John Heseltine Photographics

observations of the everyday and all that might be implied

Month: June, 2013

Of French garlic, digital imagery and vinyl LPs … is it all too easy ?




For many years I have used digital cameras for my commissioned work and have been relieved at how much easier it has made many aspects and relieved the stress of a lot of time and money riding on a few sheets of fragile film. But for my own projects I have felt digital photography is too easy, surely it should all seem harder and require more thought ? Aesthetically, the digital image which new powerful sensors encourage, squeaky clean with a wide dynamic range and little noise is not something I always admire although I have to admit to the freedom to experiment and monitor the results straight away is hard to overestimate. Even if it does mean endless hours of my life involve computers. But I like film grain, imperfection, surprises, interference just as I love my vast collection of vinyl LPs and you cannot beat the warmth they lend to the human voice and to acoustic instruments; but now and then my CDs come close enough, depending on the music and my mood. Can the same be said of digital imagery ?

I used to photograph fruit and vegetables frequently for my own interest and would use quite a bit of film and many hours on a single piece to try and achieve a satisfactory result. A week ago I bought a bulb of fresh garlic from my market at St Jean d’Angély just because they were so beautiful. It sat around in the kitchen sulking, waiting for its portrait to be taken and this morning, noticing it was extra moody and no longer quite as fresh I decided to make a photograph of it before putting it to a culinary use. Ten minutes with the camera and five minutes on the computer and, voila ! Well, actually I ended up redoing it three further times before I was happy and I used a lens that is as vintage as myself. But the total time spent was still a fraction of my film versions. Is it less worthwhile for the relatively brief period of time expended or for being created digitally ? I still can’t decide.


King’s Cross & St Pancras 1984-2010

King’s Cross & St Pancras 1983

King's Cross area 1984-2010

One fascinating aspect of photography is how it can graphically show how a place alters over time. Urban change used to seem an incremental thing but now an entire landscape can be altered with alarming speed. In the early 1980s I opened my first studio in a redeveloped area behind King’s Cross and St Pancras stations. The building was right next to the railway so I learned to coordinate the long exposures of the large format camera with the pauses between the departing 125 trains as they accelerated northwards shaking the entire building in their wake. Occasionally in my spare time I wandered around the area knowing that it was undergoing big changes, but nobody could imagine the massive redevelopment that has been taking place recently. I returned 30 years later to find that the distinctive Victorian gasometers, the narrow sooty cobbled streets, shabby industrial units and reputation for seediness is now wiped clean to make way for a flagship urban regeneration project.


King's Cross area 1984-2010  King's Cross area 1984-2010  King's Cross area 1984-2010

King's Cross area 1984-2010

King's Cross area 1984-2010

King's Cross area 1984-2010

King's Cross area 1984-2010

My next post will show what these areas look like 30 years on.

See more of these images on the Alamy website at: