We continue our series of interviews with Photocrowd members. Here Cathy Cooper talks about her love of little Cyclops cameras, poetry-inspired photography and how Photocrowd helped her work get accepted for an exhibition.
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Here's our interview with Cathy:
How did you get into photography?
I was brought up with family photo albums and was given my first camera when I was about eight years old - a Kodak Brownie 127. I dabbled in the darkroom in art college in the 1960s, and have taken several courses over the years, both analogue and digital. Taking pictures is a natural passion.
How often and when do you take photographs?
It depends. I have just come back from an assignment, winter walking in the Lake District for the Mail on Sunday. I took over 800 pictures mostly on the move and in the rain - not easy and no time to 'compose'. I also document the demolition and redevelopment of an industrial building behind my house for a Facebook page I set up recently. So when I am home I am shooting every day. Then there are Photocrowd assignments!
What is your technical setup?
I have 22 cameras in all - digital and film. The one I use the most is my Canon 5D III, and my current favourite lens is the Canon EF 16-35 F2.8L USM. Although for travelling I also like the 24-105 F4. The filters I use most are circular polarizing and variable ND. I have several tripods and a monopod, but the best for me is the Manfrotto 486RC2.
I also have a camera which gives me great joy and always attracts attention wherever I go. It is the Little Cyclops - the smallest digital fisheye lens camera in the World. It has fixed everything and no viewfinder so really point, shoot and hope for the best. I wear it around my neck like a pendant. I use Photoshop to post edit, and find I can get some really great effects from this little gem of a camera.
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
I study photographs in exhibitions and in magazines or books, and I always look at the technical specifications. I try to give myself time to stop and think when on a shoot - not always easy if I am not on my own. I also review my own work and learn from my mistakes.
Whose work has influenced you most?
I suppose the first photographs that blew my mind were by Ansel Adams at an exhibition in the USA in 1975. After that I bought an SLR and enrolled on a course to learn about processing and printing film. I also love the industrial structures and typologies of German photographers Bernd and Hilla Bechter. A painter whose work has made me think is Danny Markey. He paints the ordinary and the bland, like motorways at night.
Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?
If I had to pick a photograph that I would hang on my own wall, it would be one of six images that I experimented with to illustrate a poem which has haunted me for years - The Boy Changed into a Stag Clamours at the Gate of Secrets by Ferenc Juhász. I like these works because they were so simple to produce yet so effective. Every layer I brought in had a direct context to the poem. This is still a work in progress.
What do you get out of being a photographer?
I have always taken snaps, but I took my photography up a level when I was made redundant from my career in television about three years ago. I decided to devote all my time to my favourite hobby and re-learn the technical side by enrolling on a Photoshop and two BTEC courses. This taught me to take my camera off the auto settings and use manual. I gained much more confidence and now feel qualified to call myself a 'photographer'. I still take lots of snaps, but I can do the serious stuff as well.
I should also mention that Photocrowd has been very beneficial for me. Since winning a 1st with one of my two motorway shots in the assignment Every Second Counts, I was successful in getting accepted for an exhibition in the Stables Gallery in Orleans House, Twickenham.
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