Fraser MacIver

This is Fraser MacIver, an Argyll artist based at Crinan. I was kindly invited to go and photograph Fraser last week, and had a great time drinking coffee and as Fraser would put it, “shooting the bull” with him. Fraser is an amazing artist with a number of styles, with both printmaking and painting as his main media. Fraser is known locally for his friendly approach to people and in fact I first met him when my girlfriend and I were on our first date together and he crossed the canal to say hi and “shoot the breeze”. Our first social night as residents of Lochgilphead he was on the judging panel of a tongue-in-cheek “strictly Lochgilphead” charity dance contest. I bumped into him at the local supermarket and asked if I could photograph him; I’m glad he agreed. The picture above is taken in his studio, and I love it. The sun was direct and high overhead, and so outdoor pictures were a waste of time with shadows and harshness everywhere, but the lovely diffused light coming in through the soft panels at the end of Fraser’s studio was perfect. Fraser’s characteristic artist’s tousled hair and almost boyish charm shines through here in his direct and open expression. The colour of his shirt sits so well against the yellow spectrum in the background, shifting the whole colour balance to warm. The slight rim-lighting along with the slightly softened background from the f2.8 aperture really ensures that Fraser, not the studio is the subject. I love this one.

This one is from the same spot and shows some of Fraser’s current paintings. Again, the backlit boyish hair and Fraser’s open and smiling expression make this a great shot. I should have mentioned I was holding a white diffuser in my left hand in all of these indoor pictures to reflect some soft light back to illuminate Fraser.

With lots of great portraits in the bag, Fraser and and I relaxed a bit more and played with a few more angles and looks. I actually composed this at an angle in the viewfinder. On straightening Fraser, the off-kilter background with it’s geometric windows looked perfectly natural and normal. I decided to make this one monochrome as the shapes of the windows were more bold and apparent without the distracting colours.  The bright light from the windows above also breaks the basic rules as you should not have bright light near to the subject as it distracts the viewer from the subject, although here the window frames immediately lead your eyes back to Fraser. This one has a great facial expression from Fraser, looking like a great artist from the 1940’s in my mind! He is not placed in the classic thirds position here, but the shapes from the ceiling-windows both balance this and provide leading-lines to Fraser’s backlit face. I think this is a strong and unusual portrait of a type that I wish I was brave enough to do more of. One of my two favourite photographers, David Alan Harvey, amazes me because he breaks the simple and classic compositional and photographic rules and gets more emotional effect because of that. I always maintain that the best photographers have mastered the basic rules and can break them only because they stand on the foundation of good basics; I am not yet there, but I see a glimpse of what I could do better in this portrait. This “statue of liberty” pose could be on the inside cover of a book and perhaps even grace it!

Finally, one of the trademark quirks of Fraser as an artist in the Mid-Argyll community, is his famous (and locally loved) habit of swimming across the Crinan Canal to meet people on the other side. Despite the strong overhead sunshine making good pictures highly unlikely, we decided to have a go. I set up a reflector at ground level and a remote flash triggered by my pocket-wizard to fire across the surface of the water to fill the shadows in Fraser’s eyes. We tried a few playful shots with Fraser swimming about with a reasonably waterproof painting, and although the hit rate was low, these two were among my favourites.

This one has a lovely curve from the top right corner down through the S-curve of Fraser’s body and into the painting. The selective colour is a bit cheesy, but despite agonising about it, I love it. The original blue water distracted too much from Fraser’s face.

This was a really enjoyable session and I look forward to photographing (and chatting) with Fraser again. Meanwhile, check out his art and treat yourself to a purchase.


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