Red Light


How I came (back) to photography

As a daughter, granddaughter and niece of photographers, I have early memories of dark rooms with red lights and chemical smells. Slightly later, I’m sitting on a wobbly blue stool at the enlarger composing photograms. I learnt to count in f-stops, and by the age of ten I had a working knowledge of semiotics. I loved watching out for north light falling on a face, and learnt to wait patiently on wintry riverbanks to catch the sunset in the smoke.

At the time, it never occurred to me to learn the craft properly, or that this might be something I could do. My career took a different path. Paths, in fact – I couldn’t stop studying. I’ve taught language and literature in schools and colleges in the UK and abroad; I’ve studied law and worked as an adviser for a local Citizens Advice Bureau. Much as I loved these things, I never could quite settle to any of it permanently.

Having children got me started with the camera again, as it does for many people, I think. It became more compulsive for me and I wanted to produce better work than a half-decent snap. A couple of years ago I took a four-day workshop in portrait photography, and I’ve hardly put the camera down since. More than anything, I love to photograph people’s faces as they tell their stories, act parts or play music, and the best thing of all is that people will let me do it.

I have no red lights any more, and the smell of fixer is gone, but I feel as though I’ve come home.


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