When I asked Barry Beckham`s friends to tell me their thoughts in a couple of sentences, it did not take long for emails and memories to come flooding in.
“I love to chat with him over a cold beer.”
“He`s great with our children, a surrogate grandfather.”
“We spent a lot of time with him as it was cheaper than going to the pub!”
“He can be a terrible tease.”
“I met him when I was 4 or 5 years old, so he is my oldest friend.”
“He has never let me forget I went in for tea and took my cricket stumps with me.”
“He is a great photographer, lecturer and judge…a talented man.”
“Being the longest married, he is by far a great husband, father and friend.”
Let`s learn more about Barry and his photography.
How old were you when you had your first camera?
When I asked this question, Barry remembered this vividly. “My aunt Jane and uncle John noted that I had an interest in photography and when I was about thirteen years old, they kindly gave me a Coronet Cub camera.” he said. “The camera came with me on a trip with a school friend and his parents. I remember using it a lot”
Barry also recalled his Dad bought a Bell and Howell movie camera when he was quite young and said “I always liked to have a go with it. We also had an old Kodak camera at home and I always liked to take pictures when I could, but that would have been mostly on holidays or days out. Back in those days though, film and processing were not cheap so I probably didn’t get as much use out of it as I would have liked!”
When did you realise that this was becoming more than just taking some snaps?
Barry explained “Looking back, I`d say that it kicked off more seriously when I was in my early twenties. I realised how much I loved this hobby and bought myself a second hand Practica. Thinking back, when my wife and I were in the early years of marriage, we struggled financially for a while. However, a change of job from the baking trade to the buses meant money pressures eased. Then I got a second hand Fujica SLR. At the time it cost me 35 UK pounds. After some time using the camera, the interest continued to grow, and I joined a photography club.”
There are many photography techniques that can be used. Barry has tried many of them as he explains. “I started off with black and white film and taught myself how to develop and then print those photos.” he said. “Colour slides were also a big thing back then.” Barry stated that he remembers buying his film in bulk 30 metre lengths and rolling his own film cassettes. Audio visual photography with film was something that Barry enjoyed. This is evident as he continues with this style today.
Digital photography opened up a new world to Barry. He was now able to do more and more with his images. Life was changing. “One of the big things he said, is that it then became possible to shoot colour and convert to black and white. This meant I didn’t have to carry around a bag of black and white film and colour film too.”
Photography techniques today
Barry continues to shoot images as much as he can. The technique of choice today is raw images of high resolution. Barry explains. “Raw simply means raw computer data. The photo is not automatically manipulated in the camera as it would be with a JPEG image. A raw image allows the photographer full artistic control of colour, clarity and contrast.”
Barry talked about another technique that he enjoys. “I also shoot black and white infra red images with a converted camera.” he told me. When I asked him to elaborate he went on to say “What’s a converted camera is the first thing you need to know. The infra red filter that is situated over the sensor in all camera bodies that is necessary in normal light photography, is removed by a technician and replaced with a normal light blocking filter. It’s a deep red.This allows normal light we can see to be blocked and invisible infrared light to be captured with a digital camera.”
If you had to describe your photography style in one sentence, what would you say?
Barry laughed and said “That’s an easy one. I am an all-round photographer, so basically I’ll shoot any subject with interest, but landscape and seascape are much of my photography now.”
What would you say are your strengths?
Barry feels his strengths are determination and the ability to set quality targets, achieve them and then raise the bar. Barry smiled as he said “I always aim for top quality; I can’t accept mediocre and never have been able to. I learnt very early on that the success of many in the artistic world is what they decide not to show, rather than the other way around. Show only your best. It’s a lesson I have stuck to.”
Barry sat back and thought some more. “From a technical point of view, he added, I understand light and exposure. I could probably go out most days and tell you what exposure will capture a shot, even without any in camera light meters.” He laughed “it did take a while though to learn it.”
Barry went on to say “To be able to do something instantly is a gift, strengths come over time. One of the other things that I know, and I suppose have learned over the years, is what makes a good image. Knowing what images make the grade, is something that is required. The photographer should be able to visualise what they want to capture in the first place as well as know what editing needs to be done on the computer in post processing.
Over the years of tailoring the photography craft, Barry noted that he could sum up his weakness in one word. Impatience. “Impatience is the thing that still dogs me, but most of the others have been overcome with the passing of time and the gaining of experience really.”
Would you change any aspect of your photography life? Any regrets?
“I don’t really have any regrets” Barry said. “I’ve been lucky to experience darkroom work via 35mm cameras and medium format. It provided a large amount of experience that came in handy when the digital world exploded on to the scene. I suppose though, thinking back, the only thing is those wasted hours and money buying stuff I didn’t need or know how to use correctly. It’s the classic. If I only knew then what I know now scenario.”
Favourite moments in your photography life
Barry realised that there were far too many moments to choose from in a photography life that has spanned over fifty years. “Photography has driven holiday locations and created trips I probably would never have taken if it weren’t for the photography. Even to Australia. I just could not narrow it down anymore!” he laughed.
When you are a photographer, the right place and right time is always a special moment. “I can take a million pictures that are a record of a holiday he said. But photography is about quality of light. If I am in the right place at the right time with the right light…my images become art and that is always special.”
Do you have any favourite images?
“I can sum that up in one word” Barry smiled. “Untruth.” I asked him to explain. Barry told me his story. “I created some images for a competition way back in my film days where the subject was untruth. Back then it was not so easy to combine multiple negatives within one photo, especially as you can’t see how your’ve done till you develop the print. I was awarded 1st 2nd and 3rd in the competition and extremely proud of the images. Mind you, I then left the club and found my car had been stolen. Horrible ending to what had been a great night. That car was never seen again!”
I asked Barry about favourite digital images. “I can sum this up in two words” he said. “Too many!”
Are there any favourite locations that you like?
I asked Barry about locations and what it is he looks for. “If there is something interesting and there is good light, I’ll always go take a look” he said. “Favourite places is a hard question he said, every place can look magical one day, dull and uninspiring the next. It’s all down to the quality of light and the atmosphere that can create.”
How did it feel seeing your work in print?
Barry, while pleased with the work he has achieved, has never been a person to get excited. “It was special to start with, but it is something that you get used to. “Barry went on to say “I see so many people get over excited with the most ordinary things. That’s just not me.”
What hints would you give a budding photographer?
“One thing I remember someone saying is, we often think we can buy equipment and that will lead to success. Generally speaking, it won’t. It’s not the equipment, it’s the user that guarantees the success. The trouble is, by the time you learn this it’s too late because you’ve already spent lots of time and money on that equipment. It`s like chasing that rabbit down a hole. It’s why a letter to yourself or a budding photographer at 20 years old would be magical. What would we tell our younger selves if we could…..?”
The last words of this article belong to Barry`s friend. He summed him up by saying this “ He is one of the most straight forward guys I know. I have known Barry for quite a few years now in England initially but much more so in Australia over the last 10 yrs or so. It has been a privilege to meet his family and get to know the man over that time. He may appear at times to have a hard carapace as he has some firm (annoyingly often right) opinions but an inch below the surface is a very soft centre.His wealth of photographic knowledge and experience is given generously to all.
In short……A lovely man.”