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Transitions To Large Format - part 1 of 1 2

by Paul Gallagher Published 01/10/2006


Paul Gallagher produces fine art limited edition prints for sale under his own name and is represented in galleries throughout the UK. His wife, Michele, a qualified photographer in her own right, acts as his agent. With a degree in geology and an initial training at Art College he is well placed to work and create in the landscape. He shot to national prominence when being filmed for an ITV documentary feature about his other job, in the Environmental Agency, called, Dumping on Britain. The camera crew passed on their observations to the producer about his photography and this suddenly became a significant part of the documentary. It has been followed by an appearance on Trevor MacDonald's evening programme and yet more invites to speak and exhibit. Paul is presently represented by 17 galleries.

I started photography, as many do, when I was just leaving school. Whilst at Art College, I would use any battered camera that I could get my hands on until I was given my father's Olympus OM20. At this time I was being handed projects such as, "Go out today and find photographs that contain vertical emphasis", or, "Collect a series of images showing texture and form". Even at this time I knew that this was my grounding for photography and the lecturers were endeavouring to teach me to 'see' as apposed to simply 'looking'.

I spent many a day trawling the streets of Southport in Lancashire shooting roll after roll of FP4 and FP5 then heading back to the darkroom to process and print. All this was to take a sudden 'U' turn when I discovered the books of Ansel Adams. Firstly, it was not just the fantastic grandeur of the Yosemite National Park or the pictorial nature of the photographs that captivated me, but the tonal rendition and critically sharp reproduction of the scene. I now felt I had a bench mark, a standard to aspire to.

At the tender age of sixteen I was not able to afford the large format equipment so I made best with what I could, aiming for the finest, slowest emulsions available. I settled with Kodak Technical Pan (which sadly has just gone out of production) and I could see that although other films I had used gave good results, this was in a league of its own. At this time I had my first car and began trips to quieter locations in the countryside where I could spend time on what I wanted to photograph, landscapes. I spent many a month learning to push the quality of this film/camera combination which gave me great satisfaction, but when I revisited the books of large format landscape pioneers it became more apparent that 35mm was not going to satisfy me.

I decided that the only way to get the camera I wanted was to offer for sale my treasured and very genuine set of Beatles autographs. Yes, this meant that much!! After a decisive moment bartering in the office of an official collector, the funds were released and within a week I was the proud owner of the tank-like Mamiya RB67. Because of the increase in negative size I was able to leave the 25 ASA film alone and began using Ilford's Delta 100. The transition in image quality and definition was astounding to me and I became adept in the use of this monster piece of gear. Essentially this is regarded by many as a studio camera and considering its weight you can see why. Not to mention the weight of the tripod that prevents it blowing around on a breezy day!

I spent years and shot hundreds of rolls of film using this camera, and I can say with complete confidence that it never let me down once. Because I was using the same camera, lenses and film for such a period it became second nature to me. To stop the car and set up to catch a particular frame was a smooth, orchestrated manoeuvre. I had a system that I became completely reliant upon. In fact many of these images collected over the years formed the large part of my successful Associateship Panel of photographs submitted to the Royal Photographic Society. But further changes were afoot.

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1st Published 01/10/2006
last update 18/07/2022 16:31:49

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Updated 18/07/2022 16:31:49 Last Modified: Monday, 18 July 2022