Nowadays, it's very rare to encounter a professional photographer that shoots purely in analogue. David Richardson, photographer #2 in our Top 10 Interview with a Photographer series, certainly serves as an inspiration to all of us! Read on for more of his thoughts.
Is photography the only thing you do for a living or is it your living at all?
Luckily it is what I love doing and just about the only thing people would pay me to do! My plan this year is to finally get my own website and an agent. All of the jobs I’ve had have been music related, but I’m working on more fashion based shoots now. I’m still going to continue my lifestyle work and shoot whatever moves me, because when I get those photos back, there really isn’t a better feeling. Strange to be in that photography mode though. I saw a friend recently who asked about the photos I’d taken at a party the week before and I remember the party and maybe taking a few shots, It turned out I’d shot 2 rolls but those few shots are my favourites from it. I guess for those I wasn’t in a photography mindset, something deeper than that.
Alex Clapworthy was introduced to you with the words, “David Richardson, the most mother [freakin’] rock and roll photographer in London”. Is rock and roll how you would describe your work?
It’s taken a while to find my own style, a lot of experimenting and a lot of dead cameras. A lot of my mates are musicians or adventurers, so I end up on adventures with them and the most uninhibited people and best light is at dawn.. My friend pointed out that a lot of my best pictures are the ones where I don’t almost end up killing myself so I’m taking that on board! So no more lessons in how to almost get beaten up by 10 Somalis for taking an unwanted picture or searching for that legendary angle that has felled many a photographer before.
A lot of my best work is scarred by necessity. I brought a tonne of ancient fast film and it’s gradually got worse and worse, now it’s pretty useless. I think the last photo from it worked best, it’s of a grotesque stripper with breasts like islands sticking a candle somewhere whilst her innocent little pink princess bag lay behind, it added to the trashy element of it all. But I love grain, just like I love some valve distortion.
For the record Alex is a legend! There should be more people like him in the record industry. Good people with balls and great taste! PicturesMusic is a fantastic idea, music and photography. What more do you need?
You’re also in a band, would you say that there are many similarities to making music and “making” photos?
Not anymore, Lee is busy with Id&ego design and I’m shooting too much. I still write but I don’t know if I’m getting worse or my ears are getting better.. But I guess they both work on harmony and composition, the melody and rhythm are your subject. There’s got to be a lot of soul and I think space is always good.
Your work very often has a romantic edge, even in some of the more “rock and roll” pieces. Would you agree with this and is it something you seek to bring out in your work?
Thank you. Some people see that. I wasn’t aware at first and thought that maybe that meant that it was cheesy, cause when I think of romantic movies I feel queasy, but then there’s always a Manhattan to change your mind. Romance is not just beaming faces and sweaty panting. It’s past all that. In a photography sense what appeals to me is the expressions and body language that people give out when they’re not aware of anything else in the world. When they’re probably not even aware of anybody but themselves and are lost there.
You shoot in exclusively analogue these days, why is that?
Digital is just not good enough. The colours, highlights and tonal depth are still are way behind. Also noise is disgusting and I love grain! When you’ve taken a photo that you love digitally and you know it could be better if it was film, well why do that to yourself? I know people who spend hours in photoshop emulating a film look. I’d rather be out there shooting with a camera and one that I would not be afraid of breaking because it means so much to me rather than because it cost a grand or so. I’ve used a friend’s P65 back and it’s still not as good as 120. Then there’s that elusive quality that film has, it is more real than life and even more beautiful.
What cameras do you use, which one was your first love and how do you decide what to grab on your way out the door?
I guess my Yashica T5 because it’s small and light, with an incredible lens and practical focal length, it’s also simple so you focus on what really matters in front of you. I also have a Contax G2 which is simply the best camera ever made.. err along with the Mamiya 7 that I rented once. A Fuji 645. I haven’t seen the results yet. I’m looking forward to using the Lomo LC-A+ more, that was a wonderful camera so light and fast because of how it focuses. I have a Mamiya RZ67 which has a broken back.. hopefully not the gears.. after my bag strap broke at an airport, thankfully after the shoot. I have love affairs with all of these. I guess my dead Minolta Autocord was the most intimate relationship. I had a Rolliecord as well, but this camera was beautiful.
As well as covering live performers and events you also compose shoots. Can you describe your process? Do you already have in mind what shots you will take and how they will look?
Sometimes. It’s good to build a narrative, a story for your subject. But it’s all about them to me. I am so bored of fashion that is full of mangled robot poses and angry pouting. There’s nothing there. I want to get the most out of the person in the most natural way possible. Have fun I say.
Describe the perfect photo shoot or photo opportunity.
The sexy funk singer Betty Davis around mid 70s with an early 80s freaky Prince. I couldn’t imagine anything better, maybe throw young Keith Richards and Grace Kelly in the mix too. That would be something special!
What is photography for you?
Photography is about the story outside of a photograph.
Any parting words of wisdom you would like to leave us with?
Don’t be scared of shooting what you’re interested in. Go out and dig for the gold.