We recently held a small internal training course for the Fujifilm UK team and we asked professional photographer Paul Sanders to join us and help teach us more about landscape photography. After spending some time with Paul and listening to him talking about his work and his thought process in regards to photography, it became apparent that Paul had a very interesting story that I’d love to share.
Below is Paul’s story from being a trainee photographer in 1991, up to his current passion, hobby and luckily for him, profession – Fine Art Landscape Photography. If you have any thoughts or questions for Paul, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this blog.
Fine Art Landscape Photographer Paul Sanders
“I’ve been involved in news photography since 1991 when I started as a trainee photographer at The Daventry Express in Northamptonshire. I’m incredibly driven and knew straightaway that I wouldn’t settle for life on a weekly newspaper, I wanted the big time, the only place I could see myself working was for a national newspaper and one in particular; The Times. I think essentially it was because The Times is in my opinion the best newspaper in the world for it’s reporting and accuracy. I got my head down, worked hard sacrificed everything, relationships, family, friends and social life all in the single minded pursuit of my dream job.
“By 1998 I was working for the international wire agency Reuters in London and in 2002 I got the call from The Times to join their team. When The Times changed from broadsheet to the more modern compact format I was given the job of revitalising the way pictures were used in the new format. Finally on 1 April 2004 I was made Picture Editor, I had total responsibility of the entire visual content and a team of the finest researchers and photographers working with me. To say I was in my element was an understatement. However success at that level comes with a high price. Daily I would view between 17 and 20 thousand images, direct photographers, manage budgets, layout pages and train young hopefuls. By 2010 I had reached breaking point, I suffered with chronic insomnia and depression, my marriage started to break down and the wheels came off my train. I hid this all from the world until December 2011 when I announced that I was leaving the job I had pursued for years.
“When you have a breakdown your body and mind are telling you to change a few things, I needed to slow down, take stock and recover. My recovery began with shooting large format landscapes. I’d wander the country 5×4 camera and tripod over my shoulder trying to be Ansel Adams or Joe Cornish and failing miserably. The process of shooting film again slowed me down, enabling me to organise my mind a little and start to get in touch with the joy of photography. In many respects my early foray into landscape work was such a failure because I wasn’t being true to myself – I wasn’t connecting with my subject at all.
“During 2013 I had an epiphany in seeing, I realised that actually it was ok to shoot the images I wanted, not the classic views, but using my emotional and spiritual connections with the landscape to create images that resonated with my soul. I had switched from 5×4 to DSLR during 2012, to save weight and money. Still I was finding it hard to work, I would always think can I be bothered, many times I would lug my equipment to a location and not bother getting it out of the bag; it was too much hassle. I wasn’t enjoying my work at all.
“However what I had realised was that to truly see what I wanted, the sitting, watching and listening had really opened my eyes and my heart to the images I wanted to create. What I needed was a camera that didn’t get in that way of my connection or creativity.
“In early 2014 I handled the Fuji X-T1 for the first time and instantly fell in love, I actually had goose bumps on my skin, such was my connection with this camera. It was a bit like the moment Harry Potter picked up his wand for the first time!
“As soon as they came to market I bought two, a variety of lenses, and swapped out much of my DSLR equipment totally committed to these tiny miracle workers.
“My energy and creativity were revitalised, the camera wasn’t in the way, it was literally a plug in to my imagination allowing me to record what I wanted in the way I wanted without the weight or cumbersome nature of my previous equipment. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and shot the images I had been feeling. I stopped trying to be accepted by the majority and concentrated on being true to myself. If no one likes my work really it doesn’t matter to me at all. If people do and I sell a few pictures then that’s a bonus.
“I still sit for hours watching and feeling the landscape in front of me, but now I feel that I am truly connected with my work through the little Fuji. The X-T1 isn’t a barrier like my Canon, it’s a conduit. They are virtually invisible to me, instinctively my hands fall in all the right places, there’s a wonderful simplicity to them which helps me as I’m quite simple in many ways too. The less complex the process of making pictures the less I have to be concerned with. I have no desire to pixel peep or get bogged down in the technical arguments about shadow detail or sharpness, I just want to create images that please me.
“The work I shoot now totally reflects how I feel about the world and myself, I can pour my soul into those little black bodies and know that they are keeping it safe for me.”