Catch it while you can!

Of course I’m not talking about coronavirus here, which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. What I’m referring to is my interview on BBC Somerset, which is only available until some time on the 15th March, so the link I’m posting below won’t work after that date.

The interview by BBC Somerset Radio’s evening presenter Charlie Taylor came about as a result of the launch of my outdoor exhibition in Frome which features 13 images from What Happened Here, my long-term art/photo-documentary project on the Saxonvale site.

I went along to talk about my work, the origins of What Happened Here and about how Mendip District Council came to sponsor the public exhibition of the work.

You can listen via this link and I kick in about 15 minutes from the show’s start.

So yes, enjoy it while you can and feel free to drop any comments or contact me with any questions.

Get Some Gander and Pig In Your Ears

That’s probably the skinniest picture I’ve ever posted on my blog, but if you dare to click the play button you’ll get to hear my voice via the miracle of the internet.

Artist David Chandler interviews local artists and creative people for his Seeing Things programme on Frome FM, but he decided to interview me during the Faces of Routes exhibition. Sadly, due to a backlog of interviews, it couldn’t go up before the exhibition closed, but it’s an interesting interview in any event. Especially during the bits where I’m not talking.

Do listen to the end or you’ll miss the interview with printmaker Chris Pig. That’s two farmyard animals for the price of one!

Case Study: Communicate Magazine

A call out of the blue from a completely new client is always welcome, so in January when the editor of Communicate Magazine called me and asked if I could shoot some profile photos of an interviewee in Bristol, I was happy to pick up the brief.

Communicate Magazine, “The single voice for stakeholder relations,” focuses on PR and communications within the business world as opposed to PR and marketing to the buying public. One of its regular features is an interview with someone involved in PR or marketing, talking about their motivations, background, experiences and so on.

My task was to take strong profile portraits of Dan Panes, head of communications for First Great Western, at Bristol Temple Meads station.

When I met Dan at the station car park he was on the phone being interviewed by the Communicate editor. In fact he was on the phone for quite some time (it’s the nature of the job sometimes that you have to wait for the journalist to get their job done before you can start yours), in which time the weather went from cold, but dry, to hailstones and a blustery wind.

As Dan came off the phone and we got to say hello properly, it was obvious we were going to have to take the shots undercover. We did have a go at one location, but as hail stones started to bounce off our heads, we dashed for the main station.

We opted to do the shots on Platform 1. Not a simple task as I needed to take photos which would lend themselves to having text laid over. Too much clutter and distraction wouldn’t help this cause, and railway stations are often visually chaotic places on the whole, what with signs, gantries, people, barriers and, of course, trains all jostling for attention. The other problem was the light, or lack thereof. Dan reminded me I couldn’t use flash on a platform, so we moved further along to where the overhead canopy ended so I could get as much of the almost non-existent daylight on him as possible.

While this helped ease the distractions of having people, trains and signs in the background, it did bring in the mass of parked bikes, but in the final design I think the semi-opaque graphic overlay has helped relieve this to ensure the text remains legible.

The sweeping curve of the canopy and rails pull the viewer’s eye to Dan and create impact and direction to the photo. I tried a couple of other angles and locations around the station as well as upright options, but this is the only one which tells the viewer we’re looking at someone connected to rail travel, all the other options being more abstract.

I enjoy the challenge of making a picture work in circumstances which are less than ideal, and taking into account the considerations for page layout, the weather, location and the fact that you can’t spend all day on a set of pictures of a busy person, the resulting images worked well within the article.

Communicate’s editor was pleased with what I submitted, and to be honest it doesn’t matter how happy I am with a set of photos, it’s the client’s opinion which matters.

pix improves

Back in July 2012 I stumbled across something called pix magazine and was so taken aback by it’s absurd fixation on girlie accessories for female photographers, other wise known as photographers, that I felt compelled to lay into it.

My problem with that edition of the magazine was its focus on pretty fripperies like flowery camera straps, pretty shoes and make-up and seemed to be written from the point of view of people who really didn’t have a clue what photography is beyond an excuse to buy pretty things. For a photographic magazine aimed at women photographer it featured very few photographers talking about their work or giving guidance on how to break into a male-dominated industry.

When the Spring 2013 issue dropped into my inbox I took another look. I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised with the transformation. This time around there is more focus on working photographers. This edition focusses on travel photography, so there’s plenty of scope for pretty pictures and they are present in abundance.

Cover of pix magazine

The latest edition of pix magazine. Big improvement!

The copy is still fairly light and a little fluffy for my tastes; photographers talking about capturing emotions and moments is something of a cliché and I still wish there was a magazine out there for people (of either gender) wanting to know more about the stories behind photographers who’ve made a success of their work. It would be nice to know the stories of photographers who have failed once or twice so we could all learn from their experiences. Stories of photographers who “love to capture the moment” aren’t really that interesting.

There are still articles on buying groovy kit, but then I suppose a magazine has to attract advertisers if it is to survive. I remember when I was much younger a magazine entitled PIC (People In Camera) which was interesting because it interviewed photographers in depth and pix could do more of that and still talk about accessories.

Credit where credit is due though, a change of editor has worked wonders and it would be good to see this direction pursued further. It might even become something I would spend time reading for the sake of a good read, rather than for the sake of a good blog article.

Pixelheads: Sarah Wolf

Sarah Wolf, aged 37, lives in Frome from where she operates as Diablo PR.

What camera do you use?

I have a Nikon D40X with kit wide angle lens.

What kind of pictures do you like to take?

Landscapes and buildings are my favourite. They tend not to move about too much!

What was your most recent picture?

This one, a 14th century square in Barcelona – sitting with a friend, after a hot day, drinking beer, laughing and looking up at the beautiful architecture.  It reminds me of that night.

Buildings at dusk, Barcelona

Sarah's Barcelona photo holds special memories.

What picture are you most proud of taking?

This one taken on a boat of the edge of the running rail and the sea. We were exercising the engines on a 50ft super-yacht in the Solent for a client.  It was a bitterly cold winter’s day – we were all wrapped up in layers and oilskins.  The sea was calm and I lent over the running rail, enjoying the wind and the salt when I saw the reflection of the sun on the water and just wanted to capture it.

Solent sailing

Life on the Solent can make for beautiful pictures.

If you could improve one area of your photography, what would it be?

I’d like to learn to take better photos of people and capture that moment of happiness, sadness, joy etc just through one shot. Pictures of people being themselves is what I’d like to learn how to take – just smiles and frowns and expressions without the people posing.

Would you like to become a pro one day, or is this always going to be a hobby?

Always a hobby!

If you could have taken one great photo, what would it be?

I would love to have taken the planting of the Red Standard on Hitler’s headquarters – the Reichstag in Berlin – which marked the end of Nazi Germany. The man who snapped the historic shot was Soviet photographer Yevgeny Khaldei, someone who I admire greatly particularly as he was part of the propaganda machine.  However, as a Jew, his career was cut short by the wave of anti-semitism in the Soviet Union and he was sacked in 1949.

What drives your interest in photography?

Sarah Wolf

Sarah Wolf has a passion for books on historical Russian photography.

One of the reasons that I adore photography is my love of war photos – particularly those taken in the Soviet Union.  As a Russian student, I spent many years studying the impact of Russia, and then the Soviet Union, on the course of history.  I bought many books of photography from the last 100 years and love the gritty realism of the photos of peasants working in the fields juxtaposed with the glossy photos of well-fed Party members.  You can understand a country through its photography – the photos that are published and those that aren’t (but have subsequently come to light).  Even though I no longer need to study Russian history, I will still spend many a happy hour looking through the photography books.

A sadness of the digital age, and no longer shooting on film, is that so many photos are deleted and never see the light of day.  I’m obsessive about cataloguing my life, and my family’s, through photography and have annotated photo albums going back to when I had my first camera aged eight.  Now that I shoot digitally, I print less photos and those that aren’t quite perfect are deleted so quickly, whereas in the past, there was the thrill of having your films processed and seeing your shots for the first time.  I even kept those photos that weren’t quite perfect which now provide an alternative picture of family holidays and events – you look in the background and see things that were accidently picked up and it gives a wider picture from that time than the story in the best shot that made it into the final album.

Thank you for your time Sarah.


If you would like to be featured as a Pixelhead, just drop me a line to You will need to live in or near Bath, be an amateur photographer and willing to have your photo taken for the article 🙂