Photographer Interview Series: Dennis Smith
When and how did you start practicing photography?
I was given my first camera when I was 7 years old; way back in the 1960’s and I seemed to enjoy running around with the thing! I bought my first proper camera in 1982. My Father had been a photographer, and that brought out my initial interest in photography. I had liked looking at others’ work from magazines and books and decided I wanted to take photographs properly; rather than the snaps I took when I was 7 years of age.
I bought a Minolta XD-7 SLR to start with, but within a year I had switched over to using a Canon, as they had a better range of lenses at the time.
I switched over to using Nikon back in the late 90’s, and stayed with them until I sold all of my DSLR equipment last year.
What type of camera do you use and why?
I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a couple of years ago, and mainly because of that, and the total lack of co-ordination I went through because of the MS, I sold all of the heavy Nikon equipment I had been using and switched over to using a Panasonic Lumix GF1 Compact System Camera, and I added a Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR bridge camera as well.
Both of them allow me to follow my main interest – abstracts, but I am thinking of moving back into using a DSLR again; as I miss the control from individual lens choice that gave me, and the truth is that the camera really doesn’t matter to me as it is only a tool.
How would you define your style? Do you focus on particular subjects?
When it comes to my abstract work – random would be the perfect word to describe what I do. Although, as my wife says, I do get a little fixated on a project sometimes, and I won’t finish taking shots of a subject until I believe I can’t get any more from it. “Kiss of Life” and “No.8” on my set of images with PrintedArt are both such images. The idea started out as standard, normal photos of lips, but after moving the camera during exposure, that is how the images ended up. There are probably more images in the same vein at some point.
What or who are your inspirations?
Many really, but mainly I’m inspired by colour, light and shapes, and I get a little moth like; staring at the light until I’m happy with what I want to do.
I’ve dabbled with painting for a few years and some artists inspire me more than others; Miro, Rothko, Van Gogh, Malevich and De Kooning are my main inspirations from the world of art.
Do you have a dream subject or location that you would love to shoot?
I would love to spend time in Venice getting colourful abstracts of a beautiful location.
Where can the majority of your work be seen?
Most of my work; be it abstract or normal can be found on flickr.com, where I go under the name of crunch61.
A large percentage of your pieces focus on texture or are almost entirely abstract. What do you look for in an object or setting that indicates to you that it might look wonderful abstracted?
Normally I work purely from something that catches my eye, and that can be anything I see, wherever I am. I usually have a camera with me wherever I go. It doesn’t matter too much to me what the original subject may have been, because after I’ve done my thing with the camera, you generally can’t tell what it started out as anyway, and I like the air of mystery that adds to my images!
Most of my abstract work revolves around movement and blur, and as such it really doesn’t matter to me what the subject could have been to start with.
Can you describe a discovery moment in your progression as a digital photographer? Was there some technique or process that changed the scope of your creative work?
I really believe the arrival of the digital camera changed everything to do with photography, no matter if you shoot landscapes, portraits or abstracts. It allows you to simply experiment far more than you ever could with film, and because of the instant appeal of digital, it allows you to shoot a lot more frames, just to experiment with what you are looking for with that final image.
I couldn’t dream of going back to film now, having to wait ages to see the final result.
My interest in abstract work really stems back to my interest in painted art, especially Abstract Expressionism. I love the freedom I’d seen in some of the great artists work, and through my chosen medium, the camera, I try in my humble way, to replicate images along the same lines. Willem De Kooning had a big influence over what I do with my camera.
When I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I spent around 6 months in a wheelchair as my legs refused to work properly, and at that time, my view of things changed quite dramatically, and my photographic output was really limited to what I could see from my chair. That really controlled what I could and couldn’t take pictures of and a lot of my abstract shots stem from ideas I had at that time.
Today I can walk again, but the wheelchair time really set what I do in stone for me!
Can you tell us about a most recent project or series of photos/experiments that you felt really connected to?
I can’t really break what I do down into current projects, as most of my work is always a project in motion really – an endless pit of dreams and imagination!
Are you a “get in right in-camera” or ‘fix it later on the computer” photographer?
I try to get as much as I can right in camera, but sometimes it’s just not possible.
I shoot in RAW, it gives you the best control over your images, and then I convert into JPEGS.
I like to crop an image to get it to the size I’m after, and sometimes I will change the colour of an image to fit what I had in mind, but really that’s all I do with my images.