Steve Pyke Interview

Above: Steve Pyke by Andy Dunn

Steve Pyke - The United Nations of Photography


Grant Scott: Steve, I’d like to talk about stillness. Your work to me expresses the essence of stillness.
Steve Pyke: You mean the portraits and the still life, all of my work?

Grant: Yes, all of it. You seem to have remained true to the history of photography and portraiture, going back to Karsh and even earlier.
Steve: Well, the people who were shooting the first portraits, back in the 1840s; those people were also photographing still lives. Look at people like Octavius Hill. To me some of their best pictures were their still lives. Images like a dead grouse with a bag and still lives of lettuce, all that kind of thing. They are so simple. You know I always photographed still lives, right from the very beginning, but there is stillness in all photographs because it is that captured eighth of a second.

Grant: There is, but there can also be ‘a stillness’ within the still image and that is how I have always seen your work. Is that something you are aware of?
Steve: I’m aware of it for obvious reasons, in the still lives that I’ve shot. In the portraits there is ‘a stillness’ as well, I agree. I like to photograph people in this very still way, but what I strive to do and what I really like is trying to capture those spontaneous eighths of a second that come every so often.

Grant: You still only shoot with film, so do you think that process of shooting and then winding on imposes a pace to how you create your images?
Steve: People notice it more now when I shoot them. There is no motor drive and so there is an acknowledgement by them that one frame has been shot and that we are now moving on to the next one.

Grant: When you shoot, I know that you are trying to find out who the person is you are photographing, which is a very slow and considered process. The conversation leads you to the stillness. You are not a voyeur trying to capture something happening, you are engaging with your sitter to create something.
Steve: Yeah, yeah, that is what happens, but a lot of the time that happens before we even sit down to do the photography. A typical session for me lasts an hour, of which 45 minutes is talking, having coffee and getting to know each other. The actual photography takes me less and less time. It could be as little as 10 minutes and two or three rolls of film, but what happens is the result of the 45 minutes of getting to know each other and, of course, as a result of the 30 years of me doing this.

© Grant Scott 2012

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Steve Pyke - The United Nations of Photography

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