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Peter Corbett – Photographer and Printer

Peter Corbett in Botswana 2013I started taking photographs when I was 16. Inspired by David Bailey and the 1960’s film Blow Up I imagined a life of a sharpshooter for Vogue. Circumstances, social and other, determined something else as a career for me; however, from then on I was never without a camera. More importantly my awareness of the physical world around me increasingly became “not just out there” but how I could capture that particular slice of time and make a print.

Captivated by Ansel Adams landscapes; his iconic images irrevocably changed something inside me. At that stage I had no definite photographic genre. Although my initial inspiration was Bailey, I found I didn’t have an intense interest in photographing things that move and talk! Adams’ meticulous obsessive techniques centred on his  Zone System permeated my DNA to the point where various photographic institutions had me teaching the concept part time, despite my onerous job running a small manufacturing business. The principals don’t change and I would encourage anyone at any stage interested in photography to learn and understand the latter; I guarantee exposure will be your friend.

As the digital (photographic) era surfaced in the early 90’s, specifically inkjet printing, my interest acquired new impetus as I dabbled with this fledgling technology. There was no tortured transition from film to digital for me, I used both, and quickly realised the potential of digital, especially printing – I was not irrevocably hooked on selenium or bromide.

After a lifetime of fixing, making, selling and managing I was done with going to work in the conventional sense. I retired from all of that and moved to South Africa in 2004 to become a professional fine art photographer. I really thought I was a good photographer, and sure enough I was a seriously skilled amateur with some talent. The mistake I made was to think everyone in South Africa actually understood what fine art photography was and that they (the public) would feel the same as me about my work and buy – they didn’t. It was a hard lesson, but it pushed me relentlessly over the last 10 years to improve my technique my artistic vision and my marketing skills.

My real entry and subsequent success to selling my work came as a result of my dedication to my printing. As in my “artists statement” I have always believed, and indeed worked with the concept of the final print in mind and considered it my artistic responsibility to articulate the seen image through to the final print. Printing for other photographers not only inspired me but, sustained my belief in my own work and the love of landscape photography. Printing also made me realise that a Gallery was my goal, a dedicated centre for displaying and marketing tangible work as apposed to the Internet.

This is not a story of exhibitions, awards and an incremental career – more a tortured stop start erratic progression of self-belief and obsession, perhaps summarised in the following:

“There is a phrase I heard somewhere, which I like – it also lurks: ‘detached reverie’. Some kind of mood or state-of-mind where flow happens; one doesn’t make appointments here. This is of course both a blessing and a nag, a paradox to be sure. Once you have been to the well then the effort to get back so often negates the very quest. But I do have these times when the noise stops and my art begins. Once again the outcome, the end game, my end game, a Fine Art Print does not always result, but the pleasure of those times when one can contemplate the moment, when the light and form wait for the shutter and the simple joy of being there is the stuff of the landscape photographer.”

An excerpt from Peter Corbett article: Detached Reverie