Fine Art / Portrait Photographer Ken Pegg shares his thoughts and images with James Robinson Photography Blog. Thank you Ken for taking this time with us.
Ken Pegg: Thank you for inviting me to contribute to your blog.
JRP: Where do you call home Ken? Would you say this environment is crucial to your creative process?
Ken Pegg: I have lived on the cliffs above Weymouth, Dorset in the South West of the United Kingdom for the past 13 years. The rural environment does not contribute towards my work in any particular way, although we have some beautiful beaches and countryside around here. I live in a large old country house with a large daylight studio which probably has the greatest influence on my work rather than the immediate surroundings. The beautiful light in this part of the world also helps a great deal.
JRP: What led to your interest in photography? Do you have any formal training or assisting in your background?
Ken Pegg: My interest in photography was triggered by receiving my first camera (Agfa Click I) for my eleventh birthday. Within 3 months I was developing my own films and within a year I was mixing up my own developer. I am primarily self-taught, but I did recently attend a degree course at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth which didn’t significantly contribute towards my knowledge of the subject. I have never had the opportunity to assist an established photographer and I would probably still consider doing it now. Photography can be a solitary occupation and it must be very helpful or at the very least, reassuring to see how others work.
JRP: Name two photographers that have inspired and influenced your approach to your craft.
Ken Pegg: Like many I am tempted to name Helmut Newton, but a few years ago I realised that he had no influence over my own photography at all, but I simply liked his work. Probably the two most important influences are Sarah Moon and David Hamilton and specifically their output from the early 1970’s. Both used grain to give additional texture to their images whilst also reducing the unremitting accuracy and detail of modern cameras. I have a considerable background in painting (oils) and I am drawn to the Impressionists who like Moon and Hamilton achieve their impact through mood rather than detail.
JRP: Do personal projects figure in the development of your vision and technique?
Ken Pegg: These days all of my projects are personal. Photography has been a fulfilling past-time for the last few years rather than my principal source of income.
I still sell a steady stream of images for books and CD covers. I don’t consider commissions because I don’t want my photography to become a job again or a chore. I have the freedom to shoot whom and what I want. It is this freedom that keeps my interest in photography alive. I am my own master and I don’t have to please anyone apart from possibly the models that work with me.
JRP: Do you have a team that assists you with your projects and if so what roles do they play?
Ken Pegg: I occasionally will make use of a make-up artist, but since most of my work leans towards a more natural or whimsical look, I never have a need for a full team. The fact that I live some distance from any cosmopolitan area, means that I always plan all my shoots without the assistance of other creatives.
JRP: What would we find in your camera bag for a typical assignment shoot?
Ken Pegg: I have been using a Nikon D800 for the past 6 months, but often resort back to my trusted Nikon D3. I am still finding my way around the D800 which has an incredible dynamic range for a digital camera. I usually start most shoots with a f 2.8 24-85 zoom, but by far my favourite lens is the Nikkor 85mm f1.8. I have a size-able selection of prime lenses ranging from fish-eye to 500mm, including a 135mm f1.8 and will select according to the prevailing conditions. Whilst I have a fair range of strobes, I will usual fall back onto reflectors rather than add artificial light.
JRP: What type of lighting do you prefer working with, artificial or available light? What are your most often used light modifiers?
Ken Pegg: At a guess I would say that 90% of my output relies on natural light and in the case of the remaining 10% I usually only make use of an overhead flash suspended about 6 foot above the subject. The work I aim to produce, relies to a great extent on a mood or feeling and artificial light is rarely helpful since it usually increases counter-productive contrast.
My most used modifier is my watch. I know how the light changes in different rooms throughout the day and I shoot accordingly. I may occasionally reduce the amount of light coming through a window with old net curtains or a length of natural colored gauze. If really pushed, I will resort to a reflector or two or a rigid panel covered in aluminum foil.
JRP: Please describe your digital work flow and the software you use?
Ken Pegg: Like most photographers, I try to get as complete an image the moment I press the shutter, but at the same time I am aware of the many advantages available to the digital photographer over the film user. My two principal pieces of software are Photoshop CS5 and NIK ColorEfex. Apart from the usual sharpening and cropping routines, I will often include additional texture or image layers to manipulate the background. It is often a balancing act between providing additional interest whilst not overly distracting from the sitter. Even with a large house, I have a limited number of locations for interesting backgrounds, so digital manipulation can be a godsend. I particularly like the “‘pro contrast” setting offered by the NIK plug-in and will invariably try it after initial sharpening.
JRP: Do you still use film?
Ken Pegg: I shot my last film 12 months ago and I can’t see myself ever going back to film stock. The ability of the D800 is a good example why film in all its forms is being left behind. Sadly this also means a decline in high quality hand prints, but this also coincides with the public’s readiness to settle for a more mediocre and more transient product.
JRP: When you look through the viewfinder what is the most critical moment in the capture of your image?
Ken Pegg: Without a doubt, the most critical aspect is the sitter’s demeanor or how they interact at the moment of tripping the shutter. In my case the sitter makes the greater contribution.
The photographer’s job is to elicit the expression and hopefully capture the correct split second. Obviously there is a bit more to it such as choosing the environment and hopefully creating some kind of ambiance.
JRP: Name a shoot or project that opened your eyes to the distance you’ve come as an artist.
Ken Pegg: I am always full of self-doubt and question whether I am any closer to becoming an artist. I have fleeting moments of pleasure when I feel particularly satisfied that an image has come very close to what I originally visualized. I feel that the term “artist” is used far to liberally these days. Artistry is the peak and whilst many of us aspire very few actually reach this peak.
JRP: When doing commissioned work in today’s economy how do you maintain your creative standards?
Ken Pegg: I don’t do any commissioned work these days and doubt whether I would consider any approaches for paid work. Anything I produce is for my own gratification and there is no audience that I need to please. This is what makes photography such a pleasure for me today. I am allowed to fail in complete anonymity but I am sufficiently motivated to try to improve on last weeks efforts. Like many others I live in hope in overcoming whatever it is that holds me back from the beautiful uplands of photography where everything I produce would win universal acclaim.
JRP: If not photography what would Ken Pegg be doing with his time?
Ken Pegg: Painting in oils. I used to do a lot of portrait paintings, but being portraits, the sitters invariably walked off with the end product and I have very little to show for my past efforts. All of my output is hanging on other people’s walls.
JRP: What has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Ken Pegg: Try living with one lens for a year.
JRP: What advice would you like to share with photographers?
Ken Pegg: Don’t try to develop your own style. It will manifest itself over time and people will suddenly recognize your work through your own peculiar signature. It is this that will set you apart from other photographers.
JRP: Thank you Ken for sharing time with us. It has been a pleasure talking with you, and I wish you continued success.
Ken Pegg: Thank you again for asking me.
JRP: To view more of Ken Pegg’s photography please follow these links: