Meet the Photographer: Stuart Michaels

by David Donno in ,

Photographer Stuart Michaels

Photographer Stuart Michaels

Visitors to the gallery over the past few days have been awed by the natural beauty and light that is captured in the images by Stuart Michaels in his current exhibition 'Geronimo's Candlelight'. In this blog post, we get to know the man behind the photographs..... 

How has your photography evolved? How do you see it evolving in the future?

We all like to take pictures, and we all seem to start as photographic 'snipers' – i.e. we “shoot” at things we happen to see. That's fine, and many people stay there, often doing it extremely well – Cartier Bresson is the prime example.

But the other sort of photographer are what I call “builders” - they design and plan what they want first, and spend a lot of time putting the components of props, light, treatment and subject matter together, only getting their camera out at the last moment.

I've done both, but it's the latter that interests me as the outcome is almost entirely dependent on your input, and that appeals – it seems fairer than chance. I've had a few lucky (and unrepeatable) shots, but the photographers I really admire were the highly skillful, “builders”.

I strive to be ever more skilful, whatever the subject. I'm always fascinated by how specialists go about their work and I kind of want to hoover up their knowledge and use it for my own ends!

Carol - Stuart Michaels

What's your favourite piece of work you've done and why?

A nude. (Carol.) Unusual for me. The model asked me to do it after a shoot; I haven't done many and it was very scary! The line between grace and disaster is very thin. This is my favorite photograph out of all I've shot, and I'm very proud of it, because of its elegance and light. It sits between the openly erotic and the classically graceful amazingly well, and gives a marvelous feeling of freshness, or cleanliness, or early morning, or ecstatic bliss, or whatever you want to read into it.



What are your tips for aspiring photographers?

1. Look at the work of the greats. Analyze why they work. Become angry that you can't do as well yourself, and use that anger to motivate yourself into doing better. Don't give up until you have emulated that standard at least once. Then try harder!

2. Do a good training course, like an HND. Learn your craft. It's never going to hurt you to know what you're doing. I dislike photographic degree courses – too much waffle, and I've yet to see an impressive image emerge from one.

3. Look, look, and look again at your subject, other photographs, and paintings. Analyze and learn from them – and your failures too.

4. Do what you love and keep trying to make better pictures of it.

5. Digital pictures are free. No excuse not to shoot – but Think before releasing the shutter! Don't take a thousand dull ones, take 3 excellent ones.

6. Use the best professional standard kit you can afford. Don't buy junk. You will never regret having good equipment. Treat it kindly and keep it spotless!

7. Fall in love with light. Watch it perform, anywhere. Learn from it. It's the most amazing thing I know.

What does photography mean to you?

It's been the driving force of my life. It's taken me to wonderful, privileged places and taught me to really see them - I often can't see what things really look like until I've taken their picture, and then I see them with extra insight.

What drove you to becoming a photographer?

Something inside making me wanting to make pictures. I really don't know why! I liked to draw as a kid but I was never very good at it. I went to art school and got no better! But I was a teenager in the 60's and the arts and music were exploding with creativity – I seemed to be surrounded with amazing images all the time, from the Burning Monk in Vietnam to Barbara Goalen looking impossibly haughty in her haute couture. Painting was astounding at that time too, and I loved the graphic power of the huge image. I can't paint but I still admire it. I shoot instead.

In your opinion, what makes a memorable photograph?

Impact, design, control, craftsmanship, composition, execution, wit, and flair.

How? That's harder..!

How do you know when a piece of work is completed? 

It takes two people to make an image.

One to shoot it, and another to hit the photographer on the head when it's done!

A key aspect of your photography is capturing the light at a specific moment. Have you ever missed an opportune moment?

Yes! I was shooting the pictures of the Grand Canyon that appear in the Geronimo's Candlelight exhibition. Sundown light moves fast in the canyon, and there's 270 miles of location to choose from. Having set up very carefully in a very particular location, some people suddenly arrived and set up a wedding right on the edge of my photograph! I have some pictures, but the wedding was facing the wrong way for me, and it seemed a bit much to ask them to move it round! I just had to give up gracefully..

What do you hope the viewers will take away from your 'Geronimo's Candlelight' exhibition?

A sense of wonder at place and light. I've tried to make pictures which reflect not so much of what was in front of the camera, but a sense of the particular place at a particular time as I felt it. Few of us rise at dawn, and of those who do, fewer have the time to stop and stare. The world seems fresh and new at this time before the weight of the day bears down on it. It always moves me, and I hope I've been able to communicate the joy of it.

What's the best thing that has happened to you whilst you have been travelling on a photography expedition?

The sudden eruption of the Aurora Borealis in Iceland on my first night there! I'd set up in the vain hope of actually seeing anything at all – yet literally the moment I did, the Aurora arrived – in interstellar style! It was like a giant curtain of light whipping across the sky at enormous speed. The dark, slightly starry heavens were suddenly splashed with brilliant green veils of light, exactly like a sheet of silk moving sideways at a thousand miles a second.

It was the best display of the week I was there. And I got the photo – which looks eerily like a gargantuan face.

The Geronimo's Candlelight exhibition is on at the Naked Eye Gallery until 25th October. 

Meet the Artist: Sarah Walpole

by David Donno in

We are lucky enough to have Brighton based artist Sarah Walpole exhibiting her work as part of the NINE exhibition, which goes on until the 30th September 2015. It is impossible to forget the subtle-yet-striking colours of this artists work (which incidentally appear to coincide with the striking yet subtle colours of the artist herself!), the delicate shapes she paints and the way she is able to translate deep and different moods onto canvas. The Naked Eye Gallery were intrigued to get to know the artist behind the artwork...

What is the role of the artist in society?

'A Piece of Dark Came to Stay' - Sarah Walpole

'A Piece of Dark Came to Stay' - Sarah Walpole

SW: Ultimately it’s about encouraging people to think and consider issues, reflect on their current environment & those of others. Generating different emotions in people of all walks of life: shocking, scaring, giving joy and visualising beauty- it all has its place- we all need different things at different times. Its most important role is in opening peoples minds to other ways of seeing, if just one piece of mine achieved that, i would be a happy bunny. 

How has your art evolved? How do you see it evolving in the future?

SW: I used to work more literally & obviously, so with time and maturity, I’m a lot more subtle now. I have always really enjoyed the journey of a piece and the layers that it encompasses. From initial sketches, through to painting, and then covering it again and again, until it is saying exactly what I want it to. I doubt that process will ever change, but it may take on a simpler form possibly? That would be a interesting avenue. 

In terms of the form the work takes, I would really like to get back to installations again. I used to create this way as a carefree student, and loved being able to immerse the viewer entirely into a work and breathe what is happening. This was because we had the space to exhibit exactly what you wished and without restriction. Now, unfortunately my work production is inhibited by the size of my studio, the commerciality of individual pieces and of course the availability of space to showcase it, but it is something I’d love to pursue, given the right circumstances.

What are your tips for aspiring artists?

SW: It's so different today what with Instagram, Twitter and other such social media. You have to be very brand aware and savvy in marketing yourself. I kind of eschew from this, as I don’t want to throw my work in peoples faces and ask for adulation or whatever. It doesn’t help in making yourself a presence in the art world but it’s the way I work.  I’d be happy producing work until I can no longer, no matter what the consequences for how ‘successful’ it appears to the outside world. Its the process of creating that is important. When it's my time, I’ll probably end up leaving a warehouse of hundreds of works, like a diary of my existence..actually that would be an interesting exhibition.

In your opinion, what makes a memorable piece of art?

SW: It has to hit you instantly, whether that be aesthetically or by being highly emotive. The Sensation exhibition in the 90’s really did that for me. It was the first time I had been to the Royal Academy and there had been so much controversy about the show, so I was approaching it with great intrigue and unsure about how I would feel. Of course I experienced disgust, despair & repulsion at some of the pieces, but also amazement and interest in some of the topics raised and the fact that a piece of art can garner such a reaction. That these pieces could bring about so much controversy and discourse is amazing.

'Can't Magic a Spell to Help a Current Situation' - Sarah Walpole

'Can't Magic a Spell to Help a Current Situation' - Sarah Walpole

Where do you find your inspiration?

SW: It all stems from emotions I am feeling and the circumstances that I find myself in at a particular time. Friendships, relationships, experiences past & present all influence the mark making, shapes, texture and form the pieces take. I guess that is why I don’t market myself all that well, to follow up from the earlier question, as it is all so personal and revealing. Like a tiny piece of me up there on the wall.

What artists have inspired you?

SW: Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Tracey Emin, Egon Schiele, Jean-Michel Basquiat & Jean Dubuffet.

What is your favourite medium to work with?

SW: Acrylic paint, mostly because of its fast drying properties as I like to scratch into it smudge and smooth. But my pieces usually involve lots of other mediums too such as pen, pencils, oil crayon, torn papers etc. It's the collection and sum of all those little elements that makes it into something important and substantial - a body so to speak.

I love the shapes you use in your work - is there any specific meaning to them or do you prefer to leave it to the viewer to interpret?

SW: A lot of the circular shapes are representative of people or figures within my life. Whether they are positive or negative, they shape who you are and the path your life takes, so it is an important reference in my work. Equally though, a lot of viewers have commented they resemble flower forms which is equally as valid. For people to see alternative things in a piece or to experience a different feeling to the one i am expressing, is no bad thing.  Just simply it's the beauty with art, that it can be so many things to so many people, and interpreted in anyway, shape or form. If it reaches you, feel it.

Meet the Photographer: Bernard Webb

by David Donno in , ,

Bernard Webb

Bernard Webb

Trees stretch to sky, vexed waves crash outward, that moment of peaceful calm of sunset… These magical pockets of time are captured by Hove based photographer Bernard Webb in an atmospheric and breathtaking exhibition at the Naked Eye Gallery for two weeks in February.  In this interview, we get to know the photographer a little better...

What is the role of a photographer in society?

The main role for me is that we can, without a single word spoken or read, make people see things differently, open peoples minds, and expand horizons.


What are your goals for the future?

Branding my name, more exhibits, there are books coming up and commissions I would like.  I want to be a strong presence in the industry this year.

What's your favourite piece of work you've done and why?

'Ride Home' by Bernard Webb

'Ride Home' by Bernard Webb

That is something that is constantly in flux, with this exhibit there are several favorites but as I can only have one it has to be the "ride home".  You can make your own story up, there is an urgency there, the drama of the passing storm, the bike rider, it all adds up to a strong image.

What are your tips for aspiring photographers?

Oh my..dont worry too much about gear, it isnt about that, develop your eye, take your camera everywhere, shoot all the time, style and preference for what you love to shoot will come soon enough.  Be absolutely relentless in your pursuit, for everything really but especially for your career, ask for it, dont wait for it to come to you!!!

What does photography mean to you?

It is the medium that I can truly communicate through, more than words on a page.

In your opinion, what makes a memorable photo?

A truly great picture must grab you emotionally, it has to affect you, tell it's story, leave you with questions, makes you want to see it again.  

What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?

I truly want people to be moved somehow, I am always trying to find a story within my work so I hope I put that across.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Usually I will wake up with a desperate need to take pictures, its just there, sometimes… a lot of the time it is the light outside and that is enough.  

What photographers have inspired you?

Early on it was Armando Gallo and Phil Kamin, both fantastic concert photographers, I was and still am a big music fan and musician, and to see their work as a young kid was inspirational on many levels.  Both amazingly are friends of mine now, Phil has especially been of great support.  As I got older and photography meant more I looked to the French pioneers; Atget, Cartier- Bresson and Doisneau.  I always go back to them, even after all the young turks come and go, its these guys that hold sway.

What camera do you use?

Nothing terribly grand, the main one is a Nikon D7000 with a selection of super wide to normal telephoto lenses, my "street camera" is a very well traveled Fuji x10, it has been amazing.  I will be looking to Full Frame Nikon soon and something a little more powerful in the Fuji range too.

What's camera accessory could you not live without?

Well down here with the salt spray it has to be a lens brush or chamois, everything else is second place!

How do you know when a piece of work is completed?

There is something good inside when you are taking pictures on location, everything is working and you know post processing will be a cakewalk.  I have a set up, I know the levels of contrast, print tone, structure and sharpness that I want, I know the lenses that I use, I understand exposure and usually it is just a formality of getting the image to the printing stage.  Having said that… some pictures just get away from you, you knew what you shot, the idea was strong and yet no matter what to do post process it just doesnt work, its knowing when to walk away from it that is more important these days.  

Bernard's exhibition 'Wet Feet' is at the Naked Eye Gallery between 7th and 20th February 2015.