Artist Statement

Iain McGillivray

My photography aims to capture views of the surrounding environment particularly the urban environment, its forms and the changing urban landscape. Having dabbled in a variety of techniques and subjects over time and having an interest in many the choice of a personal style was a difficult one, not so much in terms of what to choose to photograph but what to leave out.

Good photography requires subject familiarity and access and living in a city the urban environment was an obvious choice – living within walking distance or a short journey from a vast array of photo opportunities.

In my work my aim is to convey the forms and abstractions of the urban environment – focusing close-in on the details of the streets and the buildings and doing so in a way that aims to remove the sense of scale and hopefully leaves the viewer asking questions, thus forming their own impressions, of what lies beyond the frame of the image and the actual scale of what is being depicted. Also focusing on specific parts of the composition using a shallow depth of field and telephoto lenses to compress the images giving more of a sense of urban density. Certain photographs aim to convey the impression of being in a dense metropolis more akin to Manhattan or Chicago – by focusing close on the buildings and leaving the height to the imagination of the viewer.

I am also interested in conservation of architectural heritage and derelict/decaying industrial sites. I also like to find things or places in the city to photograph in a way that removes the sense of place for example an area of parkland or riverside that can be made to look as if it is miles from anywhere.

The decision to render most of my work in black and white was one I struggled for a long time to make. I like to see vivid and vibrant colours in images (especially those taken at twilight or illuminations at night) but equally I like the lack of distraction from the shapes and forms in images, as well as the timeless feel, that only monochrome can express.

Post processing I prefer to keep to a minimum, making only adjustments to contrast and colour saturation but not adding or taking away details in most cases. The intention is for the work to be a hybrid of documentary street photography and abstract imagery of the city, its architecture and its other features.

Mid-day shooting tends to be avoided by many photographers, due to the harsh and often problematic lighting conditions particularly in direct sunlight and so the “golden hour” tends to be preferred. My work aims to find ways to use this light to advantage by making use of the contrast between areas of sunlight and shade created by tall buildings. While in colour the results of this are mixed it can be used very effectively in monochrome by using close cropped compositions and avoiding inclusion of sky in images.

I tend not to go out and shoot the city with specific compositions in mind, instead preferring to draw inspiration from where I am and what I see in the moment. I find in this way I can be more open to unexpected opportunities and work with whatever lighting conditions the weather provides.

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