My Photographic Journey

Phil Blanchard

My Photographic Journey

How did your interest in photography start?

As a young apprentice I spoke with people at work who had an interest in photography. They were all in their 50’s or 60’s, and all were ‘equipment’ and ‘technically’ orientated, as you might expect from being engineers. At seventeen I succumbed to the glossy camera window at Dixons and bought my first 35mm film camera. Photography even at this early stage gave me an outlet to be creative, far removed from following technical plans and drawings in the day job.

What are your first photography memories?

Probably my father taking family snaps at home and on holidays. A small plastic Kodak 126 cartridge camera and latterly a Polaroid Instant camera. Seeing the polaroid develop before my eyes was like nothing I’d seen before.  Waiting for my own developed and printed film at the chemist has now long gone, but I still remember the anticipation and usually the disappointment of my prints. I even developed film in the cupboard under my stairs at home for a while. It was the start of a steep learning curve, not so much technical but the aesthetics needed for a pleasing image. 

What photographs did you start taking initially and how has that changed over the years?

Photographing everything that was in my world at that time!  My girlfriend, the work I made as an apprentice, WW2 aircraft at Blackbushe Airport and places we went walking. It was the start of a journey - a very mixed bag, but so different to where I am now. I have always been absorbed by images, from the first photography book that I bought ‘Creative Camera International Yearbook 1976’. Images and portfolios from the likes of Bresson, Brandt and contemporary photographers that have, I think, consciously or otherwise influenced where I have ended up. If I look back at my work over the last 11 years people seem to figure quite heavily.  I’ve gone through periods of experimenting with composites but never felt comfortable. It always seemed too cumbersome to show how I really felt about how I wanted to exhibit what was going on in my world. 

Name three pieces of photographic equipment that you would not like to be without and why?

My Fuji XPro2 with 35mm lens, a spare battery and a twenty pound note for a pub lunch.

Where do you get your inspiration from for new ideas and new photographic work?

I believe that my journey, even as an amateur, needs to be fed and sustained to keep and hold my interest. If I don’t I run the risk of stagnating and just producing what I  have always done. My inspiration comes from three primary sources: other photographers whose work I respect, photography books and visiting photographic exhibitions/festivals. All three are a great point of reference for where I want to be photographically. The point is not to copy or replicate but to allow myself to be influenced, to grow and develop my own photographic voice. I enjoy creating more than a single image these days, be it a small panel or book, something that tries to tell a story. Competitions have dropped off my radar in the last few years and I feel better for it. The journey I am on will not end, there is no final stop to get off. It just keeps going and there is always another turn ahead. I just don’t know whether it’s left or right, but I will take it. Take time to explore, develop, grow and take the picture.

When did you join WEBCC and what do you enjoy most about it?

I joined after retirement in 2011. Career and family commitments had intervened since taking up photography and I now had time to fill. On joining WEBCC another steep learning curve was obvious, especially competitions. Members are friendly and helpful, and I’ve been able to see  journeys of other members grow over the years. I think involvement on member evenings is  important for growth as a club and for the individual members who take part perhaps for the first time. I really enjoy our visiting speakers, some good names amongst them always deliver a worthwhile evening. Keep it up.

Thanks for the opportunity for this WEBCC interview and I’ll  look forward to reading other members’ stories.