Please excuse this quite long ‘about’ post. What should we say when talking about ourselves? I don’t really know.

I’m a photographer interested in philosophy. I believe that photography and philosophy should be more accessible. My experiences of academia, photographic galleries and learnéd societies have shown me that approaching photography from an intellectual/art standpoint can do much to destroy photography’s power to affect people and be the remedial force that it can be.

I am a past trustee of the Open Eye Photography Gallery in Liverpool, The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain and the Liverpoool Festival of Photography. I am a current PhD candidate in Philosophy researching the relationship between imagery and language. I constantly have to fight the urge look at things intellectually.

I started this blog as a self-teaching device. Writing about a subject is a fruitful way of learning about it. So the blog admits to many errors. There is much here that, with the benefit of hindsight and learning, I regret writing. ‘It’s a journey’ goes the modern throw-away line. Not sure I agree that we are all on a journey though, so this doesn’t give comfort. Smacks of post rationalisation …

I seek the ‘accomplished picture’. What’s that? Borrowing from Robert Frost it ‘s a picture that:

… begins in delight, and ends in wisdom …

As Charles Harbutt enigmatically said ‘I don’t take pictures; pictures take me‘.

I only work with film and darkroom printing. The aspect of struggle is important. Richard Sennett (‘The Craftsman’) has said that we risk losing ourselves if we forget the learnt skills and craftsmanship that help give meaning to our lives. Making a picture in my darkroom is central to my approach. My darkroom is a daily feature of my life, my dojo, my zendo, my therapy.

Most of my work sits between landscape, documentary and street but I prefer to be unencumbered by notions of genre. One of the things that I have learned is that an accomplished picture can only be made with a certain type of engagement. It’s not the picture that is decisive. Its impact, where it takes you, is all. This dawned on me one warm summer Seville evening whilst completely immersed in a flamenco dance.

On hearing Falla play his own Nocturno del Generalife, the flamenco singer, Manuel Torre, said ‘All that has dark sounds has duende.’ Federico García Lorca chararacterised the duende as ‘a force not a labour, a struggle not a thought‘. For me, meaningful photography comes about from such a struggle, from a surge from the inside. The picture made is a form through which this struggle is displayed. Without duende, the picture is a mere record.

© Tony Cearns, Liverpool Cathedral Cemetery, Bromoil


My photographic influences are many so singling out a few is a bit meaningless. But let me just mention by way of applause and thanks: Robert Demachy, Leonard Missone, Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Atget, Dorothea Lange, Sudek, Don McCullin, Andrew Sanderson and Fay Godwin.

Leonard Missone 1899

Many thanks for looking in.

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