In our latest interview featuring creative people in North East England we talk to Hexham-based landscape photographer and writer David Taylor.
Where in the North East are you based?
I live in Hexham, just twenty minutes’ drive from Hadrian’s Wall Country.
How would you describe your work?
I’m a landscape and architectural photographer who lives and works in the north east of England. I’m particularly inspired by the Northumberland countryside, from the craggy landscape of Hadrian’s Wall to the wild moorlands of the Cheviot hills.
How did you get into photography?
I borrowed my school’s camera (and there was only one…) when I was studying A-Level art, and was immediately hooked. There’s something compelling about making an image in a small fraction of a second without the need for pen or pencil! I’ve always liked being outdoors so landscape photography seemed the most natural fit.
What are you most proud of as a photographer?
I’ve written forty books and contributed to many others. These books have either been about photography techniques and equipment, or about Northumberland. I didn’t start out with the intention of combining writing with photography but I’m proud of the fact that I’ve achieved that.
What do you most enjoy photographing and why?
Water in is a fascinating subject. How it appears in the final photo depends on a number of factors, such as how it’s illuminated to the length of exposure used. I could quite cheerfully spend all day just photographing watery subjects such as the sea.
What inspires you?
The quality of light on a landscape. Light changes throughout the day, varying depending on where the sun is in the sky and the current weather condition. It means you can revisit the same location over and over again and still see and shoot something different each time. I find this both challenging – you can’t know precisely what will work and what won’t until you get to a location and see how it’s illuminated – and creatively inspiring.
What influence, if any does North East England have upon your work?
I’m from Newcastle originally and grew up there. I spent a lot of time on the coast when I was young, as well as camping in places like Gosforth Park. That early exposure to the landscape of the North East is something that has been very influential. As much as I like travelling and visiting other parts of the world, I can’t see me wanting to stop photographing in and around the North East.
What has been your most challenging photographic creation?
I’m always a bit suspicious of photos that happen easily! They somehow don’t feel earned. It’s those images that require work or perseverance to achieve that tend to be my favourites. One shot – the view down Henhole in the College Valley in the Northumberland National Park – took six hours of trudging in rain across wet moorland to achieve. It was at the point that I was more than ready to go home that the sun finally broke out. The resulting photo took just a few minutes to set up and shoot, but this more than made up for the fact that I was soaking wet and still have a long walk ahead of me.
Do you have any tips for up and coming photographers?
Photography has a reasonably steep learning curve but it’s not impossible to understand the basics of how an image is made. Once you’ve achieved this it’s just a question of practise to refine how and what you shoot. Be prepared to take creative risks and make mistakes; it’s often the mistakes you make that give you the greatest insight in how you can improve your photography. Don’t give up and have fun!
What other photographers or artists inspire you?
Although he’s not a landscape photographer, Elliott Erwitt is one of my favourite photographers. His documentary photography is full of humanity and often wickedly funny. For me, there’s nothing better than curling up on a wet, grey day with one of his photography anthologies. I’ve tried to shoot like Erwitt and wasn’t that successful. It was a good indicator that I should stick to landscape…
What are your ambitions for the future?
To keep on learning about photography. It’s such a big subject that’s impossible to know everything. It’s a worthwhile ambition to try though!
See more of David Taylor’s photography at: www.davidtaylorphotography.co.uk
The Beast from the East hits the Northumberland National Park. Photo David Taylor