Here are some of my mono photographs. Composition is key with black & white images and I like the challenge of capturing a moment from real life.
Wear the fox hat! Patsy Gibbons with Grainne the fox, Thomastown, Kilkenny. Photo by James Burke
The Carlow Hunt, New Year’s Day in Goresbridge. photo by James Burke.
I started taking photographs and processing B&W film in the 1970s and progressed to colour slide film where everything was done in camera – very good discipline. When I was 25, I quit work & went back to college, where I did a BA (Hons) in photography & photomontage..
This was pre-digital of course. I didn’t learn much new about practical photography but I had a blast. I did study several photographers’ work though, and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work was a revelation. (see video). Primarily a painter, he used a 35mm Leica and shot in black & white. His often surreal compositions done ‘on the fly’ are astonishing. He also founded Magnum picture agency. Cartier-Bresson is a photographer who has inspired me to this day. August Sander is a German photographer also worth studying. He documented ‘types’ of people in pre-WW2 Cologne and made some memorable portraits without the usual studio frills.
Jack Owen, poacher, Wales, photo by James Burke. Part of my Degree Show 1984 which I subsequently sold to The Field magazine & Marshall Cavendish partworks. Shot on 35mm b&w film | Pentax ME Super with Helios zoom lens. Note lovely Bokeh effect on the trees which this lens gives. I got to know Jack very well and visited him several times in Montgomery, Powys. We went out in the snow with the dogs once – it was like being in a Breughel painting.
Going Retro: March 2016: The following 2 images were shot with a vintage Pentax SMC 50mm f1.7 lens, adapted to fit my Canon 5D full frame digital camera. The lens gives a lovely old-fashioned look to photographs and a 3D effect which modern multi-element lenses cannot do. I bought the lens in 1981 for college. (I knew it would come in handy one day!). I’d been toying with the idea of selling off my film camera gear – thankfully I didn’t. I also have a Bronica ETRSi kit which I’ve recently bought a Fotodiox adapter for, so the big old ETR 75mm lens now goes on my Canon 5D. It’s been great to go back to old-school technique; pre-focus and manual settings. It slows you up, which is a good thing.
TIP: ‘Film camera lenses’ can be picked up for a song these days. DSLR adapters are cheap too. The vintage lenses don’t have the merciless sharpness of modern, multi-element equivalents. They also give more bokeh, 3D effect and ‘depth of contrast’ which I like.
See larger versions of my photographs here
Commemorative Flying Column, St Patrick’s Day Parade 2016, Goresbridge, Co. Kilkenny. Canon 5D / Vintage Pentax 50mm. Taken on the hoof.
St Patrick’s Day Parade 2016 in Borris, Co. Carlow. Canon 5D / Vintage Pentax 50mm. Pre-focused shot.
Kilkenny Castle Park. Photo by James Burke. Something ominous about this shot.
I put my latest photography up on 500px so take a look there for my new work.
Ploughing Match, County Carlow. Wellies compulsory.
Guided Tour, County Carlow. I like going on guided tours as you can catch people unawares.
Riverside walkers, Bagenalstown. Photo by James Burke
Floating dog. At Kilkenny Castle park , Ireland. Sometimes a picture just assembles in front of your eyes..
Autumn is great for warm tones along the River Barrow. Now and then I get to go on a boat on the River Barrow and it’s usually a frenzy of photography which takes months to sort out.
At the Borris Ewe Breeders Association 38th Annual Show & Sale at the Borris Mart, Thursday Aug 28th 2003.
photo James Burke. Rural Ireland – a sheep’s-eye view: I liked the pentagon formed by the auction guide in the man’s hand and the other geometric shapes in the picture. It was published in the local papers as part of a set of sheep market pictures !
Street Festival, Mojaca, Spain, photo by james burke
Three English visitors, Harlech Castle, Wales. Photo by James Burke.
British Museum, London, photo by James Burke
Paternoster Square from St Paul’s Cathedral, London. photo by James Burke
Langemarck WW1 German Cemetery, Belgium. More than 44,000 soldiers are buried here. The remembrance cross was left by an English visitor. A great contrast to the neat English cemeteries. Photo James Burke
Fr. O’Mahony’s tomb, Gougane Barra, Cork, Ireland, photo by James Burke
Irish garden party, County Carlow. Photo James Burke
Photographer on The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland. Photo by James Burke. A nice LS Lowry figure.
Tourists, Wicklow Hills, Ireland. Photo by James Burke
Photography club, snowdrops, Altamont Gardens, Carlow. Photo by James Burke
Bird show, Kilkenny. photo by James Burke. One of my favourite images. He even has a striped shirt. I was tempted to let the poor birds out.
Old boat house, Carlow, Ireland. Photo James Burke
A dog’s life. Street scene, Kilkenny, Ireland. photo James Burke. I always try to be invisible when taking street photographs. It’s easy to do so in tourist towns where people are used to cameras.
Surfer, County Clare, Ireland, photo James Burke. Actually 3 surfers. Connemara in the background.
Off to the Debs. photo James Burke – a very Irish phenomenon, akin to a US prom but with more drinking.
Guided garden tour, Ireland. Photo James Burke. Thomas Pakenham – tree expert. Wonderful man to listen to.
Tourists, Green Park, London. Photo James Burke.
Snowy lane in the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains, Ireland
Good photographs convey more than just the subject they are recording. They are neutral – we put our own meaning into them. We have learned to see 2 dimensional monochrome images as representations of reality. Photographs have an authority which drawings and paintings lack. They are accessible in a way which paintings are often not. Photography teaches you to look more closely at what is around you and eventually you begin to see the patterns. Carrying a good camera gets you into all sorts of interesting places and you can meet the most memorable people in the process.
Recommended Reading: John Berger and Susan Sontag have both written extensively on the meaning of photography. Sontag’s book ‘On photography’ is probably the best academic essay written on the subject.
See more of my photographs here
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Izzy. Photo by James Burke. Commission for a piano showroom – the owner’s daughter.
Author & photographer at barrowalley.net
Commercial photography available – contact me here