Nicholas Goodden is a photographer with many sides to his flash. As well as capturing exemplary images of the East End and atmospheric London landscapes, he’s also developed a technique for picturing the capital in black and white abstracts that suggest, at least to the artist, the ruins of London 300 years from now. We spoke to Nicholas about these ‘futuristic photographs’ of London.
How do you take these shots?
This is something that divides people. To many, photography is and should be a photo straight out of the camera, and 99% of my work is.
But sometimes I like to play with photos, experiment, combining a few to get to a final image. In photography terms, it’s a composite image or photomontage. This isn’t something new, photographers have always used this technique even before digital cameras.
For these particular ones I needed a photograph of a famous London landmark, one of a person and one of sand, in that case a beach with dunes worked well. They are then carefully cut and blended as three different layers.
How do you manipulate them so they have no background and minimal foreground…simple Photoshoppery, or something you do with the camera?
Well it’s all a bit technical so I’ll keep it simple.
It helps to start in-camera by shooting on a dull day, that way you end up with no background and very little detail. The grey sky is like wallpaper. By playing with exposure compensation on my camera (a setting most modern cameras have), I can increase the brightness, reducing even more the detail in the background.
Then in Photoshop I desaturate each layer and use a beach with dunes as foreground, add a person as a separate layer and half the landmark. Then I play around with each layer’s brightness and contrast to merge them. Once I’m happy with it all I add a general motion blur effect that acts as glue between all three layers blending them a little further.
Why do you think of them as ‘futuristic’?
Have you watched the 1968 Planet of the Apes? I loved it as a kid.
I’ll always remember that fantastic/borderline spine-chilling scene when Charlton Heston enters the forbidden zone and discovers the sand covered decaying remains of the Statue of Liberty. How dramatic was that? Well I thought it was anyway. You can now clearly see where I got the inspiration from, except I see this more as “London tourism 2313″ than actual Planet of the Apes.
There’s a little bit of a link from one photo to another. It starts with one shadowy figure, then two, three, etc.. As if a group is forming as they go along, finding comfort and support in this desolate setting.
It’s an expression of how I feel about where our planet is heading if we don’t stop behaving the way we do. People aren’t sure how they can individually make a meaningful impact, that’s why it has to first come from governments taking action.
But I won’t go into that too much. After all, I take photos so I don’t have to express my feelings too much through words.
You can buy prints of Nicholas’ futuristic photography, as well as his other London work, through his website.