It all started when...
I have always been interested in the visual since a very early age; I struggled at school with reading and developed strengths for other creative outlets. I was drawn towards art and discovered photography accidentally at collage when I took a class as a fill in subject to complete my subject quota. I quickly fell in love with the medium and spent all my available time shooting and developing my images in the darkroom. I didn’t have a progression path at this point but as my passion grew I knew I would have to take this further and by the end of my college education I was focusing on the idea of photography as a degree.
I arrived at university and was plunged into the visual communication of the image, which asked more questions than I could ever answer at the time. It forced me to deeply think why I was taking the images I was. Around this time I was introduced to street photography by a few friends and this started to get me moving in a new and exciting direction. The initial magic of photography had been matched by the excitement of heading out onto the streets and capturing moments of life. I soon became consumed by the need to venture out shooting and the hunger for the next image. At this point I was learning the techniques of shooting the streets and became in competition with my friends and needed to get better.
My next step was to become stealthier on the streets and the camera I was using was anything but that. A friend had flashed a discreet German made camera at me when I was introduced to street photography; I remember another friend ogling the small camera and seemed to make a big deal of it. To me it was almost alien but I was intrigued by this new rangefinder way of shooting and the click of the almost silent cloth shutter had piqued my interest. I ran a roll of film through one of their rangefinders while we were on a trip in Paris and I was sold on the precision and stealth like ability to shoot. I saved as much money as I could and soon invested in my first Leica.
I needed to practice and get better but this didn’t feel like practice, it was all part of the fun of shooting street. Any time I would leave the house I would take my camera with me and normally have it in my hand ready to frame any potential scene I could find. I started seeing images in all sorts of everyday life and the more I shot the nicer the images were becoming. I still needed to grow; I didn’t know what I was shooting, I was just chasing a romantic dream of the great twentieth century street photographers and at best mimicking their work.
Since then I have continued to shoot, refining my technique and eye for the next scene that I want to capture. It’s amazing how much that I have learnt along this journey and I think that’s one of the powerful things about photography; how much can be explored. I’m not only talking about the places I have visited and photos I have taken but also the process of looking at what you are doing and asking the question ‘why?’. My own practice of shooting has evolved over the ten years since I first started and this goes onto saturate my thinking now, I would like to say my eyes are open but the truth is the more you learn the more you realise the process is endless.
I think that the best way to think is that I’m very aware that I’m not aware of everything. Life is crazy and so rich if you let it be, that’s why I love shooting the images that I do. It’s amazing what real moments can compose right in front of you, I just try my best to appreciate them as they unfold around me and if I’m lucky and receptive I have a chance to capture some of them.
A FEW QUESTIONS FOR DAN
What is you favourite thing to photograph?
I would say the moments in life.
If you had to pick one lens, what would you use?
Without hesitation, a 35mm prime lens. Its field of view is similar to the human eye and as such is a perfect lens for capturing a moment with all its drama.
Do you prefer colour or black and white images?
It all depends on the image, some images only work in colour and some lend themselves very well to black and white tones. As long as they are produced well I like them both equally.
Which is your most favourite image you have ever taken?
I don’t have a favourite image of my own. You are only as good as your last photo, so I’m constantly searching for the next elusive’ best photo’.
If you were to be photographed, whom would you want taking your photo?
That’s a good question, I think it would have to be someone that can produce images that I can't, a photographer with their own image and view on life.
Do you get nervous about taking any photos?
I used to get nervous about shooting on the street but this was mixed with excitement. Now I have more of a sense of belonging to the scene I'm shooting so nerves tend to disappear and a sense of intuition takes over.
If you could travel anywhere to take photographs, where would you go?
All depend on what inspires me at the time. I would say somewhere new where I haven’t been so I have a totally fresh perspective on the place.
Have you ever got anything wrong with taking a photo?
In short yes of course I have, I believe its how we deal with it that’s important. Mistakes are part of the fabric of life and I have found that I can become my most creative when working my way around a problem. An unexpected result often sets me down a path with a whole new perspective to view it from.
Do you think you were meant to be a photographer?
I have always been drawn towards the creative all my life. Photography fell into place accidentally as a supplement to my fine art. The ability to compose a piece of work between frame lines of a camera fits me nicely and excuse the pun but just seems to click with me.
2018 - Photography talk - By The Sea, University Centre Grimsby
2017 - Photography on a postcard, The Print Space - London
All images © Dan Baker 2018