Photographer Red Saunders came to CSM
I knew little about him before the talk, on my arrival i saw a man in his 50s wearing dungarees and what could be described as 'hipster' glasses and I thought, yeah this is a photographer (this is basically what my Dad wears, also a photographer).
Saunders at work on a shoot about the Leveller Women in the English Revolution (cool beard dude)
Using a glass plate with light sensitive solution covering one side which is then exposed to the light giving a unique and singular image. Glass Plate photography is difficult to replicate.
The moment captured in the image, which due to the long exposure time could be a number of moments, is held on a plate. I am quite frankly besotted with this type of photography, and Saunders shared this love agreeing that the 'one-off' element of plates and the ability to capture movement are just a few of the things that drew him to this "old school" type of photography.
Walter Benjamin writes about daguerreotypes (the earliest type of plate photography) in his text A Little History of Photography and describes, with regards to portraits, that the long exposure time allows for the subject to grow into the image. This feels like quite a Romantic notion, of the sitter growing into the image, and more than just their physical appearance being captured in a photograph. Well Romantic notions are fine by me! And Saunders seemed to agree with Benjamin too.
It felt clear that Saunders is someone who has seen a lot, full of anecdotes and totally at ease in front of the class, it was a real delight to see him speak.
At the end I asked him (in relation to my dissertation on Photography and Solitude) whether he felt photography was a solitary medium considering he still works with assistants due to the equipment he uses, and he said:
"I hadn't really thought about it like that, but I suppose nothing is better than being on your own with the camera..."
That relationship between the photographer and their camera is something I am yet to explore further, but Saunders helped provoke some interesting questions.
[Saunders' images are impossible to find on the www!]