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Wendy McDougall

CCP asks Wendy McDougall the deep questions about her craft

1. What gets you out of bed every day?

I love that every day is different - both in life and in photography.

…but really, the cats wake me up. And sometimes I just want to go back to bed.!

2. Who is the photographer that has inspired you the most?

There are two.

In order, first it was Bill Brandt [English Photographer] who I chose to study in my the only year of photography class at High School. He inspired my love of high contrast b/w imagery and fabulous composition.

Then it was Annie Leibovitz who inspired me to shoot musicians for a living.

3. What current camera are you shooting with?

Canon 5D111, and take snaps on my [old] iphone.

4. When you are on a shoot do you play music? What other essential items do you have with you for a successful session?

Music is essential to me when I’m in a studio style location. It helps me be in a good mood, plus helps the clients to feel good too. And I just love music so I feel alive when I hear tunes. I don’t play it too loud as I have a don’t have a loud voice to talk over it, but just feeling it in the background is grounding.

Other essentials are always spare batteries and cards, lip gloss and a hankie [thanks mum!] .. and a sense of humour.

5. In the digital world how important is the print?

I come from the analogue world so the print is extremely important. I always feel that the image is not complete until it IS printed.

I would ‘see’ the b/w image in my mind and in my darkroom the moment before I click the shutter button. That’s how I take photos, or rather took them in analogue days. B/w was a fave style.

In the digital world, I still aim to see the final image before I shoot but I have been frustrated that the print is not always easily obtained. DIY printers at home have never compared to my darkroom results. [thank the angels I have found CCP!] It’s changed the way I shoot too. I see colour more now though. Perhaps that is a good thing. But with digital files so easily lost due software issues or file corruption etc the print is now more valuable than ever, just to have the image safe let alone how amazing they look.

6. B/W - Colour - Analogue - Digital.

Put these words in your order of preference and tell us why.

Analogue - B/W - Colour - Digital

B/W will always be my preference. I had to learn Analogue first to know this.

Colour was interesting to me - on film and on digital - when I played around with it and made it unnatural tones. [unless a client required correct colours]

I have a love/hate relationship with digital. That conversation is for another day!!

7. Have you exhibited your work, and other than the print, how important was the framing process to you?

Yes, I have exhibited in over 55 group shows and 19 solo shows since 1984.

Framing is always a major consideration, even when I choose to have NO frame.

Framing is everything, whether it be part of the edge of the image printed on paper, but essentially starts with good composition. The physical frame completes the story.

8. What defines a great image?

A great idea, great composition and great execution. Plus good instinct.

Not every photo will be liked, but if these things are in the mix you have done well.

9. What is your favourite photo that you have taken? Why?

I have many but one fave is ‘Spaghetti Bath’

It was fun chasing the dream of the idea and seeing it come to life.

I had this idea in my head for a couple of years trying to work out how and where to do it, then within 2 weeks of realizing I could approach it in a way I had not thought about [hire a bath and take it anywhere], wham, it was made. This image was also done for the complete joy of making photos - from my point of view and the person in the photo. No pressure. Fun for fun sake.

10. What is the best photography advice you have been given? Tell us by who if you can or want to?

From Bill Brandt - in a TV interview, 1983. He was 79 years old.

Basically, what he helped me feel better about was, that you didn’t need to know why you were shooting before you shot it, and know what your photo meant.

In my early days I often worried that I didn’t always have a reason to shoot before I shot it, and then afterwards, knew what the photos meant. I had instincts to shoot and had ideas but the end result was not always known as I liked to discover things along the way from the core idea. I thought ALL great artists and photographers knew exactly what they wanted and why. It was like I was failing on this point and being a real artist.

In the interview with Bill, after being told what the interviewer thought about his work, which took quite a few minutes to articulate, about why he took the photos that she held up to him, saying exactly what she thought they meant, she waited for his response. She seemed to be expecting him to say that she was right. Bill Brandt stared at his photos for such a long time, then slowly looked up at the young interviewer and simply said “NO”. I let out the deepest breath feeling so relieved to hear this word, and from there on felt so much better at what I was doing. It’s ok to follow instincts and discover.

I still don’t always know why I shoot particular images but I just know they feel right to me. People can make up their own mind what they think they mean.

11. When you are not taking photos, what are you doing?

I play ukulele in a band [FOK ROK], and with various social groups.

Watching [too many] movies and TV dramas

Hanging out with the wallabies and other animals at our property in the bush.

Wendy McDougall - April 2022

Wendy's Photo Gallery

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