I live in the beautiful seaside town of St Ives in Cornwall which provides a truly magical light for artists and photographers. I grew up in a house full of photographs and cameras and from as early as I can remember I was fascinated by the stories of people and places that were in those photographs. It’s the stories that photographs tell, that continue to inspire me to make pictures today.
My approach to making photographs is to try and capture something real about a moment, so I try to produce images that are un-forced and un-posed. Whether its a momentary slit of sunlight dancing on the sea, or the look between a bride and her father waiting to walk up the aisle, I know the best thing I can do to make a picture, is to leave things alone, look for the light and anticipate the moment.
When I’m not making photographs, or playing one of my guitars, or walking along the beach, or cooking, or hanging out with my closest friends, I try to claim a few hours for myself, where I try to do relax and enjoy this jewel of St Ives. I am available for commission anywhere in the world, especially Thailand and South East Asia, because its beautifully photogenic and the rain is warm.
Below is the story of how I came to love photography and developed a passion for photographing people. It’s also about my dad Humphrey, who was a professional photographer and taught me how to see something special.
I developed a passion for photography very early on. My father had a busy studio where he’d photograph an endless procession of babies, family groups and hopeful entertainers. He said that the soft natural light from the south facing window which filled one end of the spacious warehouse, made people light up from the inside. Outside of the studio he’d cover 3 weddings a week and still find time and energy to photograph his own family at play as we were growing up. Dad with a camera in his hand could transform a seemingly ordinary task like building a shed in the garden into a timeless moment worth remembering and our long summer days on the beach in St Ives became unforgettable memories.
Our house was was an extension of his passion; we were surrounded by cameras, hand printed black and white photographs and the smell of dark room chemicals. As a child I would spend hours hanging out watching my Dad perform magic, making faces appear on blank sheets of paper. As I grew older, he let me in on the secrets of film processing and encouraged me to make my own prints. Even now, watching a photograph develop has me holding my breath every time I see it.
In later years I had the opportunity to complete the circle and help my Dad get to grips with digital processing – I don’t know why I’m surprised, but he appeared just as amazed at the digital darkroom as I was with the wet process.
Looking back, it seems that I must have acquired my early knowledge of photography by osmosis, though I vividly remember Dad placing a heavy camera in my hands and encouraging me to wait until I saw something I liked, then to gently squeeze the shutter. That’s pretty much what I still love doing – Thanks to my Dad’s contagious enjoyment of making photographs and his gentle encouragement, photography has developed into the passion of a lifetime.
Later on I became fascinated in the power that an image has to tell a story – I went to film school where I found myself more inspired by the real life stories of ordinary people than by the stylish Art House genre that excited my friends. I got involved in documentary video production and taught myself to program interactive multimedia software to combine my loves of music, video and photography. By a twist of good fortune I found myself in the right place at the right time at the start of the Dot Com Bubble and spent a few fun years playing guitar in a band and freelancing as a multimedia developer with creative companies all over London. During that period, although I was surrounded by powerful images and fantastic graphic design, I did not think about photography as a job, I just enjoyed it.
A big part of my journey was about discovering the importance of being true to myself and not sacrificing my creative vision. So now that I am focusing on my long time passion for photographing people, I feel that it’s important to bring my own energy and style to my work rather than chasing short term fads and fashions. So more than ever I still follow the original advice that my father gave me, I wait until I see something special and squeeze the shutter.
Humphrey Noall 1932 – 2012