Paul Smith Lecture – Life Story and Career

On Friday 16th November 2012, we had an hour and a half lecture with photographer Paul Smith. Within this lecture, he shared with us the majority of his influential events that enabled him to become the photographer that he is today. Below are the notes that I took from this particular session.

  • www.paulsmith.co.uk
  • Made the decision to join the army at 15 years old and joined the British army in 1985
  • He revisits and uses the reasons why he joined the army as an influence throughout his work
  • Paul Smith wanted to be a diver – dreamed of working on the oil rigs
  • The options that he could choose from within his village were to go to university or join the army
  • He went to the Falkland’s war and was later shipped out to Germany – Cold War
  • He then retrained as a paramedic – can be a paramedic with 6 weeks intensive training within the army
  • What he loved at school was art
  • Picked up a camera and started to document what was going on around him at that point in time
  • 6 week evening class in photography – darkroom and basics
  • Trained to create a document that can be used for post-war crime evidence
  • Left after 5 years – started a fine art foundation course at Coventry
  • Wanted to be a pure photographer that made art, not the other way round
  • Found a love for aboriginal art
  • Went to Australia to do a project on contemporary aboriginal art
  • Jimmy Pike
    • Aboriginal artist
    • Lived in desert until he was 13
    • He hadn’t experienced western culture
    • Had to fight to the death over a woman
    • Went to prison for 15 years for murder
    • Got to know prison psychologist and ended up marrying her
    • Persuaded to use his art as a mental and emotional release
    • The aborigines tell stories with morals to the younger generation through their work
  • Duke of Edinburgh award
    • Looking for a photographer
    • Selected as the photographer
    • 1 year
    • Connection to the royal family
    • Went to Africa with Prince Edward – close friends until 1 year after Duke of Edinburgh
  • Accepted at the Royal Collage of Arts, London
  • Spent a week with his Graphic Designer friend
  • “Artists Rifles”
    • Looked at great war photography but it didn’t really have an action feel
    • Used computer software to create multiples
    • People felt it was cheating – “It isn’t photography”
    • Entitled this because artists were dropped behind enemy lines to draw the layout of the trenches before being removed by the military
    • Exhibited in big oak frames for big prints and brass plaques for the titles
    • Charles Sarchy – promoted people in the artistic industry; bought all of the collection (12 original prints)
    • Worth thinking about how many editions and how much you want your work to cost
  • “Make My Night”
    • A piece of work was bought by Elton John and Michael Jackson
    • “When your drunk, everything seems sexual” – Paul Smith
    • Acting up for the camera
    • Staged snap-shots
    • Evidence of a moment you may not even remember
    • Don’t always create photographs that are aesthetically pleasing
  • Moving image
    • Doesn’t loop – each aspect loops at a different time
  • “My Round”
    • “Robbie Williams”
    • “As a multiple”
    • “Doing sports”
    • Come back after brain storming – “It has to be football”
    • The way you work commercially and the way you work as a photographer is completely different
    • Had to get himself an agent – Agent for Richard Avedon as well
    • Agents are useful for you, if they are good
    • Shooting with medium format
    • He wanted the 1980’s look
    • Limited him to 20 copies per photograph
  • “Action”
    • Wanted to change direction, away from multiples
    • James Bond/Bruce Willis theme
    • Post Robbie work – had a lot of money to do this
    • Shot directly upwards
    • Exhibited as huge light boxes that were supposed to be framed on the ceiling
  • “This Is Not Pornography”
    • Research!
    • The Male Gaze – Laura Mulvey
    • Computer usage  – “smacked you in the face and says, yes, I have definitely been manipulated” – Paul Smith
    • Influenced by artists that made sculptures that merged
    • Approached by Conran
  • Commercial
    • Realized commercial work was beneficial
  • “Mr Smith”
    • Celebrity culture
    • People would assume that he knew gossip
    • Could tell it was Paul and the celebrity
  • “Impact”
    • Completely different
    • Photographed bullets from different crimes
    • Linked up with forensics
  • Book: Paul M Smith (Published by Goliath, Available from http://www.amazon.com)
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