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Recently featured in the photo section, Black X List Photography captured my interest with his inspiring urban shots taken in the deserted High Peak College. Today, Martin the photographer talks to us about his true passion: photography! Enjoy!
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Hello Martin and welcome to EyeCandies! Do you remember what triggered your fascination with photography?

I fell into photography almost entirely by accident, in late 2005 I was doing quite a bit of design work, for independent bands, and I wanted to capture some textures to use within that.

I bought my first digital camera and set out to collect some textures, to this day, I still haven't taken those shots, I just started taking photographs instead and I haven't been able to stop yet.

It's one of those all too rare activities that changes the way you actually look at the world;

Skateboarders view curbs, steps, ledges, rails and their surroundings in different ways to other people, Graffiti writers see walls as possibilities instead of something to hold up roofs, and in a similar way Photography makes you see the world differently, colours, shapes, people, lines to lead the eye, light + shadow etc that you might have walked past before start to jump out at you and that's quite incredible.
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From what I see, urban exploration and street photography is mainly the field you’re interested in. What are the main characteristics and techniques of this theme and what do you wish to depict through your lens?

I'll shoot anything that's in front of me that catches my eye, but yes I do enjoy both Urban Exploration and Street Photography a lot.

The Urban Exploration stuff, I've been a fan of Urbex shots for a long time, but hadn't done any exploration myself, until last winter.

Winter can be a crappy time to be a photographer, I've seen plenty of people blogging about their "winter slump" whether it's down to not wanting to be out in the cold and/or wet, the different light, or whatever it's down to, it can be pretty tough to get through the winter and stay productive. I figured Urbex would be a good solution, and I was lucky enough to live near to what was a classic Urbex site in the UK, the Deva Asylum (sadly now demolished).

It was an incredible building, truly eerie, and so rich in subjects to photograph, that I couldn't help but want to do more.

With the Urbex shots, I want to find things that relate the buildings to human scale and use, I noticed at the High Peak College site I ended up with lots of shots with chairs in them, I wasn't attempting to create an Urbex furniture catalogue, there's just something about such a functional human scale object abandoned within it's surroundings.

That's a lot of what Urbex is about for me, I guess.

There's specific challenges to Urbex shooting, mostly the lack of light, I tend to expose for the shadows to compensate for this, and it often blows out the light coming through windows, I kind of like that though, because what's outside of those windows is irrelevant to to the abandoned buildings.

Essentially the buildings are without a context, so I like the slightly unreal effect blowing out the windows gives, seperating the buildings from the outside world.

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Street photography

Obviously a very different discipline to the Urbex shoots, but I LOVE street photography, I'm looking for people who just have something that draws my eye, whether that's the way someone's dressed, their posture, body language, actions or just some indescribable thing that draws my eye.

All of my street shots are candid, and I shoot between 24mm and 60mm, I'm not interested in standing half a mile away with a zoom lens, I want to be in closer and try to get a different perspective and hopefully a better feel for the person that way.

It's definitely challenging, especially shooting relatively wide, because sometimes you need to be up close & personal, composing and shooting without making it obvious that you're taking photographs.

There's some misdirection involved, but it's not always 100% effective. (Try and blend in, like in the purple pic)

Obviously there are technical considerations, some people prefer to use hyperfocal distance etc, but to me the biggest obstacle was just to get out there pointing cameras at complete strangers.

It's not something everyone takes kindly to, and you never know if and when you're going to get noticed, and what kind of situation that could lead to.

So far I've been very lucky and nothing's got out of hand, and I enjoy Street Photography so much that I'm willing to take that chance.

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How do you decide on the site you want to explore and what are the basics in organizing and implementing an urban exploring photo shooting session?

Making an Urbex trip work has a LOT to do with planning.

There are numerous Urban Exploration forums, with great photos, and often a lot of very useful information, altho I'm not an active posting member of any, I always make sure to thoroughly read to find out as much as possible about the site, from if there's any security to avoid to if the upper floors are unsafe, if there's exposed asbestos, or even if the site is being used by junkies. There's at least one building I'd absolutely love to explore, but I know it's littered with needles and it's just not worth the risk.

On a brighter note the reports on the urbex forums give you an idea of what to expect, and it can be very exciting stumbling across somewhere that you want to explore.

In terms of equipment, good shoes are a must, we spent about 4-5 hours on the High Peak College site just exploring and shooting, so good shoes and spare camera batteries.

A good, reliable torch, I use a Lenser LED torch and it's unbelievably good, I've taken photos that I love using only that torch as the only light source

Just a note regarding Urbex, I've posted this on my Tumblr before, but it's worth repeating. Don't go exploring solo, it's great fun, but it can be dangerous too.

And if any part of the building seems possibly unsafe, just don't go in there, there's plenty of rotting floors, unsafe supports etc, and I've experienced putting my foot on boards that just disintegrated underneath me before, it's not something I would reccomend.

Also, most of these sites are in varying states of decay, there's a lot of things in decaying buildings which aren't particularly friendly to your health, from Asbestos to Pigeon shit (which is much worse for you than you'd think) it's worth keeping your eyes on the surroundings.

I'm not preaching from a position of "good practice" either, I have masks etc at home, as yet I've forgotten them on every explore.

I guess just remember that there isn't a photo in the world that's worth the injuries you could sustain by not being careful on an explore, and if you do get yourself in trouble, having someone there to help/call for help is obviously better and safer than being on your own.
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Have you ever experienced a weird/strange incident during a photo shoot?

Deva asylum

After climbing in through a broken window & spending a long time exploring the ground floor convinced we were completely alone in the building, we went upstairs and started working through the patient/inmate's rooms,

At the end of one long corridor we found a large communal room and suddenly saw a little old guy at the other end of the corridor, it was very obvious that he wasn't security, and at first I thought he must be taking photos like we were, but as he got closer I realised he didn't have a camera, just a little satchel.

I nodded a "hello" to him, just to make sure he knew we were only in there to take photos, not to vandalise or steal anything, and he just strolled into the room and started telling us how he loved the palce, went there all the time, and took a packed lunch with him whenever he visited, and then just strolled off, we managed to convince ourselves that he must have been a former patient, whether that's accurate or not I don't know, but it was certainly a surreal moment, and we were clearly more thrown by him than he was by us!
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What was your latest and most intriguing project? And why?

Street photography is always interesting by it's very nature, there's always something, someone new, it's always a surprise, and always fresh.

Getting into the Urban Exploration stuff was a lot of fun, and certainly a new experience, I'll always be fond of the Deva Asylum, because it was the first real explore, and it was such an incredible place.

The most recent was High Peak College, and that was such a huge epic site, and took so long to work through the shots from I'm giving it a bit of space before I go back to look at them with fresh eyes.

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Where do you seek inspiration from? Who are your favorite photographers?

I try to be open to inspiration from all around, that said I'm very influenced by film, obviously my images don't move, but I still seek to give them that kind of depth.

In terms of my favourite photographers, I'm a big fan of Estevan Oriol, who's work is fantastic, and he was very helpful when I asked his advice, and Boogie (his earlier stuff especially), they're both big influences on me.

I suppose you can't really be involved in modern Street Photography without being influenced by Winogrand, and I've learned a lot from watching interviews with and footage of Joel Meyerowitz.

Obviously he's a director rather than a photographer, but I've really loved a number of recent Tony Scott films for the way they're shot, and the richness of their colour, something I aspire to in my colour work, rich colours, I suppose a depth of colour, without being saturated, specifically Man On Fire, Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123 and last night I was lucky enough to see a preview of his newest film "Unstoppable" which is more muted in colour, but still had plenty of moments that had me thinking "I WISH I shot that" haha

Use 5 words and 1 image that define your current mood!

Umiibig, tired, motivated, surprised, (and I suppose because it's the only self portrait I use) Purple
What kind of camera you use and what led you to this selection?

I seem to have accquired a whole bunch of cameras. I guess it's about trying to use the right tool for the job, ie not fully manual Medium Format film SLR for candid street shots haha, instead taking a cue from classic street photographers and choosing  something light, unobtrusive, quiet, and with a fast lens,

I love shooting film, mostly on either my 35mm SLRs or Medium format, all fully manual, there's such a feeling of involvement, and the cameras are so tactile, coupled with the wonderful shutter sound, and of course the quality of the images.

The majority of my shots are digital, but when I get the chance to shoot film I really enjoy it.

"Toy cameras" limitations are charming. I don't use a lot of the "toy" shots in my work, but I do enjoy their quirks, for example the lens flare that comes from cheap plastic lenses, and I'm currently loving "Wide Pic" Panoramic cameras, I have a number of them, and rather than being true panoramic, they're just a wide lense with a plastic mask in the back of the camera that makes the image appear "widescreen" (complete with the black bars at the top and bottom) I find stuff like that so endearingly crap that I can't help but love it.

Last but not least, where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?

Behind a camera haha.

With those I care about, doing my best to make them happy, still shooting (of course) and still trying to improve.
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Thank you Martin for your time and participation! Please feel free to add anything else you’d like us to know!

I'm very flattered to not only have had a feature on my Urbex shots recently, but also this interview.

I hope I haven't bored everyone too much.

I have a few pieces in the upcoming exhibition to celebrate the English release of the Graffiti film "Wholetrain". In The Contemporary Urban Centre, Liverpool, running from Dec 1st to mid January. I'm very excited to be a part of such a great project with an incredible list of contributors.

My blog is as always: www.blackxlist.tumblr.com
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LINKS: […]

- www.blackxlist.tumblr.com

E-MAIL: blackxlist@gmail.com

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Comments

09/25/2012 14:59

Thank you very much for sharing this useful information. I was doing a project and for that I was looking for related information. Some of the points are very useful. Do share some more material if you have.

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01/15/2013 14:46

Very interesting post….really informative…..of all the blogs I have read on the same topic, this one is actually enlightening….I was longing to read such kind of informative write-ups from a very long time…good to know that such kind of posts are there to help ignorant and novice people.

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