John is a British self-taught photographer from Coventry. He works mainly with black and white, using the zone system and darkroom on his fine prints. The majority of his work is based on a theme or topic, which has worked out as a series of images over time. He is well known for his landscapes and still life and his eye for detail, texture and tonal control of his work. This is portrayed in major exhibitions and books.
His books include:
His work has been exhibited worldwide and is included in many national and international collections. He has been the recipient of many Arts Council awards, a British Council Traveling Exhibition and in 1992 won the prestigious Fox Talbot Award for Photography. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.
The Stilled Gaze is a series of photographs of tulips. John worked on the series of images for 9 years mainly photographing them in his home using the available light. John has previously said his still life work is all about metaphor and gesture and that the tulips are ‘Symbols of sensuality and elegance’.
He photographed tulips for 9 years, he started on tulips accidentally. He questioned his work and stopped working on landscapes, he taught on a degree course in which he admits he always pushed critical theory away from him, one day he suddenly realized that he had to come to terms with it because it did in fact effect him and his body of work. This then spurred him on to do a postgraduate diploma and an MA in film studies. This encouraged him to write a lot (in which he didn’t find easy). When his pen dried up he decided to photograph the ‘space’ in which he writes. He then picked up his camera and there happened to be a bowl of tulips on the table… in time this became the dominant motif.
He tries to use his images as ‘the world he would like to inhabit, instead of the world in which he does’ – this is his on going fascination with the elegance, beauty and function of nature.
He works in different spaces in his house that has the right lighting at any given time – he also uses reflectors with different intensities. - might use card wrapped in foil - or a mirror – which makes the lighting very intense.
He always works with natural daylight – which means patience.
Some Quotes –
“I learned a little about tulips, not much – less perhaps than I could have learned in a few afternoons at the library. My search then was not a botanical one, nor, though I learned a little history, a historical one. I looked at images that might not otherwise have engaged my attention – obscure flower paintings, botanical illustrations – not however, as an art historian but as an image-maker seeking ideas and correspondences.”
“The tulip journey then was ultimately a visual journey, an investigation and discovery of visual possibilities. The tulip became an object of attention and fascination. It became both text and pretext for an activity of picture-making. The photographs are not finally, or not primarily, about tulips: they contain tulips. To say this is not to diminish the role of the tulip. Had the vase of flowers on the table when I made the first tentative exposures exploring the space of my kitchen been, let’s say daffodils, then the journey, if it had ever begun, would in all probability have been shorter.”
Here is a video form the archive in which John talks about various works…