Paint & Photography

Today I read a short article in a magazine that mentioned two former photographers who have turned their back on the medium and now work in paint. Not that there is anything wrong with that, although so many photographers – Henri Cartier Bresson certainly the most notable among them – who have done so have ended up being rather indifferent painters. And I can think of others who have shown paintings based on their reputation as photographers who have been considerably worse than Henri.

Equally we see shows of photographic work by painters or writers that are frankly embarrassing.  Even giants like Picasso never quite became a master of the camera, and people who have produced work of interest in both painting and photography are pretty rare – Charles Sheeler and Paul Nash come to mind – or find ways to use the photographic medium that in a way that is not really photographic in the normal sense – like Hockney‘s joiners. Of course some photographers had worked rather like him previously – its something most of us have done from time to time on a rather smaller scale, and some had done it rather more cleverly, but no one before him had done it as a famous artist!

May photographers have of course benefited from a training as artists that may well have involved them in painting and drawing, and it may even help them in their photographic work, but photography is really a very different medium and requires us to work in different ways.

I’ve not I think made a serious attempt to paint anything since my art classes in secondary school, though I have from time to time produced some seriously bad drawings which I have the sense not to show people.  I did spend several years making screen prints based on some of my photographs – and even sold a few of them – and while doing this I would often make quick sketches using paint, mainly to work out the colours I was going to use, and some of the people who saw these did suggest I should take up painting, but it never interested me.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
This is where I was hit by paint
© 2011, Peter Marshall
Most of which was aimed at the doors (here lit by a red flare)
© 2011, Peter Marshall
or the police

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself rather more intimately connected with paint than was either healthy or convenient, hit by a paintball, possibly aimed at the police while I was photographing them making an arrest outside Topshop on Oxford St.  Fortunately most of it soaked and washed off my shoes, jacket and trousers, and even almost all from the jumper that took the direct hit, but the shirt underneath had to go in the bin.  The D700 got rather a lot of paint on it, the D300 a little less, but both kept on working – and so did I for a couple more hours, though I took 20 minutes out to scrape and wipe off the worst.

Finally last Friday I managed to get the pictures that I took while covered with paint on to the web,  along with the rest of the work from the long day of the march:

I’ve now scraped most of the paint off the cameras themselves, though some of the rubber surfaces won’t clean off entirely. There is still paint I can’t easily get off the camera straps and camera bag.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
People do react to a paint-covered photographer

Since then all I’ve had thrown over me while taking pictures has been feathers and flower petals, neither of which leave a permanent stain.

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