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“Print – The Purest Form of Image Making” | An interview with Clive Booth


by Javan Bramhall – October 8th, 2013

Clive Booth is a fashion, beauty and portrait photographer, plus filmmaker. He is known for his distinctive style of selective focus in natural, available, continuous and found light, which gives his work an atmospheric, intimate and ethereal quality.

Recent commissions include ad campaigns, commercials and short films for George Michael, Asus, Intel, House of Amouage, H&M, Ernst & Young, Fiat, Shu Uemura and L’Oreal. His clients include Louis Vuitton, Silhouette Eyewear, MAC Cosmetics and The Mail on Sunday, You magazine

Clive Booth photographer

Clive Booth

Hi Clive, can you tell us a bit more about your style of photography?

I think to answer that I need to say what inspires me.

There are three wonderful photographers whose work has been inspirational for me.

First of all, the work of Edward Curtis, who captured thousands of images of Native Americans on plate cameras, and whose images by necessity had a very shallow depth of field. This gave them astonishing atmosphere.

Secondly, the portraits of George Hurrell, who was the leading portrait photographer in Hollywood during its golden age – his use of light was simply stunning.

Finally, and perhaps obvious to many photographers is Henri Cratier-Bresson, who quite simply made great portrait photography look easy with his ability to do that magic thing of still photography – to capture a moment in time.

In my photography I’m looking to control where the viewer looks in the frame, I do this by isolating areas of the image with selective focus – I’m trying to give my images an atmospheric, impressionistic and ethereal quality. I’m also particularly interested in the idea of abstraction; in particular, how much you can take away from an image, with the core element staying recognisable and distinct.

The other thing I’m inspired and passionate about is beauty. There is beauty everywhere and in everything. It could be a cigarette butt on the street, a pair of shoes or perhaps more obviously in models. This beauty, as with all things in photography then needs my final obsession; light.

As a photographer, you become obsessed with light, you follow it, you constantly see light and how it will affect your image. You need a beautiful subject, and you need to light. It is the use of light which creates the atmosphere and the effect of composition with the selective focus which I hope stands out in my images.

Clive Booth images

As someone who also works with moving image, in what ways does what you’re looking to capture change between still and moving image?

The first thing to say, is that I think photographers make great film makers. Perhaps the best example of this is Stanley Kubrick, and it is his work which is my greatest inspiration in film making, specifically in the way his films were shot.

The reason photographers can make great film makers is because the core elements of light, subject matter and focus remain. Photographers also direct their subjects. I believe if you have an eye for these things, you can make great films.

The criticism that is laid against many photographers turned film makers is a lack of movement. The still image is too ingrained.

Creating movement is one ingredient to good film making. This can be created by the movement of the camera, on dolly and tracks, kib arms, handheld, or alternatively, by the movement of the subject. The ability for your subject to move presents almost infinite possibilities. It may sound obvious but this is the key difference between still and moving image.

Clive recently created a video, talking about the process of making prints.

The greatest gift any photographer can give to their friends, family, colleagues or piers is a signed print, which they have made themselves. If I give you a digital file to say thank you, you might save it to your desktop or put it on Facebook – but it essentially meaningless, it has no real value, it may as well be sent from an iphone on Instagram.

canvasContrast that with having a carefully crafted and controlled framed print that you have in your house.

You live with it and hopefully you love and cherish it.

A an image maker, when I shoot a picture, I want people to see it on paper; that is where it truly stands out and put simply this is the most accurate representation I can give of my work, I control every aspect of the print process. People don’t buy digital files, they buy prints, because they are real.

I also believe that having a real, tactile and signed print has more value today than it’s ever had. So much of our world is online, virtual, transient and disposable and so little is real.

I have always been a purist, and the darkroom process was a pure process.  I believe that the digital darkroom is no less challenging or rewarding, we have more control now than previously, but producing a print, from capture all the way through to the final print is a wonderfully pure and rewarding process whether in a conventional darkroom or the digital darkroom.

What would you say to photographers who send their images off to print externally? In essence – why do your own printing?

Put simply, image makers need to ask themselves the following question:

Does the person at the other end care as much about your image and print as you do?

There are people that do, but there services (deservedly) cost quite a lot of money! I believe for that money, you can take control of your own printing.

The technology is available, it is easy to use and understand and by owning and running the process yourself, you are in control. A fully colour managed workflow is achievable and as photographers we should take more responsibility for our own work

Why is colour accuracy so important in this process?
X-Rite colour management tools are a critical part of my workflow, the process wouldn’t work without them.

Before I was using a colour managed workflow my wastage in ink, paper and time was astonishing.

Having colour accuracy through a calibrated screen and custom made ICC profiles for my ink and paper combinations plus a calibrated printer means that the time I spend is not on reprinting to get colour right, but by working on things which will improve my image, selective sharpening, noise reduction etc.

What do you get from a printed image, which you don’t on screen?

When you show someone a print of an image, they react. It is this reaction which is so different.

Prints also stand the test of time, with new technology prints are archival for in excess of 100 years, not only are prints the purest form of image making, they are also the most robust and meaningful.

My single most prized possession is a print.

It’s a print signed by Alfred Gregory and given to me personally. Gregory was the photographer on the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, and it is of Hilary and Tenzing having a cup of tea just after returning from the summit.

This is a treasure, and it is only a treasure because it is a print. Setting aside its historical significance, it was created by the man who took the photograph, printed for me and given to me as a present. I know what was involved in its creation and how much care was taken, and I know what the image meant to the man personally.

That’s the power of a print.

Thanks Clive, great to talk to you

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