FOCUS ON PHOTOGRAPHY - BEN ANKER

By Nathalie Banaigs


My life as a photographer began when following in my brother footsteps and headed off to college and become a music photographer.


My early years were spent in the school darkroom in which I spent every hour I could, learning the basics of developing negatives and printing. I studied photography at West Kent College, then at the London College of Printing before obtaining my HND in Photography at the Kent Institute of Art and Design at Rochester (now University of the Creative Arts).


By studying photography in the pre-digital age, I achieved a greater appreciation and understanding of it. My studies also enabled me to enjoy the history of photography. It was the images created by the 19th century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron that made me choose portraiture as my primary study area. Cameron’s 1867 portrait of Thomas Carlyle influenced me greatly. However, if asked who my favourite photographer is, it would be the American landscape photographer Ansel Adams.


Creating a piece of artwork is pure pleasure for the most part, but my early years as a freelancer were hectic! Still in the pre-digital age, I became a regular photographer for various business magazines. I was inspired by photographers such as the Americal photographer Edward Steichen to produce slightly more interesting business portraits. However, it was not all plain sailing. Despite arriving at locations with a head full of ideas and fully equipped, I often heard those dreaded words… ”You have five minutes” all too soon. All plans out the window, I would be rapidly scouring the location for a half-decent backdrop and praying for a large window for extra light. Added to this was the stress of not knowing whether a shot was correctly exposed and in focus until the film and contact sheet had come back from the lab! This is less of an issue with digital, but I still approach every shoot with the same care and resourcefulness as I did when I used film.


I became a regular photographer for the Acid Jazz record label and began to develop a portfolio for upcoming fashion designers, hair stylists and make-up artists. This took me in a completely new direction. My influences came from the likes of Parkinson, Bailey, Brandt, Weegee and Cartier-Bresson.


I don’t see being influenced by other photographers as a problem. One can see influences from the past in many photographers’ work of today. Icons such as Leibovitz and Rankin inspire me greatly.


Life as a photographer constantly evolves. As technology improves we have to embrace it, but we can still keep up the traditions of those who came before us. We have to be flexible in our approach to the art form. It is my appreciation of its history that manifests itself in many of my images, along with the studies of light, composition and exposure.


www.benankerphotography.co.uk


This shot was taken for The Chair hair salon in Canterbury. Studio lighting and digital. The original shot showed a lot more of her hair but I cropped and darkened down to suit my portrait portfolio. The images I take for the Chair are used for their entries in the L'Oreal Colour Trophy Awards each year.

Studio shoot for a make-up artist. The model’s name is Thandie. The make-up artist was a Kent based artist, Emily-Rose, and the image was for her book ‘How to Look Beautiful Forever’.


He was walking past me one day at that location and I had my camera. Daylight


Sir Bob Geldof. Taken at his home in Faversham for ‘A Year in the Life of Faversham”. Daylight via window. Digital.


His name is Ted and is my next door neighbour! From the series local. Studio flash.


Sir Peter Blake. Artist legend. Taken in his studio. Daylight. Film.


This one formed part of my "local" project. His name is John. This was quite a private piece really because he was a very quiet gentleman. This was taken with a view to showing that the elderly need company too. It was shot on digital using natural light through a small and frosted....so the exposure was very slow.


From the "local" series. His name is Geoff. Taken with the modelling light of my flash unit in studio. 9. Every year, a group of Dutch bikers, the Brabant Brothers, come to Kent and each year I photograph them. This guy is English and meets up with them. Studio flash.


Terry...sadly died last year. My favourite. Studio lighting. Digital. I loved the fact that he looked he could have been a member of the Krays gang...obviously I did’nt tell him that! From the "local" series.


Joe.Taken a long time ago (digital). Local. Daylight through window with black background.