Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Hywel Jones - A Minimalist Sensibility
Hywel Jones relies on simplicity and spontaneity to create images that reveal a keen appreciation of form and beauty
"The Web has changed everything!" Jones says. "Ten years ago, I would only ever think about working for a client in my hometown, but now I'm just as likely to take on work from someone in Florida or Finland as I am from London—although I'm not really actively looking for work on a day-to-day business due to the library filling up most of my time. I love the way that a Web page becomes a creative focus that's so easy to update and change."
Although he's constantly striving for simplicity, Jones is obviously excited by the digital equipment that has arrived at his door in recent years. He may not have felt photography calling as a child, but an interest in technology always was there.
Of growing up in the '70s, Jones says, "What I do remember is watching a children's program in my early teens that showed how in the future you could remove a person from a picture and the computer would fill in the background—basically, the Photoshop clone tool. This, to me, was mesmerizing and really stuck in my mind for a long time. So in 1992, when a friend showed me something called Photoshop running on an early Mac, I literally fell over with excitement. The future had arrived!"
Although the sales clerk he then visited assured him that the Apple Duo PowerBook with 4 MB of RAM and a 100 MB hard drive was "the only computer he would ever need" for photography, Jones is much happier with his current system, which has 4 GB of RAM and a terabyte-sized hard disk.
"It really did change my photographic life," Jones says of that first computer. "And it was so helpful to learn the basic Finder operations for many years before doing any real photo work. I feel that the biggest mistake photographers make is to jump straight into Photoshop without learning the basics. No one seems to teach the massive organizational skills needed to be a digital photographer, and they then end up with hundreds of versions of images all over the place."
Jones takes his digital organization quite seriously, but like everything else, he keeps it as streamlined as possible. He retains only one version of the original image, whether it's a digital capture or a scan, and one version of the final TIFF file. They're labeled with a precise code to allow him to quickly access the images he needs with nothing more than a hard drive search.
"All those other versions in between, with layers and different options and colors—throw those away at the end of the job," says Jones. "I know too many photographers with CDs from the floor to the ceiling to know that this becomes very confusing. As for the software, I only use the Apple Finder to organize things. Since they give such a big icon, it's now possible to view everything quite clearly within each folder."
While he has been using a computer to work on his images for years, only recently has Jones completed his digital transformation. He added digital capture to his workflow, saying goodbye to film for good. "From the first digital shoot, I gave all my film away and can't even imagine shooting film ever again," says Jones. "I think if digital photography hadn't come along, I would have given up long ago. I'm far too lazy; all those long nights spent in the darkroom are a distant memory."
Although Jones makes digital imaging sound easy, the results he and his retoucher achieve are anything but amateur. Not surprisingly for Jones, though, they're done simply with a few basic tools and, as in the chemical darkroom, a lot of skill.
"I feel totally confident with all aspects of digital photography," he says. "But I think it's very important not to get caught up in the technical side too much. I only know 10 percent of Photoshop—and so does my retoucher! I never calibrate monitors and I constantly try and cut it down to the basics. I know far too many photographers who know every aspect of Photoshop, but get caught up in a very technical image, when really you should let it flow organically. I think that the greatest compliment is when someone asks whether an image has been retouched, when I know that every pixel of every image I do has been worked on!"
Collaboration is obviously integral to Jones' work—both with his creative team and with the women he photographs. Ultimately, though, it's his desire for simplicity and spontaneity that allows his photographs to stand out in a crowded visual marketplace.
"It's so important when working with models to let them be themselves, to let them guide you to a good place," says Jones. "Everything happens spontaneously, from shooting to retouching. I try not to force anything."
Contax 645 with an Imacon 132c digital back
Canon EOS–1Ds Mark II
To see more of Hywel Jones' photography, visit www.hyweljones.com.
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