Photographer exhibits cutting edge project on urban landscapes and the city

Featured on the blog today is photographer Charles Brabin, whose project Seeing The Unseen is being exhibited and launches next week! Charles speaks to us about his project and upcoming exhibition.

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Whilst photography takes up much (and seemingly ever more) of my free time, I am a scientist by background, having studied biology and then a PhD in genetics, before qualifying in law. I work in digital format, mainly in black and white, with a focus on urban and industrial scenes on the one hand, and landscapes and the natural world on the other.

I am based in Oxford, though I try to take advantage of travel opportunities where possible; new places lead to new photos!

As a biologist, my earliest efforts with the camera were directed towards animals; photographs offer a way of capturing and sharing the beauty of the natural world. As I discovered more about how the camera works – about the potential for experimenting with different approaches – I wanted to explore the possibilities on offer.

The featured series is called Seeing The Unseen; the title reflects the way in which the photographs visualise elements of everyday life which we often fail to notice. My aim is to highlight the hidden, inherent beauty in our surroundings; the camera reveals a new, fascinating and attractive world.

Contrasts, patterns, textures and shapes are often the focus of my work. I also try to make use of the unique view on the world which the camera offers: photographs can show us our surroundings in the absence of colour, highlighting differences in light and shade; they can reveal the details of seemingly pitch black nightscapes; they can capture the dynamism of our environment which our eyes struggle to discern.

A number of pieces in the exhibition feature locations in London and Oxfordshire, offering local viewers a different perspective on familiar places. However, several of the photographs are from further afield, both within and outside the UK; my aim has been to create an exhibition which is of interest and relevance to a broad range of visitors.

Photography is such a rich field, my experience is that inspiration can come from many individuals, each with their own approach, even where the subject matter is very different to one’s own. Seeing how established names developed their own techniques, working through trial and error and with the spirit of experimentation, is hugely important and a great source of encouragement.

If I had to pick one person though, Michael Kenna has been particularly influential. As well as capturing the beauty of unspoilt landscapes, he can also produce mesmerising images of man-made environments, with his power station studies offering just one example. To me, his work demonstrates the spectacular results which can be achieved when an eye for a powerful scene is combined with a willingness to spend time seeking out and becoming familiar with the subject material of the photograph.         

Seeing The Unseen is on at the Cornerstone Arts Centre Gallery (free admission) in Didcot, Oxfordshire, from 15th October to 15th November.

The gallery is just a few minutes walk from Didcot railway station, on the line from London. Click for full details.

Seeing The Unseen is focused on urban and industrial scenes, but landscapes are another area of particular interest for me. Building this aspect of my portfolio with a view to exhibiting in the near future is one of my aims at the moment. In addition, perhaps like everyone else, I have a long list of places to explore. There are so many scenes waiting to be photographed; the challenge is to find them, catch the best conditions and make the most of what is on offer.


Charles Brabin

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