Fleur Alston on the rare joy of fully realising her vision, the influence of Sally Mann, and balancing motherhood and photography.
Fleur has been the winner of Photocrowd's expert vote twice: her Camera Obscura shot was chosen by Sue Barr in our Interiors contest; and Liam Bailey was impressed by the way Fleur documened her Bugs and Butterflies collection for the Things of Desire assignment.
Here she kindly answers some of our questions about her photographic history and passions.
How did you get into photography?
I have always had an interest in photography, but motherhood and life got in the way. About seven years ago I blew the dust off my aspirations and began again. I went back to university and gained a first class degree in photography.
How often and when do you take photographs?
To be honest, I am a serial photographer - I get a bit on edge if it goes too long between shoots. I always believe the next photograph will be the best and I shoot whenever my youngest boy is at preschool or just lets me.
What is your technical set-up?
As far as equipment goes, I have my faithful Nikon D90, a couple of lenses, a tripod and two battered pieces of welding glass, shade 9 and 13, that I Blu-Tack to my lens to function as ND filters for my daytime long exposures.
I actually like the colour blooms and defects my filters give me, but I am saving for a Nikon D800, purely for the size of the final image - I like to print big. As you can probably tell it’s not about the gadgets for me, but I would be lost without Photoshop. I always work in Raw because it is amazing how much noise can be found in a jpeg in even the shortest exposure and I’m not shy of turning my camera to auto on many occasions.
With regards to analogue, even though I grew up with it, at this point it just seems too fussy and expensive for my needs and work (but obviously a lot of people won’t like this comment).
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
I’ll try anything - a photo snob I am not - I will try any tool at my disposal at least once, including the dreaded HDR. If I feel it works I will go with it and that is how I learn - by trying everything. The more things I try and the more pictures I take, the better I become, hopefully. For me it is about the creative process, and if that involves a little or a truckload of photo manipulation, so be it. Experimenting is the key for me.
Whose work has influenced you most?
Oh, this is a hard one - which I know it shouldn’t be - but to be honest my practice is so scattered it is quite hard to pin down specific influences. The only one I can think of at this moment is Sally Mann: her work is nothing like my own, but she taught me that you can look inwards at your own family and produce beautiful work that can be timeless and meaningful not only to yourself.
Among your works, which one is your favourite? Why?
I have picked an image that I am personally proud of. The image is called Shore and it is part of a series of three. This particular photograph began in my head and translated perfectly into reality which, believe me, is not always the case. It is almost exactly how I envisaged it, which is a wonderful thing when it happens.
What do you get out of being a photographer?
Well, financially it is not the strongest contributor at this point, but photography has become so inextricably woven into my world that there is no escape, it is the way I show the world who I am.
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