My studio has a kitchen sink, because it has a kitchen. And a bedroom, a coffee maker, and a cocktail cabinet. Sometimes I wonder why I come home…
Mind you, I don’t do food shots at all. I admire the results that others achieve, just as I admire the work of the dedicated animal photographers and the fashion shooters, but I want my interaction with food, animals, and clothing to be accomplished with a knife, fork, and bottle of HP sauce.
The real use I make of a metaphorical kitchen sink is to throw it at the subjects that I do attempt – the product shots, dancers, and tabletop tableaux. Or in clearer terms, I shoot with every accessory, lighting setup, and corny idea that I possess. I then bring the files home and, since my computer room is the old darkroom, I throw the darkroom sink at them. The sink is full of computer plug-ins that torture the pixels into new appearances.
This probably makes a mockery of the advice I used to give to customers in the shop – that they carefully analyse what exactly it is that they wish to achieve and prepare a careful list of the simplest means by which to do it. I talked a great deal of photographic purity at the time…but then again Mae West talked a great deal about purity too. She said she was as pure as the snow…but she drifted…
I try not to make the Nik software suite or the Alien Skin Aperture 4 program into crutches for my photography – they cannot rescue completely lame ideas. Neither can Instagram filters or any other mobile app. Indeed, even the venerable pixel-shifters in the Photoshop Elements or the Lightroom programs can be overdone blockages at times. But I am sensible enough to realise that as I do try to produce a period flavour in my people and model car shots, sometimes the carefully applied plug-in effect is exactly the right thing.
I am not Steve McCurry, nor am I Christian Fletcher. I do not have their artistic flair, nor their markets. I am fortunate in that I do not work with zealots of purity who demand that I do my photos with no alteration whatsoever. I do not relish sensor dust spots, scanned cloth fibres, hot pixels, or any of the other ills to which the modern image is prey. I didn’t relish them when it was negatives and slides, and I am damned sure that if I was permitted and encouraged to improve my prints then with Spotone and a tiny brush, I can be allowed to clean them up now with a Wacom tablet. If it is any help to the purists, I make the same mistakes now that I did then, and I hold my tongue in the same corner of my mouth when spotting digital images as I did with the analog ones. And I say many of the same words.
The kitchen sink approach has been likened to throwing spaghetti at a wall to see if it sticks – or of setting monkeys at typewriters to produce novels. I think it is closer to throwing spaghetti at monkeys because occasionally they throw it back. If it is really good spaghetti, I don’t mind.