Digitalab Featured Photographer: James Sebright
At Digitalab, we appreciate the power of photography, whether it’s personal or professional. We asked James Sebright for one of his images and posed a couple of questions to find out exactly what it is he loves about photography and what he’d say to any enthusiastic photographer hoping to make a career out of their passion.
Tell us a bit about this image and why you chose it to be featured.
This image is from a series of images that I took in Syria at the end of 2010, shortly before civil war broke out, entitled “You Are Welcome: Syria Before Civil War”. I chose this picture because for me, it encapsulates one of photography’s key attributes: the ability to capture a moment in time, as a historical document. Not long after this image was taken, the nation was thrown into disarray. My time in Syria was one of the happiest in my life, and I met some of the warmest people I have ever come across. As I watch the familiar scenes on the television, I wonder where these people are now, on which side they are fighting, whether they are still alive.
Which styles of photography most interest/inspire you?
The kind of photography that inspires me is the work of the members of the Magnum agency, both historically and current. When I first started taking a serious interest in photography, I was very struck by the work of Henri Cartier Bresson, René Burri, Elliott Erwitt and people like that who had such a keen sense of observation. Since then my tastes have matured. At the moment, I particularly like the work of Alec Soth and Mark Power who both use large format cameras to create quiet, painterly images in colour. The thread that runs through all of this work is the emphasis on the story, the content of the image rather the mode of presentation. With the advent of digital photography, in which there is such an emphasis on post-production, many seem to have forgotten that, yet it is the content that makes an interesting image.
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
If I could give one piece of advice to an aspiring photographer, it would be to photograph what is around you and avoid cliches. The world doesn’t need another picture of the Angel of the North or the Tyne Bridge. Find something that people haven’t seen before, something that comes from your own heart and eyes, not a borrowed aesthetic.