I was born in Manchester in the 1960s. My father was an occasional amateur photographer and to keep me from messing with his camera he bought me a Russian Zenit slr in 1973. I still have it and it works fine. However, the real impetus for my photography came from my older brother (Les Meehan). He was a successful commercial photographer and taught me a great deal about the craft.
I have never had aspirations to be a professional photographer. My interests have always been in the medium as a form of personal expression. Having spent most of my professional life as a university academic it’s no surprise I also have a very strong interest in studying the history of photography and this informs a lot of my work.
My photography was a hobby until I gave up my academic career in 2014 to concentrate full time on image making. Nowadays photography is close to a full-time occupation with my own image making, writing and participating in the international collective known as f50.
So, you’re a Fujiholic?
In mid-2014 I bought a used X20 on ebay. It was a decision based more on design than performance though. I pretty quickly moved on to the larger sensor cameras. Thanks to an indulgent wife, I now have a growing collection of Fuji cameras and lenses (X-Pro1, X-T1 and 18-55mm, 55-200mm, 18mm, 27mm and 35mm lenses). In case Karon reads this can I just say that X100T sure is a thing of beauty!
I am nerdy enough to appreciate the different image ‘signatures’ of cameras. I don’t just mean differences between manufacturer’s jpeg engines though. I mean specific models and even different examples of the same model. Consequently, I’m not especially brand loyal and regularly switch between Olympus, Panasonic and Fuji cameras.
The common denominator now is size and all my Canon DSLRs and heavy L series lenses are long gone.
I got to know about Fujiholics when I attended a Matt Hart workshop and met Matt and Jack Mayall. Hearing these guys – and Steve Coleman – extol the virtues of the X series cameras persuaded me to try the system.
Which is your favourite lens? Why?
The jury is still out on this. So far I haven’t fallen in love with any of the Fuji lenses I own – though the 18mm is edging it. I like the wider angle of view of the 18mm but I can see why the 35mm is such an admired lens given its sharpness and rendering.
I generally use zoom lenses when photographing while travelling. Many of the zooms from Fuji are too big in my opinion. I went mirrorless for smaller size/weight and the new zooms don’t satisfy these requirements. Also, I have some stellar – lighter – zoom lenses for the micro four-thirds system.
When you next go travelling, what gear will you take?
As people may know from my work, I travel a lot around Asia and generally carry two bodies each fitted with a zoom lens. My preference is for focal lengths equating to 24-70mm and 100-300mm in full frame terms.
Now I’ve bought into the Fuji X system I am rethinking what gear to travel with and am inclined to use prime lenses for their portability. I have a number of overseas trips coming up in 2015 including a month in India. However, I will be in India in July (monsoon season) so weather sealing is a concern. The X-T1 is therefore a must. Lens wise I may be tempted into buying the 18-135mm for its weather sealing and 27-206mm equivalent range.
When out shooting, what are your settings? Why?
That depends what I am trying to achieve. I don’t have any ‘standard’ settings. I’m always concerned to vary how I work so I get variety in my shots. I’m not pedantic about working methods and will use program mode in very busy places where all my attention is taken by seeing the compositions.
For instance, as you can see from some of the images included here sharpness isn’t always desirable. Un-sharp images and/or motion blur can impart magic to some images. As Cartier-Bresson said “sharpness is a bourgeois concept”; meaning it’s a convention rather than a necessity for effective photographs.
What kind of tools do you use for post processing?
I use Lightroom 5 and Nik software (Silver Efex, Viveza, Define, mainly) for processing and always do this work on a regularly calibrated 27” Samsung SA850 monitor attached to a HP i7 based laptop.
I used to shoot large-format landscapes and spend hours in Photoshop on each image. Nowadays, I go with Thomas Leuthard’s view that you should strive for minimal post processing. I’m not quite down to his suggestion of no more than 1 minute to post-process an image though I process most images in about 5 minutes.
What is your favourite Film Simulation? Why?
Film simulations are fun and I have played around with Classic Chrome but, I always shoot in raw so don’t usually bother with camera generated jpegs. Therefore film simulations aren’t part of my normal processing workflow. I guess I should use them more to cut down on my post-processing time.
My personal project for this year is related to animal photography. I have been encouraged by a good friend to pursue this aspect of my work. It isn’t really wildlife photography; it’s more akin to portraiture and abstraction. You can see a couple of examples included here.
I travel a lot and have several trips planned over the next six months. I find I do my best work when I am in a different culture. It just seems to sharpen my seeing and focuses my effort. While travelling I start shooting between 5-6am and continue with breaks for 12-15 hours. Oftentimes I travel with another photographer (usually my wife Karon or good friend Colin).
In addition to my own photography, I coordinate an international collective known as f/50. One of my main projects for this year is to develop an audience for the work of the group. It’s members include some well-known Fujiholics (Matt and Jack) as well as other experienced photographers with mature personal styles. If anyone is interested you can follow us on Twitter at @f50collective.