Peter Allum is Assistant Director at the IMF. He joined the IPS in 2015 and has delivered strong visual images in many of the monthly competitions.
What’s the secret behind his great photos? Here’s a brief interview.
Qn: When did you discover your passion for photography?
Ans: I caught the photography bug only recently. I’ve always had an interest in the visual arts, and loved seeing photography in museums and galleries. When my son signed up for a school photography class a couple of years ago, it sparked an interest. I bought a mid-70s Canon F1 and started to shoot, sometimes with him. There’s something very appealing about working with old film cameras, and I soon had a newer F1, a mid-70s Hasselblad, a 1959 Leica M2, a fold-out 1950s Voigtlander, and a 1940s box camera. It’s amazing how cameras built 50 or 60 years ago still produce great photos. My best competition outcome so far (first place in the December IPS event) was taken with the 1959 Leica.
Qn: How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera onto the film, chip or paper in just the way you want?
I don’t do much in the way of staged photography, so most of my work is dealing with the world as it is. I think I have a fairly good visual eye, perhaps from my long interest in the arts. Looking through the viewfinder, I will move the camera around trying to get something interesting, balanced, with good light. But it usually doesn’t work. If I get a couple of good shots a day, that’s success!
Qn: What kind of photography are you drawn to?
Ans: I’m more of an urban than nature photographer. I’d like to get more people into my photos, so that’s a challenge for the year ahead.
Qn: Do you share your photos anywhere?
Ans: You’ll find a few photos on my Flickr site. More to come…
Qn: Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing?
Ans: One of my vices is spending too much on photo books, and while they are inspirational, none have dominated my efforts. I love the Czech photographer, Josef Sudek. His still-life photos of different objects like glasses and bottles in front of his rain-covered studio window are wonderful. One of my recent honorable mentions was inspired by that. It was a hot day in the summer, and I sprayed the window with a hose to make it look like rain drops. The list of my favorite photographers is long, but would include Diane Arbus, Mary Ellen Mark, Nicholas Nixon, and Garry Winogrand.
Qn: Exactly what is it you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?
Ans: I love photographs that have a strong emotional content. My goal is to move further in that direction—to take photos that spark an emotional reaction, more than being technically good.
Qn: How do you balance work and your passion?
Cartier Bresson said “your first 10,000 photos are your worst”! So I’ve got at least 9,000 more bad photos to take! Finding time with a demanding job as well as two teenagers is a challenge. On holiday, I often sneak out at sunrise while everyone is still sleeping in. When I eventually retire, I’ll have more opportunities. But there’s a lot to learn. For example, I’d love to take classes in darkroom printing.
Qn: Can you share one goal you hope to achieve in 2017 in regards to your photography?
Ans: I recently went digital (Fuji X100T). The photo resolution and light sensitivity is fantastic, but the range of menu options is terrifying. Don McCullin once said “I only use a camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job.” Shot by shot, I want to make my X100T as instinctive as a toothbrush!
Thank you Peter, it has been great chatting you. Wish you all the best in the New Year.