Wirral Festival of Firsts photography competition winner Steve Deer took some time out to talk to Art in Liverpool about ‘Mr Diggle’.
How does it feel to win the Wirral Festival of Firsts competition?
I’m really happy with the win. After a second place in last year’s competition, to do one better is nice. It’s also good to achieve something in 2014 after I was one of the winners of the ‘Photo Democracy Fine Art Photographer of the Year 2013’ award. Fingers crossed, there might be something else in the second half of the year.
The theme this year was ‘reflect’, explain how your image relates to the theme
I think all four images in the Mr Diggle series fit into the theme; he seemed a very thoughtful, reflective character. The image is not in my signature style, it’s a highly classic image that’s in a similar style of one of the original pioneers of portrait photography Julia Margaret Cameron. It was taken on Easter Sunday 2011 in a very smelly place, as there had been some sort of mass Starfish suicide a day or so earlier. I’m really enjoying ‘street portraiture’, you have to work fast, it’s challenging and refreshing at the same time.
See the full Mr Diggle series here: www.stevedeer.co.uk/Mr-Diggle
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background
After secondary school I went to art college to study graphic design. I’m now a senior art director for an international advertising agency at their Manchester office.
I live on the Wirral so seascapes form the bulk of my work. I always try to capture images that have some sort of graphic narrative, with an unusual play on spatial composition, sometimes very minimalist, moving between classic and contemporary photography.
What inspired you to be a photographer?
I love the outdoors especially the coast… it’s just natural to have a camera with me. Also, as a professional creative in advertising, much of my work is compromised by various people in the process. With fine art photography there are no excuses and no compromises, it’s 100% me and there’s no-one else to get in the way!
Is this your first photography competition?
No, but I don’t enter many. ‘The Landscape Photographer of the Year’ is one that I do. I’ve had about six images that have made to through to the exhibition in London over the years, highly commended, and also published in the annual book.
A lot of photography competitions are successful, lucrative businesses. They can be expensive to enter, so you need to be selective. Also, ‘peoples choice’ voting can be skewed as to how many friends and followers you have in the social media.
What do you like about black & white photography, and why did you choose it on this occasion?
Strip away the colour and you often enhance the mood. Without colour there’s an element less within the image resulting in a cleaner and less cluttered piece. I used to be 100% black and white, but now I’m more selective. By removing the colour from Mr Diggle it gives a timeless quality to the image.
How did Mr Diggle come to inspire your work?
I had seen the guy before, he has a great unforgettable face full of character, and a superb waxed moustache. I had never got the opportunity to approach him before, but as he pushed his tender past me and onto the slime while I was sitting on the concrete slipway with my camera, I signalled to him if it was okay to shoot and he nodded… he then got in the boat and started eating a sandwich as he waited for the rising tide to dislodge him. I had five minutes or so to capture the series.
I kept most of the series in colour, but slightly muted the saturation. If I was exhibiting them all together, I’d probably keep them all in colour.
What is the next step for Steve Deer in 2014?
To continue building my catalogue of work. I also have an idea for a project involving mixed media (photography and drawing) that I think is very original that I might get some time on.
I have several completed projects and mini series that I’d like to get out into the public domain…I may also create an online gallery and store to market my prints.
Which artists are you enjoying at the moment?
That probably changes weekly, but I’m loving the street artist Escif (www.streetagainst.com) and the drawings of Daehyun Kim (www.moonassi.com).
Are there any exhibitions you are really looking forward to this year in Liverpool?
The John Moores painting prize, anything at The Open Eye and the Liverpool Biennial.
To see more of Steve’s work, visit www.stevedeer.co.uk