personal projects

Getting it on with Mary Quant - Timeless Portrait Photography at the V&A by Shaun Armstrong

Images from a day of practical portrait photography with Owen Harvey at the Victoria & Albert museum.

The theme was to be “timeless portrait photography” and as I hope to do more posed work as a counter to my more natural reportage, this seemed like a great opportunity to learn in a different and stimulating place. There was also access into the Mary Quant exhibition and as I love 60’s art and culture - happy days.

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The session at the V&A started with a meet-everyone-else round table of introductions and there was a full range of folk from beginners to keen amateurs, and all really nice people. Even the ones with Leica’s.

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After a great presentation by Owen Harvey on his work documenting sub-cultures in UK & US (and a brownie point for me for spotting his Taylor-Wessing portrait) plus some experimentation with flash (not a fan of the controlled studio and strobes but there you go) we had some time to view the brilliant Mary Quant exhibition before working in groups around the V&A to find interesting portrait opportunities using available light.

As I looked around the Mary Quant exhibition, which is quite dark with mainly display lighting, I could see the visitors were mainly women, and ones with style too. Whilst I normally prefer the candid shot, the light wasn’t up to it and I’ve never really been brave enough to just stop people and ask to take their photo. But I thought, heck I’ve got special permission to be here with a camera, I’m trying to take myself out of my comfort zone and as this isn’t even part of what we supposed to be doing, what’s the worse that can happen as long as I’m polite?

So, after a little gentle stalking and a recce of where there was some useful light and background I dived in and was pleasantly surprised. No one hit me. Here are my favourites, including one lovely lady who was dressed from head to toe in original Mary Quant garb.

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We then moved onto the group work and went about the V&A taking it in turns to photograph and be “models” - this I was not expecting preferring to be the other side of the lens. I also let myself do a little candid street work, as old habits and all that…

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Afterward the day was over, our SD cards were imported to a group file and a selection of “best shots” quickly drawn out for Owen to review and feedback on as we went around the group. Some really good feedback on my work, including a few of the Quant shots which no-one knew I’d taken and which raised a few eyebrows. 10 years in to professional photography I still have terrible imposter syndrome but really cool to get some nods of appreciation from fellow professionals and enthusiasts.

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Some more images from the day. All shot with natural light on location using a Canon 5DMKIII and Canon 100mm 2.8L lens.

Thanks to everyone who let me photograph them.

Welcome to my new website! by Shaun Armstrong

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I've been looking at a change for a while and the design and functionality of Squarespace was what I needed for my personal work and plans. It's still a work in progress in parts, especially around the blog, which my old set-up didn't do as well as I wanted, but more to come here.

You will find examples of this personal work, commercial projects I'm involved with and on the blog views and opinions across a range of topics, but likely to feature photography (art and technical), music, culture, heritage and technology.

I'm currently working on artwork for sale, images for licensing and books. If you'd like to work with me in any way please do let in touch and tell me more!

I hope you like the new site as much as I do. All feedback welcome!

Shaun

Oct 2018

Barbados Photography - a view of Caribbean life by Shaun Armstrong

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Barbados is a fascinating, beautiful and colourful part of the Caribbean. I wanted to photograph it for those who live, visit and enjoy the locations and culture. Ranging from windswept sandy beaches, interesting buildings, boats and back-waters to flora and general life, my images seek to capture topics in an interesting and artistic way. There are many images out there normally associated with this mainly holiday destination - posh hotels, sunsets, palm-trees, swimming pools and the like - but I prefer observing the elements of normal life, an unusual building a stranded item in a strange location or just business as usual. These are the real parts of a place and a test of its unique character which makes it different and individual. That said, there are my observations on the usual suspects too!

My book of Barbados photography on Blurb.

All images are shot "as they were found" and in natural light; the decision to shoot being based on the content, context, shape and colour or combinations thereof, leading the viewer to think a little more about what they are seeing and how it fits into the local day to day life. Street photography with a positive edge - in addition to the images the book has a story section at the back where I share my thoughts behind each image. No image was harmed by Photoshop digital compositing!

You can have a preview of selected pages below and buy it in hardback or e-book form. Individual Barbados images can also be licensed for use. Prints and products in development but if interested please do contact me.

 

 

my "extract" artwork projects...a bit of background by Shaun Armstrong

In all things I'm interested in form, contrast, shape and the way these interact creating visual beauty. I'm drawn to parts of man-made items, especially machines for my artwork. This could a high-performance supercar, a classic aircraft, a musical instrument or a piece of iconic equipment such as an ENIGMA enciphering machine.

I look for the details and capture them in an image before using a number of digital colouring and patterning techniques to make them bold and interesting pieces of artwork.

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My abstract artwork (or rather "extract")* collections are developed from an image to produce art, albeit with honest roots, rather than works that are photographs in their own right.

I'm not a fan of Photoshop as far as digitally cutting, pasting and compositing is concerned preferring to know that the image beneath the treatment is still the originally chosen capture of a real thing and therefore its story has integrity. This is valuable whether you are buying an image because you are a fan of Porsche, or wish to show your business products off in an challenging way.

When created as part of a commission through my business image solutions, these works form part of the "decorate" service, building collections that adorn new buildings and people-facing spaces and helping tell stories too.

My self-generated galleries are evolving based on opportunities and partnerships, but my initial work is based on high performance cars and is known as artAUTO.

* I heard an interview with famous photographer, Ansel Adams who said photographs could not be "abstract", as they capture something that is actually in existence, rather than the free hand or palette of an artist who can be truly abstract. Instead photographs can be "extracts" and that is what I choose to do, even if they are not obvious literal views of the subject in any way.

Empty Shops Project - We Are Bedford - Reportage by Shaun Armstrong

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We Are Bedford was a community of local volunteers working together to make a difference to physical spaces. Hustled along by founders Kayte Judge and Erica Roffe, two people passionate about making the most of their home town of Bedford, this was to be done by transforming unused buildings into vibrant hubs of artistic activity by thinking creatively and being proactive; values I was delighted to support through artistic, documenting photography. Their first event, The Castle Quay Weekender, was held on 19-20 March 2011 and saw a fairly recently redeveloped, but under-occupied, area in the heart of the proposed cultural area of the town, transformed by artists, musicians and performers. It attracted over 2000 visitors! A real success and a demonstration to many people of what could be achieved “in the public domain” if you put your mind and a lot of hard work in.

That We Are Bedford event and its outcomes helped the founders generate funding from the RSA that led to further events and activities during 2011, spin-off groups and critical acclaim…plus through no coincidence all the units being let 1 year later.

See what is was all about below. This was quite an early bit of street /performance for me and there's post production elements I would be better now, with  a little more experience under my belt, but you get the vibe :)

New Photography Books... by Shaun Armstrong

I've concluded I don't have enough, or indeed many for that matter, lovely big books with great photography in. Digital is all well and good and shoot Pro DLSR plus I'm a Hipstamatic on iPhone4 fan but there is still something special about good images, well printed. So, I've invested in some new photography books and when I make some time will dive in and be inspired (hopefully)... - UFO (Unified Fashion Objectives) - Albert Watson - The Modern Century - Henri Cartier-Bresson - Roadside America - John Margolies - 400 Photographs - Ansel Adams - New York - Portrait of a City - Reuel Golden

www.shaunarmstrong.com

new photography books

Hipstamatic App on the iPhone by Shaun Armstrong

There's nothing quite so satisfying for a photographer (and by that I mean anyone who has an image capture device of any sort and choice) to seize a moment for posterity or artistic joy - we all do it differently but, to my mind, the least posed and set-up the better.  

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Hotel waiting, Barcelona

 

And then, there's nothing more creatively draining or boring than a lack of spontaneity...at least as a recipient. The fact that comedians, musicians, actors, architects, pyrotechnicians etc. learn and practice what they do by rote (by and large) and with great prep before we "experience" it is another matter, not sure I want to go to a "spontaneous" firework display but I digress...

Hipstamatic App on the iPhone

Craft tools Palau-Del-Vidre, France

The Hipstamatic app on the iPhone is an article of joy allowing you at a swipe (albeit a creatively directed one) to produce an image of drama and wonder from everyday happenings. A nice clean high-res photo is a record yes, but with simple effects that mimic lenses, that add to rather than merely record an image view plus the tactile nature of old film (without any post production faffing about, digital, wet or otherwise - sorry, back to the low process boredom issue) are great!

I've just come back from a family holiday and amongst the usual activities managed to have some fun with this little app without carrying around great hoards of kit and being a pest to wife, daughters et al; somehow these little walnuts of memory wouldn't have been the same or would have passed with the DLSR sledgehammer or even a competent pocket camera (I have a shiny new Ixus 300HS which does this).

Now, I've not explored some of the addtional lenses and films you can buy to add to the App (I favour the basic John S lens and Kodot film), or indeed tried the competitions (yet) but for £1.19 I would recommend it is worth a go and will reward many times over. It works best when you have a core subject, rather than wider views given it only produces little images/files for things like this, but still worth the fun. Hipstamatic images from France and Barcelona :) Credit and thanks to @Documentally for highlighting this app originally. A man of many and varied tools but like all good craftsmen, its what you do with them that counts...

Go hoops! Go MK Lions! by Shaun Armstrong

Basketball photography and impressions from Marshall MK Lions in Milton Keynes - my local BBL basketball team.

Go hoops! Go MK Lions!

I've always enjoyed Basketball, when I've stumbled across it on the TV, whether that was (showing my age) the Harlem Globetrotters showboating at Wembley - Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal goofing up to the whistled strains of Sweet Georgia Brown or watching the last game of the 1997 season in a bar in Vancouver, between the legendary Chicago Bulls (Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman (sans rouge) et al) and the Utah Jazz. Jordan stealing from defence in the final seconds to take a 3 point shot on the buzzer to win - classic.

At a business network event I met Vince Macaulay the then head honcho and driving force behind local basketball team MK Lions. They were really going great guns and had a strong vision and aspiration to European standards. He talked passionately and eloquently of the support of the local community from their humble beginnings and how the shopping centre with its large Middleton Hall atrium was their current "home" fixture pending a hoped-for move into the evolving MK Dons stadium complex, where we were seated having breakfast that morning, in the future. Wow - this sounded fantastic! When Stewart (who also sponsors the MK Lions!) put out an email asking who would like to go along to the next home match I put my name down straight away.

Well this was a superb event and a great win for the Lions. I enjoyed the whole thing from the pre-match warm-ups to the final buzzer with end-to-end action and 100% effort from a really dynamic set of character players. I did also notice a chap down under the hoop with a rather tasty pair of 1ds MKIII's and some L series glass (for the camera nerds) who looked like he knew his stuff - now that looks like a challenge thinks I. Now not being overly reserved I congratulated Vince on the win, told him what I did  and in a round about way asked if I could come along and take some basketball photography. By all means he smiled (what a guy) "let me have you details" So here I find myself crouched on the sidelines (need to do some yoga) along with Mr 1ds MKIII who is a Finnish guy travelling about and doing pics and reviews for the BBL.

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Now, I try and put a bit of my "take" on whatever I shoot, so these images aren't all not the normal action shots (but did try and do a few of those), but as a first time out doing this (man, do those guys shift!) I'm pleased and hope you find they share some of the effort and spirit of what goes on.  See my basketball photography 

Behind the Scenes Museum Photography at Bedford Gallery by Shaun Armstrong

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Recently, as part of the national Britain loves Wikipedia event, I had the rare opportunity of being allowed into the fascinating store-rooms of the Cecil Higgins and Bedford  Museum and to see their new "Clocking In" exhibition being assembled in the adjacent, new Bedford Gallery space, all with the view of taking behind the scenes photos! I think the idea was to take formal museum pics but that's not my preferred style so here's my take on what I saw....

I first popped into the new Bedford Gallery in 2009 when they had an exhibition of Abram Games posters (a number of which I saw on display at my time at Bletchley Park) mixed up with memorabilia from the Festival of Britain, which helped explain the logo I'd seen on the village sign outside my home for many years! The whole building and mix of projects is a mish-mash of spaces that, with ongoing rounds of funding are being regenerated as part of the Cultural Quarter (a long job I suspect) but the Gallery is airy and modern as I saw with friends at a Creative Bedfordshire networking event in January displaying the work of Edward Bawden.

Anyhoo, in following their news via Twitter they shared details of the Wikipedia competition and so off I went. They had two sessions allocated but it was only me and one other guy (who was much more in tune with the basis of the competition I think - I just wanted to be nosy, explore and get creative!) so, always under the guidance and approval of the curators, we were led through doors and up stairs into various rooms packed with all sorts of objet in cabinets that were as much artefacts as the contents - all variety of small and ancient items tagged and arranged in order amongst various bits of wrapping and packing materials. Not quite the Area 51 storage warehouse in Indiana Jones but plenty of dark and long unexplored corners and spaces, including a section of cabinets full of birds and other unfortunate creatures who had gone the way of the stuffer! Ended up in what I think was the ancient, old world collections and here time was spent and ran out so no stuffed weasel pics! :(

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After this we were whisked away to the Gallery to see the new Clocking In exhibition being put together and I did my best not to get in the way...wanted interesting angles and studies rather than the usual records and well, you can see all the images on my Flickr site.

"Clocking In" tells the story of working lives in and around Bedfordshire and opens on 27 February 2010 running until 23 May 2010.