy. Choosing the time to go out can be crucial to getting plenty of activity.

I think there is a difference between street and documentary photography but there is definitely a cross over, which I can see in the images I have captured and those ones you have Alf.

The same incident outside the Guild Hall, I have the drama of the man being bundled into the back of the police van whilst the focal point of your image is the fella with his mobile phone filming the incident.

I think together we have produced an interesting portfolio of images in a short space of time. And look forward to going out again.

Many of my images will now form part of my Final Major Project for my BA (hons) degree, which will culminate in an exhibition from students from the Art and design dept University Centre Blackburn college and in conjunction with the festival of making June 14th 2019.

AM - Yes, it was differently different that capturing city life during the day, but for some reason I found it a little more liberating. For me the big thing was to just stand there, be observed yet at the same time take images and I think camera selection and method of shooting made a big difference. A lot people noticed you and reacted accordingly, yet mostly passed me over. Not always, but mostly. I’d be interested to return during the summer and again in autumn or winter to see how things change if at all.

Hope the images worked for you and fitted into your project.

I’m intrigued to understand a little here, and this may help a few club photographers who self-learn or are assisted by other members in their approach to photography. If you look back at your time at a camera club vs your time at uni, how do you think the two learning experiences compare and what is it you think you got from Uni that may be missing, if anything, from a good camera club?

JR - I really enjoyed my time at PPS , I can only imagine the experience would be similar at any photography club. I would encourage any one with an interest in photography.

To join a club. There is a wealth of knowledge waiting to be tapped into. My skills as a photographer have certainly improved and gained a lot of confidence in my own work from being a member of PPS.

University has given me a much broader view of photography and art. The learning is focused and there are challenges that took me outside of my comfort zone. Without Uni I wouldn’t be where I am now or at least it would have taken a lot longer to get here.

Clubs are great for those monthly competitions, they are a great way to show you work. What I have found at clubs is that is a narrow genre of photography it seems to be made up of either landscapes or Nature the preverbal bird on a stick. I not knocking these two types of genre and there are some superb examples shown all the time but new people coming into clubs may think that’s what they have to produce to be accepted or to be recognised, rather than being creative with their own style or genres.

One category rarely seen in clubs is food or commercial photography in my experience that is.

There are many modules with the degree course which range from photography and business studies as previously mentioned. The University course has taught me about art and photography not only as a past time but its historical effects on everything we do and are from renaissance painters to modern advertising. It really has opened up my mind to a wider view of photography and art and what can be achieved with it.

On the subject of street and documentary photography University has taught me to look at and study other photographers and genres.

During my studies I have researched and read about many artists and photographers and one that has some relevance to this interview is “Weegee” Arthur Felig one of his quotes

“ I have no inhibitions and neither does my camera”

This is a great article and read, written by Eric Kim about Weegee who will feature in my end of year show at University with Photographs from our Preston at night shoot.

AM - I'll look forward to reading that James and highly recommend exploring Eric's work to anyone. He has such a wealth of knowledge and is keen to share.

I know our time has been short, and if I may, I'd like to spend some more time with you exploring some of the subject you mentioned above, especially how you've stepped into product and food photography. Which I understand is a genre your excelling in.

But for now, good luck with the rest of your course and I look forward to seeing more of your work.

Created By
Alf Myers


James Randolph

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