March 15, 2020
SENSE OF ROMANCE
Photography by Michael Duckworth
Interview by Melanie Meggs
Michael Duckworth's photography evokes a sense of romance but also embraces the solitude and darkness of the city. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of cinematography from his background in art and working as a Director of Photography, he wants his shots to tell a story...and he does this brilliantly in his captures.
"The photographer's most important piece of equipment is a good pair of shoes."
IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL DUCKWORTH
TPL: Michael, when did you start getting interested in photography?
MD: I started photography at school, we were lucky enough to have a dark room, so I’d wander around the Lake District countryside with a roll of black and white film. With only 24 exposures, shooting anything I found interesting, the results were often terrible, but I was definitely hooked and slowly got better.
TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?
MD: My inspiration doesn’t always come from other photographers and their work but often movies (especially noir), paintings and the music that I listen to as I wander around the city. Also more recently at a Manga exhibition I was especially inspired by the clean graphic style and powerful compositions.
TPL: Do you have any favourite artists or photographers you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?
MD: I’ve been very inspired by the work of Fan Ho, Trent Parke, also cinematographers such as Conrad Hall, Darius Khondji and Roger Deakins. I’ve also be inspired by the artist J. M. W. Turner, I love the way his early work shows such masterful use of light, but also how his work became much more abstract and impressionist. This is something I aspire to do with my own work in time.
TPL: Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
MD: My style is always being pulled in opposing directions I loved the clean graphic style of photographers like Jason M. Peterson around the time I first started sharing photos on Instagram. But now I become more excited by texture and tonality, and seeking a more abstract interpretation of a scene, but ultimately, I feel I’m still looking for my style as it always evolving.
TPL: Where is your favourite place to shoot?
MD: Favourite places in London oddly are either the seedy alleys, old railway bridges and fading buildings or famous landmarks where I enjoy the challenge to find a unique view on an over photographed location, but I often start out trying to get lost in a city that I’ve become very familiar with, seeking out a hidden London.
TPL: Do you think equipment is important in achieving your vision in your photography? What would you say to someone just starting out?
MD: I don’t feel equipment is important in photography, when I first move to London I was working as a Cinematographer on music videos and short films, I was an often slow and meticulous process with complex camera set ups. It was a huge revelation when I realised that I could shoot and edit on my iPhone, the ability to work so quickly and freely meant my photography improved more quickly than the days of shooting on film.
If you’re starting out shooting on a phone often means you need to be more creative, its compact and inconspicuous so it lends itself to more intimate photography.
TPL: What characteristics do you think you need to become a good photographer? What’s your tips or advice for someone in your genre?
MD: I think one of the main characteristics you need to be a good photographer is take the time to find what’s interesting around you, for example street photography isn’t about rushing from location to location. Don’t be afraid to keep visiting the same location, it will change constantly at different times of the day, seasons or weather, it can also be a great challenge to find a new take on a familiar scene.
Visit a location enough and you’ll be able to visualise the scene before it happens, you’ll know how the shadow move across it and feel the rhythm of the city, predicting how your subject moves throughout the frame.
TPL: Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
MD: I studied art and design at university, but ultimately specialised in film and photography, after graduating I moved to London to work on a low budget horror movie as a camera assistant, eventually worked my way towards being a director of photography on music videos, shot film and other passion projects.
TPL: "If I wasn’t photographing what would I be doing?...
MD: I’d love to be involved in design, it was something I studied at university and it’s always been a useful set of skills, just like photography it helps you to see the world in a different way."