Hands-on photographer’s exhibition

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Peter Greenhalf at the Discovery Centre

Monday August 1, saw the changeover of artist’s work on the Discovery Centre Art Wall. Incoming photographer, Peter Greenhalf, is a long time member of the Friends of the Reserve. The show runs until the end of September.

What formal or informal training did you have?

Back when I wanted to study photography, the only three-year course available was at Blackpool Art College, so that’s where I got my qualification. After I qualified, I became an assistant in a photography studio before going on to start my own business.

Who inspired you as you were beginning on your creative path?
In the 1970s, America led the world in creative photography and so those photographers were my main influence. I was very inspired, and still am, by the work of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Alfred Steiglitz.

Did you grow up in a creative household? Your brother is also talented. Is it a family trait?

Various members of my family were creative: my mum carved wood and wrote poetry and, of course, my brother Bob has been drawing and painting since he was a young child.

Where is your favourite place on the reserve or in Sussex to photograph?
I really enjoy taking photographs on the beach at low tide and around the Mary Stanford Lifeboat house. In Sussex I love photographing the sweeping curves of the South Downs. As I work mainly in black and white, I am particularly drawn to the graphic shapes of fields and hedgerows. As someone who is really intrigued by the relationship between our early ancestors and the current landscape, I am fascinated by remains like long barrows and tumuli. Outside Sussex I have photographed a wide range of ancient sites from the Highlands of Scotland to Cornwall.

Peter Greenhalf

What advice would you give a youngster starting out as a photographer today?
To be a successful photographer I would say that you need to be passionate about your subject. It’s important to photograph the thing that holds your interest, whether it be fashion, portraiture or landscape. If you aren’t really interested in a subject its very hard to take anything other than a superficial photograph. Nowadays, there is so much high quality photography from all over the world available on the internet, I would suggest spending time just looking, and finding photographers or styles of photography that appeal.

Could you tell me a bit more about shadowgrams? Where did you discover the art and learn the technique?
I am particularly interested in the development of photography and specialise in historical processes such as cyanotype, Van Dyke, gum-bichromate and salt printing. Cyanotype shadowgrams are one of the oldest of photography processes and the images are made without a camera. Each cyanotype is unique and is created by painting a colourless, light-sensitive solution onto watercolour paper. Objects such as leaves and flowers are placed onto the sensitised paper and then everything is exposed to sunlight. Once the paper has been exposed, it is washed to reveal a white image against the blue (cyan) background. I taught myself the technique in order to explore the creative potential of the process.

You process your own work in a darkroom? What is the advantage of this? 
I shoot with traditional film which I process myself and then develop the resulting photographs in my own darkroom in a variety of ways (some of them, like cyanotypes, don’t even involve using a camera). The negative becomes a jumping off point for a number of possible techniques. Personally, it is the hands-on quality of these processes I enjoy the most: developing and hand-toning photographs gives an element of unpredictability that I enjoy. It’s a world away from the total control you get when you create a digital image.

What are you exhibiting in your new show?
I’m exhibiting a range of work including hand-printed black and white landscape photographs of the beach at Rye Harbour and cyanotypes of flowers and leaves. These are currently on show in the Discovery Centre and will be there until the end of September. I will also have work in the Rye Society of Artists’ show at the Dance Centre, Conduit Hill from Saturday August 6 for a month.

Image Credits: Kt bruce , Peter Greenhalf .

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