Charoa1 (a.k.a Michael Bretherton) is an Australia-based creative business owner who has been doing design and photography since the 1980s. Coincidentally Michael is also the winner of the May SXC contest. We caught up with Michael via e-mail to talk about his SXC portfolio
What immediately strikes me about your photos is the graphic-design quality you bring to them. The colors are very vibrant; the compositions are precise, concepts are clear, and the lighting is dramatic. It's almost as if you know how you want your photos to be used in design. It appears from your web site that you are also a graphic designer, but were you a designer first or a photographer?
Thanks for the praise!
I am definitely a designer first, but I've also been casually taking photos for as long as I can remember, as a hobby. I think my recent work, a large chunk of which is on sxc, reflects my desire to capture everyday textures and objects in a way that brings out their inner beauty. I recall early on an image by sxc member clix, of some rust with numbers decaying away caught my eye. I could relate to it and that image, and others on sxc, inspired me to concentrate a lot of my photography on those themes -- the images which transpire are quite often useful in design work -- feedback and downloads confirm that. I often use my own shots so the two skills definitely go hand in hand.
Why did you decide to get into photography?
When I look back at shots I took overseas on my SLR it's interesting to see how many images there are of objects, antiques, old doors, a fire hydrant/plug series in the USA, textures of old walls, flower studies, etc. I didn't consider my recent work on SXC was a continuation of earlier photographic themes but the more I look back at older work, it definitely is.
As a Kiwi I found that traveling overseas opened my eyes to how young the cities of New Zealand and Australia are -- taking time to stroll through Rome, Athens, London and Paris for example, you see old architecture and styles that just don't exist back home. It's an absolute feast for the eyes. Also, while traveling, you see everyday objects that are different to your home country -- traffic lights, signs, road markings, post boxes, car number plates -- they make the experience all the more interesting.
But it was late last year that something (not entirely sure what!) got me really interested in taking the hobby to the next stage -- still a hobby but really getting more serious about the process. Getting to know everything about my camera -- experimenting with all the manual settings -- we're not talking dSLR here yet, so I really mean trying to push the limits of the camera.
I feel ready to invest in more equipment and really start pushing my boundaries and exploring new subjects. I've got to say I have had so much positive feedback and inspiration from the wonderful folks here at sxc that I can't imagine I'd have progressed this quickly otherwise.
Does being a designer help with photography and vice versa? If so, in what ways?
In a nutshell, yes. When I studied design I also studied typography, art history, photography, life drawing, painting, design theory, and a lot more. They are all linked and I don't see photography as this completely separate 'thing' -- I see it as one way of expressing creativity.
What helps is that I can be my own worst critic and I think it pays to be honest and tough on yourself in order to better your photography. I think being a designer helps you to look at everything around you in a different, maybe clearer, way -- it's hard to put into words. It might be a weed growing out of a brick wall, a leaf that's shape makes you admire it, a silhouette of a tree against an overcast sky. It might be searching for beauty or balance… I've always been a bit of a day-dreamer -- how can you explain that? I find looking through the viewfinder to frame a photograph very enjoyable -- I never think 'oh I can crop it later' -- I try to get it spot on first time. Not always successful but that's how I approach a photograph.
My design is influenced by my photography for sure. I look for balance and composition in my graphic design work, just as in photography.
In many ways graphic design and photography are different. What were some of the biggest obstacles due to your design training that you had to overcome when learning photography?
When I studied design we did not use computers (it's true youngsters, they didn't exist not too long ago!). I did however study photography as a component of my course and I have to say, shooting a roll of black and white, developing the film and exposing the photographs has got to be one of the most, well, magical processes. Having done that makes me appreciate the ease in which we can now snap/download/edit/upload...
Again, I have to emphasise how much in common the two fields have -- I don't really see obstacles there at all.
How do you come up with your concepts? What steps do you take to plan your photo shoot?
To be honest I'm not quite at the stage where I think of actual concepts for my photographs. It's early days. I look closely at my environment and inspiration for a photographic shoot might come from the most unexpected place. I like to think the subject will reveal itself to me rather than me going out looking for it. And that's how a lot of my shots come about. Maybe when I get more interested in one theme I'll approach the process differently. Oh and not to forget the inspiration I find from other photographers on sxc -- my light series was taken after I was admiring some intriguing work here.
Thanks for the opportunity to chat!
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