The latest in my series of Argyll Artists is this striking gentleman. Alexander is a theatrical prop maker and designer as well as an artist with a particularly creative and quirky approach. He sees found objects like old animal bones and chunks of dead tree and sees wonderful imaginative objects in them. That of course is something that many creative people can see, but Alexander has a wide and impressive set of skills to then turn his imaginative leaps into beautiful or playful objects. This dead tree in his grounds almost symbolises the growth of ideas as Alexander looks at the world; but then a few hours with Alexander and you do start to look differently at everything! This is my favourite image of Alexander.
This one shows Alexander in one of his many studio/workshop areas.
As does this; the strong side-lighting and the cross in the background make me think of the darker side of Alexander’s art. Although many of Alexander’s objects have a dark side and he has the kind of angular, Dali-esque appearance that could speak of a tortured-soul-rending-form-from-pain, the reality is that he is one of the nicest and most humour filled gentlemen you could ever meet. He just has a great artistic expression.
Perhaps this one shows the ever-present smile and ready humour that I am referring to. I like the idea of the artist as the work on the easel instead!
But the simple portrait here shows the obvious fact that this is a handsome man who is a pleasure to spend time with. I am really pleased with the arrangement of the lighting here. These are real sparkling eyes.
I have selected a variety of expressions for this blog post, as I enjoyed seeing so many aspects of Alexander’s expressions while photographing him last weekend, but this one is interesting as I asked him to look more serious for it than I think he naturally wanted to be. There was something about the framing device of the doorway behind that made me think of a more old-style formal portrait. I should mention that Alexander’s lovely wife and fellow artist Polly held my remote flash here, as Alexander’s face would have been far too dark without it. (I hope to photograph Polly for this series at some time in the very near future). Actually, the more I look at this, the more I like the formality of stance and expression; it suits him.
Polly tells me that soft furnishings, are not really how she sees Alexander, but again, this expression is one that I saw a lot of during the pleasant hours I spent meeting him and Polly; frankly I could chat with him for hours, and perhaps the comfortable seat and relaxed expression is just right for that! The natural window light has shown Alexander’s eyes perfectly too.
And one final one, using my seldom used but stunning quality Sigma 70-200 f2.8. I mentioned that Alexander has a Dali-esque appearance at times, well this one nails that for me. Simple, nicely lit and relaxed. For the pixel-peepers out there, when you are zoomed in on the results of this lens using the full res file, it really is impressively sharp. I might consider using it more often, the shame is that it is large and intimidating; I feel that a close and intimate lens like a 50mm is more pleasant to work with for portraiture.
As you have probably gathered, I liked Alexander a lot. The good news is that you can go and visit the “barn” where Alexander, Polly and daughter Kate display their work. I really like the variety of styles and pieces on show, and can guarantee that you will fall for something from their collection. As a bonus you will certainly enjoy some great conversation about the art.
Find Alexander at: http://www.studiobarnargyll.co.uk/index.html
A final reflection for me, is how strange it feels as a photographer to try to capture Alexander, with Polly helping out. No matter how kind and charming they both are (and they are), they are clearly fabulous artists, and working with them made me wish I could be more creative and artistic in my approach. Part of my process of photographing people, is to show them the images as I go along so that we can home-in on the photos that are working best. Much of the process for a photographer is in the post-processing using software, and I was painfully aware of how pedestrian many of the images can look, “raw” in the camera, and while I am confident in processing them, I wonder whether I am depending too much on the processing and not enough on the “art” of the setup. I have been listening to another much admired photographer talking about being in his comfort zone and needing to challenge himself more, so it was on my mind anyway. There is something about being in the company of artists that makes you think. That can’t be a bad thing!