An Interview with Paul Andrews

Born in Liverpool, England, Paul Andrews later moved to Dundee to pursue a career in science. He currently works as a scientific consultant but his true passion seems to be photography. He first caught the photography bug in his teens when he would develop black and white with his father.

Here is my interview with him:

How did you get into photography?

Well I think I can pinpoint it to my early teens. I got an old Russian film camera for a birthday and got the bug. But I think before that my influence was my Dad who was actually a pretty good amateur photographer and I remember we developed the B&W film and printed the shots together in a makeshift darkroom over the bath! 

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In your words, what is photography?

Hmmm…I think nowadays that is hard to define. In days of old it was the capturing of a snapshot of time, a moment of reality (and occasionally a longer fragment of time) on photographic film or paper. With digital that definition is becoming blurred (literally sometimes), to a point where light painting or capturing motion is commonplace, and digital post-processing the norm. What makes an image a photograph rather than a piece of pure art? If the pixels were derived from a real scene that actually existed? What if more than 50% of the pixels are different? What if more than 90% are made by a computer?

Are there any recurring themes/concepts in your work?

I experiment a lot. I don’t consciously have themes, but the classic ones of life, death, beauty, existentialism, surrealism and the absurd, the passing of time, seeing the unseen, identity, age, the natural world, romanticism….so the list goes on…

Do you prefer digital or analog? 

I love the mystery and delayed gratification when taking a roll of photos with film. I like the quality you can achieve too (and also the mistakes, multiple exposures, accidents, dust specks and fluff equally), I love its grain and the range of physical processes that influence the end result. Digital is easier, cleaner and cheaper of course but can feel a bit sterile and lifeless. 

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Do you retouch your images a lot? 

I take a mixture of film and digital images. I rarely manipulate or retouch the film images, I just scan, crop and adjust some basic parameters (if at all). If you mean use Photoshop to make digital images look cleaner, apply filters then rarely, but sometimes. I have used Photoshop to play with images, for example to try to emulate the work of Peter Funch or make attempts a conceptual pieces, but it is rare and with mixed success. I really can’t compete with the plethora of “conceptual photoshopographers” out there – for one I haven’t got the patience and secondly I’m not good at flying and don’t like lying naked in the woods (often). However, I also use the iPhone for photography and its hard not to apply filters and do other manipulations with it. I also dabble in montages using the iPhone to take and edit the images. Fiddly work!

Talk to us about your editing process.

As I alluded to above, if I feel the image needs some contrast or curve alterations or de/saturation alterations I will do that. I try to compose in camera and minimize cropping – but that doesn’t always work. I quite like cropping to a square format sometimes. For iPhone edits I have used many apps over the years, but really like Snapseed (with the caveat that there is no way to save or copy-paste the settings). For my circular images (tondos) or dyptics I use an app called Diptic. Some images have resulted in experiments with a series of apps. I’ve often employed an app like TinyPlanets, Juxtaposer or Oldbooth then another like Pictureshow, LoMobo or Snapseed to add an effect, filter or to crop and adjust or add a fake lomo/light leak. 

What do you enjoy most about photography?

It’s a good question. I like the creativity that can be achieved quite immediately. I also like painting, drawing and sculpture, but these cannot easily be done without some organization and space. I like to either report the world around me, at least the way I see it, and create a spark or sense of wonder in the viewers mind, or make a statement with creative piece of work. When I don’t have a camera with me, I feel somewhat naked and think of all missed shots. I don’t know if this is normal but wherever I look, I imagine the scene as a potential photograph. I think a lot of folk run around not seeing people or not appreciating things, which is sad. 8444921855_f029cb74f4_b

What do you try to accomplish with your photos?

It depends on the type of photograph I have produced – some I might want to inspire, some I might want to generate a sense of awe, of pleasure, of sadness or pathos. I want the image to be something worth revisiting and good enough to warrant more than one quick view. I suppose the aim of any artist is to create something that is pleasing or challenging to the eye, or to the intellect (or both). I like to capture something that is often overlooked, ignored or fleeting, or something that conveys the passing of time or the sense of motion in a single image. The famous quote from Robert Frank springs to mind: “When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” 

Your photography is so different and inspiring.Who would you say are you inspirations?

Well I’ll take your word for that…my inspirations are varied and wide. Many many painters inspire me – too many to list. I like Dada and Surrealism a lot and Cubism, but you name an art movement since the beginning of time and I’ll probably like it. In terms of photographers, all the usual suspects in the different subgenres of photography. I don’t have an outstanding single influence. 

What would be your dream shoot?

I would love to go to Japan. I’d also like to try my hand at shooting beautiful fashion people. 

Who are your favourite current artists/photographers?

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I like Boris Savelev’s work and, embarrassingly, have quite recently discovered Gerhard Richter’s work and really love the cross-over with painting and his experimental approach. There are many photographers I’ve come across on Flickr that are brilliant. 

You seem to shoot a lot with your iPhone, why is that?

Ahh, the old chestnut question. I like it because it’s always there. It is also discreet for street photography, plus I can edit on the go. The iPhone 4S has a pretty decent camera actually and whilst it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles in terms of control, and it just has a fixed lens, it can produce some pretty decent shots.

Where do you think you would be right now without photography?

I think it’s impossible to say. I think I would be more successful in my day job without the distractions, but I would certainly be less happy and would feel creatively stifled. Perhaps I would be doing more drawing or painting. I can’t actually imagine it. It sounds like hell. I hope I never go blind!

Do you have anything to say to our readers? 

Thanks for reading to the end! 
Keep shooting, playing and experimenting; be bold, get published and viewed; keep learning and enjoying it and never give up. Don’t fear criticism and failure, they are other people’s problems not yours. Stay true. At all cost avoid shooting pets and food. And can you reduce the amount of fake flying and cotton wool clouds? Just kidding.

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