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Shaping landscapes with the drama of light

By Matthew Oxley | 12 months ago

Glyn Davies is a photographic artist based in Anglesey, Wales. From a fine art family of artists and artist-lecturers, he undertook a Fine-art Foundation Course at Falmouth School of Art, followed by an Honours Degree in Photography, Film at University of Westminster.

In 2002 he established a photo gallery on Anglesey and concentrated on personal landscape work.

Glyn has been featured frequently on TV and Radio and features about his work have appeared in numerous publications over the decades. Two of his books, 'Anglesey Landscapes' 1 & 2 were bought by the Prime Minister as a Royal wedding gift for William and Kate.

He is a member of PhotoShelter, the leader in portfolio websites, photo sales, marketing and archiving tools for photographers.


Hi Glyn. Please introduce yourself and your photography

From a fine art family of artists and artist-lecturers, I drew & painted before taking a Fine-art Foundation Course at Falmouth School of Art, followed by an Honours Degree in Photography, Film at University of Westminster. I started freelancing in 1987 after graduating, shooting commercial & industrial & portrait work for national clients & private customers but I’ve always retained my love of photographing wild places.

In 2002 I established a photo gallery on Anglesey and concentrated on personal landscape work. I was a specialist printer in the wet darkroom but I'm a digital print perfectionist now. Since 2011 I've been working on a long-term personal project about vulnerable nude figures in wild landscape, which resulted in a major exhibition 'Landscape Figures', at the Ynys Môn Gallery.

My love of landscape and solitude; the drama of light and weather over the terrain is a spiritual inspiration. It's rapid changes and the variety of changing scenes leaves me ecstatic, especially when alone. It's like nature is giving something up of itself to me personally, at that precise moment for no one else will ever see the exact same interplay of light over land unless standing at precisely my location. I feel so honoured and humbled by wild landscape & the elements that I have a need to share my excitement in the form of immaculately crafted compositions, portraying as vividly as possible what I'd experienced.

I've frequently been featured on TV and Radio programs about my work and have appeared in numerous publications over the decades. I'm currently being filmed for a six-part ITV documentary to be broadcast in January 2018. I'm particularly pleased to have published five books of my work, two of which, 'Anglesey Landscapes' 1 & 2 were bought by the Prime Minister as a Royal wedding gift for William and Kate.


When and how did you first discover the medium?

I was mad keen on Geography in school, and when we went on field trips one or two friends were using DSLRs to photograph the landscapes we visited. I was blown away by the detail they were able to record and I just knew I wanted a camera of my own. I was also studying art A level as I had decided to become a graphic designer. The thing is that when I started using the camera alongside my drawing and painting I found that the photography fitted my character type better. I always wanted to be traveling and in the great outdoors. The camera allowed me to be creative whilst exploring and visiting new places, without the hassle of carting huge drawing boards and bottles of water and paint with me. I guess I was an impatient artist!

When I went to Art College to study all forms of art & design, I found myself concentrating heavily on photography and with the support of a very talented darkroom technician and artist in his own right, Simon Culliford, I decided after just one term that I would be switching from starting a degree in graphic design to a degree in photography.


Your work often has a moody feel to it. Is this intentional, and how do you ensure a style runs through your work?

It's intentional for sure. It's all about communication of subject. My love for the drama of the light and weather is one of the main reasons I love being outdoors and climbing and hillwalking. I see the landscape as one huge theatrical stage, and the weather is the lighting director. Beams of light, dramatic skies and thunderous atmosphere blow me away. I feel more vulnerable and more human when confronting the power of the elements. I want my photographs to convey to other people the amazing light and scenes I've witnessed. When people come into my gallery what I see in them is a connection. My images create an empathetic response, they're catalysts for discussion and emotional expression between people.

What I would say is that I do 'impose' my style on the landscape as some others do. If the light doesn't work the way I want when I'm outdoors I simply don't bother photographing. I'd certainly not use filters and techniques and software to make something from nothing, even though I could after years of commercial work. I still want the landscape to be the landscape I saw, not manipulated through over the top techniques, filters and software post-processing. I only respond to other people's images where I can believe in what they are showing me. Likewise, I want my viewers to feel that sense of place, that atmosphere that I had experienced. I can’t avoid putting my images through a computer seeing as I shoot completely digitally, but my processing is as fast and simple as I can make it; usually just levels adjustment and balancing highlight info with shadow info, something that was damned hard in film days where the film simply couldn’t cope with the gigantic contrast ranges in brilliant, contrast-rich landscapes.   


You photograph in both colour and B&W - do you have a favourite and why?

I was brought up in B&W and was heavily into darkroom work and specialist printing. Like many photographers of my era, we adored B&W and mastering your DMax and Zone System was the Holy Grail.

The big change for me was the digital evolution. As early digital cameras were basically RGB units from which B&W conversions came later (and indeed when shooting RAW still are) I found myself looking at my files 'in colour' and started to realise that in the right conditions, there is something rather beautiful about colour itself. Increasingly I found myself retaining the colour info and not creating B&W versions. I still adore B&W and would love to print a load more, but around 99% of my print sales in the gallery are colour, as for many of my landscape photography print buyers, colour gives them an extra level of connection and memory of place.

Strangely, my major project about nudes in the landscape is predominantly B&W and customers seem to actually prefer the nudes in monochrome. I think maybe that it’s less medical and more 'arty' – more form than surface.


Tell us about your connection to the landscape, it seems to be the thread that brings your work together

As kids, my brothers and I were taken out into the landscape, to walk, swim, cycle, draw and paint. Since then I have also been heavily involved in mountaineering, rock climbing, surfing and yacht racing. These sports are so heavily influenced by the landscape; they are sports that have a true connection to landscape, to the rock, waves, wind and weather. In each sport, you really learn to be in tune with the subtle variations of the conditions; watching for every shift in wind and increase in the size of wave sets or change in current direction. When walking mountain ridges you become acutely aware of what's underfoot, and when climbing you study rock features in a way that few other humans do. These details in nature are now intrinsically linked to how I see and experience the world. 

I seek solitude. I find crowds of people intimidating and unnatural. I am never so happy as when alone in a vast landscape. I'd be there with or without my camera. I don't need the camera to make me happy or appreciate my environment. If I had to lose photography or my chance to be out in the landscape then there isn't a moment's decision, I'll take the landscape. Some people come to my gallery saying that they want to "have a go" at landscape photography. You don't "have a go"; it's not a tick box! It’s a deep-seated need to be outdoors, immersed in nature. I think the best landscape photography comes from those who first and foremost want to portray a truth about landscape, not use it as a canvas for photo techniques and fake depictions. I hope and feel that my followers and customers to my gallery feel my connection to nature when they study my work.


Do you have a photographic philosophy?

I think that's probably covered in the last question about my connection to the landscape, but I guess in summary I could say that I only ever want to portray my world as honestly as I can, in this generation of fake news and excessive digital manipulation. If the human eye couldn't see what I picture, then [generally] it feels false to me. I want people to see in my work, places and weather that they are likely to have experienced themselves, but I want to do it each and every time. I want my whole body of work to offer a dramatic, eye-catching but believable portrayal of the world in which I walk.



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