The idyllic hills of Hampshire take shape; you dip through locations pleasantly rolling into one another as you sweep towards the southern coast. Amongst these quaint villages and towns you stumble across Winchester. A town that really is quite picturesque from the cathedral and its grounds to the almighty hills that surround the bordering edges. Locally educated now turned freelance photographer Joe Low photographs this picturesque town with his photos standing at the highest of qualities. You name it his photos span from all year round, capturing the stunning moments that the town holds, only to be seen to the eye if there at the right moment in time.
So a graduate of Winchester School of Art as well, I thought I’d speak to Joe about how he came from graduating in Fine Art to becoming a freelance photographer and his years in Winchester.
Nicola Manuel: So where did the passion for photography appear having studied and graduated in Fine Art?
Joe Low: I discovered the power of photography at Hull School of Art on my foundation course in the early 1970’s. I was captured by the immediacy of the camera and the alchemy of the darkroom. I subsequently went to Winchester School of Art studying fine art (printmaking) and photography became my main means of expression. After graduating in 1977 I decided to be a photographer, I gave it a go and here I am! I still get a buzz when I’m behind a camera especially when I zone in on a subject. Technology has moved on but the basic principals remain unchanged.
NM: What is it about the place of Winchester that keeps your ongoing interest to photograph it?
JL: Wherever I am is what I will observe with my camera. Initially I set up business in Southampton. I established a picture library about Southampton the place. Now I have moved my business to Winchester I am doing the same here. Winchester carries a lot of evidence of its history with Winchester Cathedral at the heart of it and I enjoy communicating that with a camera. Couple that with my interest in the current community of Winchester and you will see the results in my photographs. The city has a calmness about it and a strong sense of community, I feel at home working here even though I live in Southampton. Maybe one day I’ll move here lock, stock & barrel.
NM: As a freelance photographer how would you describe your work in three words?
JL: Considered / Expressive / Spiritual.
NM: As the popularity of photography increases in today’s society, has this had an affect on your own work?
JL: Yes, free photos on the internet and the increased availability of photography to the average person has had a negative impact on the amount of commissions freelance photographers can expect. The good news is there will always be a need for photographers with a good eye to get out there and do it properly.
Twitter and Facebook have put people in touch with each others photography to a much greater extent than ever before. I particularly enjoy tweeting a photograph every day at the moment and they are directly fed on to my facebook page. They are nearly always taken with my iPhone and it’s a brilliant way of keeping your eye in. If you want to follow my twitter feed I’m: ‘joelowphoto’. I’m intrigued by photographing the mundane ordinary things in our day to day lives and presenting them in different ways to the viewer.
NM: In your own practician ‘today is today’, caputring moments in time as they pass us by. But what, in your opinion, holds the future?
JL: The future for photography is good. Amateur and professional cameras are getting smaller and more sophisticated. 3D cameras are just around the corner so the future is bright. For me personally I would like to spend more time developing my own fine art photography.
NM: If you weren’t to be a freelance photographer today, what other job would you be working in?
JL: Either a landscape gardener, furniture maker or a therapist.
NM: Does the technology of computers have a large impact on the way that you work or do you rely on the camera and place entirely?
JL: I use PhotoShop to tweak or finish off photos but most of the work is done in the picture taking. All too often I see examples of badly taken photographs, which are heavily, manipulated post production. A great photograph should not need very much hyping.
NM: How much do you agree with the following statement: Photography is all about producing images that represent the world around us?
JL: Yes photographs do literally represent the world around us but to elevate the image to a higher level the photographer needs to inject their own magic. This is done by the timing, positioning and composition all coming together at the same time creating that unique and unrepeatable ‘special moment’. Those moments don’t come along too often, but when they do, well… that’s what makes them special.
Time for those all important quick round questions…
Landscape or heritage? Both! Preferably in conjunction.
Fine Art or Photography? Fine Art Photography. I come from fine art roots but photography is my medium and commercially I have to tone down the fine art aspect in order to sell the work.
Facebook or twitter? Twitter – I love the immediacy, I’m afraid I’d rather be out with a camera than typing!
Inside or outside photography? Again, both but it is nice to get out into the landscape. It’s great to be a photographer as you are out exploring on every commission and some discoveries are amazing.
Victoria Sponge or chocolate cake? Without a shadow of doubt, chocolate cake every time.
If you haven’t ever taken a trip to Winchester I’d hope that through reading this and seeing Joe’s beautiful photography it has ever so slightly swayed you to want to go. It’s a stunning place, one which is full of historic features waiting to be seen by the eye, or even to be captured as a moment in time.
That ‘special moment’ is waiting for you.