If you are a fan great photography and animals then you will love our next Meet the Maker interview. Local photographer Doug captures animals and landscapes in such a beautiful and unique way. We discovered more about the man behind the lens recently...
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work?
Hello. I'm Doug, a Bristol-based photographer specialising in landscape and animal shots. I like to shoot landscape images from quirky angles using existing structures as framing devices to create thought-provoking images. With animals, I try to capture them outdoors and enjoying themselves.
Apart from creating things what else do you do?
Away from photography I’m also a writer. I studied English at university and as part of my final year project started a writing a novel which got me signed to a small literary agency. The novel ultimately didn't get published but I continue to write (largely unpublished) fiction. I'm nearing the completion of the first draft of a novel now about death, love, photography and the role of luck in life. Once I've put it away in a drawer for a month I'll take it out and edit it and send if off to my literary agent, Eve White. Eve recently asked, via Twitter, for pictures of the UK coastline as part of the launch of one of her other author’s books. I sent her a recent picture of Tenby, which won the competition. My prize was a copy of the new book. Which is lovely but wasn't the type of book deal I was expecting when I signed to the agency!
I'm also a keen runner and have recently joined Bristol and West AC with a view to getting my 10K time down to below 35 minutes and my half marathon time below 80 minutes. My PB in the 10K is just over 36 minutes so I'm way off that one, but I ran the recent Bath Half marathon in 80 minutes and one second. Which was slightly annoying. I like the objectivity of running. With writing and photography the success of a piece can hinge on whether someone else likes it. With running there's just you and the immutable laws of time.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
Well, there's some that would say that photography isn't really art, that it's the camera that does all the work. It's a view I’m not entirely unsympathetic with. But I guess it was when I started taking photos and getting them put on canvas to decorate my walls at home and people who visited assumed they were professionally-shot pieces. Prior to that I had always assumed they would appeal to an audience of one. And I guess the next step was when I won a photography award from the Kennel Club for a picture of my dog on a beach in Ireland. Apparently it attracts over 5,000 entries so to win their Dogs at Play category was confirmation that I wasn't an entirely useless/lucky photographer. Although clearly I’m lucky to own a very photogenic dog.
The thrill of the chase. There's always the thought that today is going to be the day I'll take the perfect photo. I take the view that perfection only exists in the moment so if you're seeking some kind of perfection then photography is the right field to be in. I also just take great pleasure from the power of certain photos, be it a landscape captured at exactly the right moment of the day or the expression on an animal’s face. Photos can be heart-wrenchingly moving too. Such as that famous shot by Kevin Carter of a vulture stalking a child during the Sudan famine. It's a horribly compelling image. But then isn't life sometimes so?
Where does your inspiration come from?
I used to watch loads of sport as a kid and I think that has unwittingly informed lots of my work. It's no coincidence that the majority of my images are taken outdoors, where the majority of sport takes place. If you look at my early-morning shot of the tree stump up at Ashton Court, it's reminiscent of a golfer about to tee off. Frequently I position the foreground subject in a shot to the left or the right of the frame. I suspect this was because I used to watch and play so much cricket during my formative years. The most common view is the batsmen to the left of the frame and then the slips behind lined up to the right or left. My picture of Pele the cat, which was published recently in Bristol Listings, follows that pattern. The cat is the batsman and the balloons in the background are the slip fielders.
Describe your studio or workspace?
I'm very lucky to have a converted loft in my house in Hotwells which doubles as a photography studio and general man cave where I can work whilst listening to music or with sport on the TV or radio. It also has views looking out towards the Suspension Bridge, which is obviously one of the most photographed structure in Bristol, and also over to Ashton Court, which is probably my favourite place in the city. I often think the loft at home would make a good nightclub. Although I daresay my neighbours wouldn’t agree.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Vivian Maier. She was a Chicago-based street photographer who worked as a nanny and all her stuff was only discovered posthumously. A few years after her death this treasure trove of negatives was unearthed. Her stuff is brilliant; and there were loads of ancient selfies. I love that concept of the secret self. Someone working away diligently at something and not telling anyone. There's a kind of heroic quality about that to me.
I find a lot of my best work is spontaneous. So I can just be out around Bristol or somewhere else and suddenly notice a good shot or a scene and then just snap away. I feel fortunate to live in a time when technology is such that everything is pretty instant. You can check whether the shot is any good straight away and decide whether to keep it. My grandfather was a keen photographer too and had his own dark room. I would never have the patience to go through that process. I think it's pretty safe to say that were it not for the advent of digital photography there is no way I'd have become a photographer.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Not sure if this one applies to me but I have two beautifully handmade pots in my loft space in which I place a conker to mark the passing of each year of my two daughters' life. I've no idea who made them and I daresay the maker didn't intend then for them to be used as 'Conker Pots', but there you go...
What do you when you are stuck in a creative rut?
Drink some more wine. Go out for a run. Stare at the internet.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Still alive is I think always the minimum requirement for that question. In terms of photography, though, I'd like to have been successful enough to be able to publish a book of my images. I could then marry the two creative disciplines of photography and writing. I would also still like to have enough hair for me to be able to worry about having bad hair days.
Thank you Doug! As cat lovers we adore that image of Pele the cat! Purrrrfect!
You can discover Doug's work for yourself at our Paper Scissors Stone shop.
Paper Scissors Stone
Mon - Sat: 10am - 6pm
Sun: 11am - 5pm