Interview with Trevor Cotton
#1 Please introduce yourself
My name is Trevor Cotton, an enthusiast photographer, based in the southern county of Hampshire in the UK. As I’m now retired from work in advertising and IT, I am able to spend more time on my passion, the art of digital photography. My interests are primarily landscape with a huge fondness for creative long exposure work.
#2 How did you get interested in photography?
With an early interest in art and all things creative I was inspired to make my own works, in paint. Then, way back in the eighties, I took a photographic course which introduced me to the art of developing and printing black and white film, the magic of that process created a lasting love of photography. Unfortunately my painting skills were weaker than my imagination and it would be many years before cameras and digital processing would come to my aid.
#3 Do you have an artistic/photographic background?
Well, my work in advertising immersed me in creative work and I was fortunate enough to spend time in some of the UK’s major film studios seeing film making up-close and being amazed at the complexity of lighting sets. So while photography was never far away, I never embarked on further courses and all of my digital photography and processing skills have been self taught.
#4 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?
Without doubt the most significant, and life long, inspiration for me has been the Japanese aesthetic. Early Japanese art, pen and ink and the block print, presented a wonderfully distilled essence of a scene that I found captivating. Add to this an ardent love of surreal painting, and you may see why the discovery of long exposure photography was a significant moment for me. And so the photographers that have inspired me the most are those that work in monochrome long exposure. There are the obvious few that have global commercial success but the talent to be found on social media sites and photographic spaces like this one, have been most influential. These, mostly amateur enthusiasts showed that thought provoking works could be made without visiting exotic locations, and having the most expensive kit, making fine art from the often mundane.
#5 How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph?
Considering the subjects that attract me, research is everything and much time is spent with tools like Goggle Earth, scouring areas and plotting access. Weather conditions are very important, and knowing tide times is crucial. Having the right kit for the type of image you wish to make is obviously essential, as are a good pair of wellies and spare socks! Whilst every trip is dedicated to shooting a specific subject it is always wise to have a back-up location somewhere on the route when circumstances make that subject unavailable. And I’m always aware of the chance of an unexpected ‘find’, which can turn a failed trip to a success.
#6 Which places have been your favourite shooting sites so far and why?
In general, anywhere that has an expanse of water and an interesting ‘man-made’ element. Piers are especially appealing and old boat wrecks are probably top of my favourite subjects list. Selecting a specific favourite place is a difficult one though. I can certainly say that the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, are highly placed. But if the conditions, like a foggy morning, and the subject are right then that place could well yield my current favourite site.
#7 Photographs with such long exposure make the world look really desolate and lonely. Why have you chosen to present your works in such a form?
Yes, the effect is not for everyone but ‘desolate and lonely’ are not negatives for me. My photography is about the creative interpretation of a scene rather than a record. The aim is to distance the viewer from reality, to engage them in a different way, and that involves a number of considerations and techniques; the monochrome conversion, a minimalist composition, the juxtaposition of the natural and the man-made, the ethereal effect of long exposure and of course the processing skills to complete your vision.
Many suggest that the technique is overdone and perhaps there are too many who think that all that’s required to produce an artful image is to stick a ten stop filter over the lens. There is a good deal more to it than that of course and it is mostly to do with your own creative vision. The RAW file is aptly named and in many ways is simply the foundation for the image you hope to make. And as for the detractors of long exposure, we might easily counter with; well there are really far too many photographers out there producing colourfully faithful landscapes!
I should just add that whilst admitting to a bit of an addiction for long exposure, not all of my images are so and neither are all black and white. Examples of my minimal approach to colour can be seen on my website.
#8 What do you do in your life besides photography?
Create and maintain web sites, although I really should retire from that too. Continue to perfect and maintain my own Japanese style garden.
#9 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?
To date all of my images are from around the UK, so to visit the coast lines of a few other countries is certainly on the cards. For those times when getting out is not possible I also enjoy the contrast of studio portrait work.
Home to my photographs