I was born in 1946 in the fishing village of Looe in S. E. Cornwall and brought up in Torpoint on the Tamar Estuary at the Devon and Cornwall border. My love of natural history, especially birds, was fired at a very early age with the surrounding countryside of Cornwall providing the initial inspiration. As a boy I spent many hours drawing birds and landscapes and at the age of fourteen came into contact with the work of Cezanne and the French Impressionists – this was a key factor in shaping my education. In 1966 I attended a pre-diploma course at Falmouth School of Art that eventually led to a Diploma in Fine Art at Gloucestershire College of Art. During my time at art college I was drawn to the work of the American Abstract Expressionists and Minimalists, but it was the ideas of Paul Klee and Joseph Albers who were to shape the course of my own work, from the early paintings, my wildlife photography and more recently the images that are created out of nature that are displayed in this website.
I developed a passionate interest for still photography during a post graduate course at Manchester University, and it was not long before this and love of natural history combined to provide the perfect outlet for my creative aspirations. From 1971 – 86 I taught painting, printmaking and photography in London, during which time my interest in wildlife photography developed, with a particular emphasis on bird photography. During this period many trips the length and breadth of Britain were undertaken during weekends and holidays as I sought to photograph the bird species that can be found there. One exciting aspect of the British bird watching scene are the variety of migrants which arrive on our shores that are scarce or rare to this country. I undertook to photograph as many of these rarities as I could and if I was successful in photographing them I was able to sell a copy to the many bird watchers who wanted a record of what sometimes was a unique event in British ornithology.
This took me to a variety of locations with differing habitats where I was also able to photograph our resident species and so gradually I began to get my pictures published in the wildlife magazines and books. With the increasing demand on my work and the time needed to create it I contemplated becoming a freelance wildlife photographer. The impetus to achieve that came in 1983 when I won British Birds magazine ‘Bird Photograph of the Year’ with a photograph of a Red-necked Phalarope taken on the island of Fetlar in Shetland. The prize was presented to me by the late Eric Hosking whose work I had admired since boyhood and now universally regarded as the father of modern bird photography. That inspired me to become a full-time freelance wildlife photographer in 1986, a decision that was not made lightly, but a decision that was supported by my wife Rita and is something that I have never regretted.
In 1987 I joined the newly formed Limosa Holidays team who specialised in bird tours (now one of the leading companies in Europe) and led many bird watching trips to destinations around the world. This helped to stabilise my income and allowed me the time to undertake my own personal photographic trips with some destinations having been inspired by my tour leading. My work from this period can be seen in many publications, working with naturalists such as Hadoram Shirihai, Bill Oddie, Chris Packham and Nick Baker. I worked with Hadoram Shirihai, one of the finest field ornithologist I have met, on two major projects during which time we formed a close relationship. The first was as photographic editor, with Paul Doherty and Yossi Eshbol, on the highly acclaimed ‘Status and Distribution of the Birds of Israel, and the second was as the field photographer and photographic editor for ‘The Identification of Sylvia Warblers’ with the renowned bird illustrator Alan Harris providing the illustrated plates and line drawings. From 1986 – 2006 I worked as photographer and photographic editor on fourteen books, my work was also published in many magazines and I was photographic consultant for ‘Birding World’ Bird Watching’ and Birds Illustrated’. It was during my this period that my photographic technique and field craft developed, working from photographic hides, vehicles and stalking birds, during which time I learnt a great deal about the differing behaviour of different bird species, but also the behaviour of individual birds within the same species in different situations.
Since 1986 I have travelled widely in search of photographic material, although my first major photographic trip was to Nepal in December 1985 – January 1986, with a photographer friend Tim Loseby (image 2) , and since then I have returned many times to photograph its wildlife and spectacular mountain scenery, and help set up nature reserves inThe Katmandu Valley and at Kosi Tapu in the south of the country. I also travelled to such places as Malaya, Thailand, Hong kong, Turkey, Kenya, Israel, the Emirates, the Yemen, North America and most European Countries.
As digital photography came of age, which I consider to be about at the dawn of the 21st Century, the main focus of my work began to change as I looked for greater freedom of expression in my work. I looked upon digital photography not as being better than film but certainly offering much greater interaction with the image, both before and after the taking of the picture. It was as if painting and photography had moved closer together to form a new medium. With my film photography I always looked for strong and creative composition founded on the principles of composition I had learnt at art college, by studying the work of photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Perhaps the greatest influence came from the Italian photographer Franco Fontana, whom I was fortunate enough to meet in London in 1994, who through his work showed me how abstract principles in the world about us could assert themselves in photographs creating a balance between abstract and formal values.
For the last 30 years I have lived in Tottenham in northeast London with my wife Rita and where my daughter Anna was born. As a family we draw on the wonderful diversity of cultures that the city has to offer and regularly visit some of the finest art galleries and concert halls in the world. I also live close to the Lee Valley Regional Park, a series of nature reserves that stretch from the River Thames northwards for 28 miles to Amwell in Hertfordshire. Since the 1980’s I have worked extensively photographing wildlife in the Lee Valley and more recently developing the ideas and images that contribute to this website.