Darren’s work actively leaps out at his audience and physically pulls them into each of his remarkably unique photographic realms. I mentioned in my Instagram posts that “each frame is a glimpse into an alternate dimension”, and I say this because every exposure hosts its own narrative.
Compared to a lot of other pinhole photography, I find Darren’s to be very visually ambiguous - his photography embodies a sense of fiction akin to the atmosphere held by a short story. It allows his audience to become lost in his world, or at least lost in the world Darren has created for them.
Below is the result of a quick Q&A session between myself and Darren that he was kind enough to pour so much effort into. Please do take the time to have a read through his answers and head over to winterrosephotography.com to bask in his recent work.
“Darren is a landscape photographer whose photographic journey began whilst completing a Fine Art Painting Degree, and despite a prolonged break from producing artwork, this background in painting still influences his approach to photography today. Darren prefers to work with Film and using pinhole and ‘toy’ cameras, allowing the medium of the film and choice camera to be an active participant in the result of the final image.”
In your own words, what do you do?
I’m predominantly a landscape photographer, who over the last year or so, has probably become a bit more recognised for using film rather than digital, and for using pinhole cameras.
Why do you do what you do?
I’ve always been a creative person, and studied fine art at University. It was at 6th form college that I first started photography and learning how to develop and print in the darkroom. This developed (no pun intended) further throughout University, and I ended up working part time in a college darkroom after graduation. However, over time I allowed photography, as well as drawing and painting, to slip out of site and it wasn’t until 2015 that I picked up a camera again. Photography gives me the opportunity to be creative, a skill to learn and continually improve at, as well as getting outside and meeting new people.
What is integral to your practice?
Using the right tool for the job to match your vision. I’m not someone that will pick sides in the Film VS Digital argument. I use both depending on what I want to achieve. Modern cameras allow you to do so much, but I think they can also be extremely limiting - there is no digital equivalent of a 6x17 pinhole camera. So for me it’s about finding a format and method that matches what I want to achieve. If that’s my Mirrorless Digitial Camera, or my £20 Holga, it really doesn’t matter.
Primarily, I think is about letting go and allowing chance and serendipity to play an active role in creating the final image. No matter how much you try to apply control to the process, chance will always play a part. There is also huge variety of formats and camera available to work with. I have the options of shooting 6x6, 6x9, 6x12 or 6x17 panoramic formats. I can choose to do double, or multiple exposures, as well as deciding to use B+W, colour of Infrared Film if I wanted. There are so many creative options available, even though pinhole photography has been around since the 1800’s. I have an Ilford 4x5 format Camera Obscura which I am looking forward to using at some point too.
Are there any particular themes you pursue with your practice?
‘Everywhere and Nowhere’ is a recurring theme in my landscape photography, and not just my pinhole work. Landscape photography is often about a location. Recognisable landmarks, natural and man-made, are often the reason for the photo. However, I have never been hugely drawn to that aspect of landscape photography and would prefer to remove discernible landmarks or points of identification. Without a point of reference to identify with, we are invited to explore the landscapes depicted more freely, and connect with them on a deeper level. Movement also plays a big part in my images – whether it’s me or the subject that’s moving. Sometimes both! Due to the small apertures, you are always working with longer exposures. Even on the brightest of days, an exposure will be a second or two at least. This means that my pinhole works are rarely static, frozen moments in time.
Has your practice changed over time? If so, how?
Definitely. Some of my earlier pinhole work included taking pictures of the Southbank and Westminster in London, and they certainly helped me get started, but moving away from photographing landmarks or traditional locations has been key to me developing my own style and vision. There have also been incremental technical improvements over time which has also helped improve my work. I nearly always only work with Fuji Acros 100 when using the pinhole, and I feel like I am really beginning to understand how to expose for this film in a way that works for me. Working with a single film stock, also allows me to refine developing process, including stand development which I have also had some success with.
Is there a specific piece you’re especially proud of? And why?
I’m really pleased with how ‘Rapture in the Rain’ (below) came out. This was one of those shots where I was having to react very quickly and I had very little control over the final image. It was taken with a DianaF+, using the pinhole setting. I had time to take one meter reading before work very quickly in a busy environment. I nearly used up a whole roll in about 2 minutes, and although I had about 4 shots I was happy with, this one just work for me. It’s also a rare picture of mine that includes a figure as the central subject. The image image was also published as part of my Readers Portfolio in Amateur Photographer Magazine earlier this year.
From whom do you draw the most inspiration?
Coming from a fine art background, it’s probably no surprise that many of my inspirations come from the painting world. The abstract expressionists had a big impact on me as a young artist, and a Francis Bacon Retrospective exhibition I saw when I was 16 left a lasting impression on me. Even to this day. On the photography front, the early work by Alexy Titarenko continues to captivate me, and Forms of Japan by Michael Kenna never fails to inspire me to pick up the camera and head outside. I also draw a lot of inspiration from those that I have discovered through social media – Valda Bailey, Doug Chinnery, Chris Friel, Lee Acaster and Russ Barnes to name a few. Russ’ ‘Backwater’ series is one of my favourites collection of images, and Valda’s multiple exposure work is exceptional.
What is your dream project?
I’d love to work with large format cameras, so being dropped in a remote location surrounded by mountains, water and trees, with an 8x10 and unlimited film would be a dream project for me.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Surprisingly, it doesn’t come from another photographer or Artist, but Richard Branson. “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” This might seem an odd choice, but sums up my approach to most things. It doesn’t focus on failure or success, but on the act of learning and seizing any opportunities that present themselves. I like to think that I am continually learning and experimenting. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to put yourself in the best position to succeed. Sitting on the sofa, missing the sunrise because it’s early, or saying ‘No, I don’t think I can do that’, will not lead you to realising your full potential.