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Biography / My Photography Mindset

A few paragraphs addressing the topics I am asked about the most often... about myself, my photography background, and my photography process in general.

Writing such things is impossible without self reflection, and the task to write some kind of biography and artist statement became the catalist for a much deeper dive into my whole photography thinking. It has been tricky for me to put it into words and depth has taken the place of brevity here. Please don't mistake that as a sign of an overinflated ego. For people who want to know more, I hope this will be of interest...

Self portrait

I suppose I should begin with a photograph of myself. I have a slightly uneven face and it's a little worn now, so I'm not showing it for narcissistic reasons but rather to highlight a human connection to the images here... the person behind the camera.

For those unfamiliar with my name (say as 'Greg'), I initially spent the years since 2010 as a music photographer (which became my main source of earnings in 2013), and only later decided to show my street, documentary and fine art photography too.

As a music photographer my images have been widely published over the years, including by well known national print magazines and across album and EP covers, too. It consists mainly of creative portraiture on location or in a studio space, and also live concert imagery of touring level bands in venue sizes from arenas to festival stages to (the more usual) small basement sweatboxes.

A-031 - Crowdsurfer - by Greig Clifford
A-031 - Crowdsurfer.

The Coronavirus lockdown of the UK's music scene during 2020 enabled me to spend time developing awareness of my personal photography work too, and this has subsequently become a much more prominent part of my photography profile. I am now evolving my music photography practice to more closely align it with my personal work. It's an instinctive decision that I believe will enable me to work in a more meaningful and stylistically coherent way.

I find inspiration in the classic documentary and original street photographers of yesteryear, particularly those who combined the documentary style with a highly artistic aesthetic, and I try to apply a similar timeless feel to my own image making. It's partly why my preference is to make black and white images, but also because I love the medium for its ability to show the light, composition, and the heart of the subject in its purest form with the least distraction.

C-007. Facing Fate with a Power Pose - by Greig Clifford
C-007 - Facing Fate with a Power Pose.

In general, I tend to view myself as a human interest photographer, the human condition a constant fascination to me, and I suppose that's partly why I enjoy music photography, for the opportunities it brings to photograph people at their most expressive. But more than that, I love to people-watch, making photographs as a quiet spectator of life, not usually wanting my presence to affect what's going on in front of my lens. I'm often drawn to creating images that hint at the non-tangible elements of human nature... of thoughts, feelings and emotions, and I hope to encourage deeper thinking, sometimes using subtle narratives to explore what it means to be human.

B-034. Future World Champion - by Greig Clifford
B-034 - Future World Champion.

I live in a seaside town in the South of England, a location well suited for coast, country and city life. I visit London often, and occasionally have opportunities to travel further, even abroad from time to time. So, although I sometimes make images of a more exotic nature, my photography usually comes from the more ordinary surroundings of my daily life. As a consequence, you're unlikely to see any photos of war zones or long lost jungle tribes from me. I'm just not that brave or adventurous.

A-037. Pharaohs - by Greig Clifford
A-037 - Pharaohs.

However, I hold hope that this may help to make my photographs more relatable to a wider public, and I also hope people will find their own meaningful connections within the images I make. I try to say something of the world and people I live among (from a first-world perspective because my images come from my own life's observations) but I have realised that my photographs sometimes say more about myself than anything else... a mirror to my own mind and how I see the world.

B-029. Faith and the Ugly Truth - by Greig Clifford
B-029 - Faith and the Ugly Truth.

I feel authenticity is important, especially considering Artificial Intelligence based technology now has the power to adjust our perceptions of reality so convincingly. This is why I adopt a strict no AI policy with my photography. None of my images are made using AI at any point in the process. That doesn't mean I'm against advances in technology, I almost exclusively use a digital camera nowadays, a Leica CL, but I believe photography is made with a distinctly human skillset of which AI is simply not a part of. My view is that using AI to make images is not photography.

B-008. The Piano Awaits - by Greig Clifford
B-008 - The Paino Awaits.

Much of my stance on the use of AI, and editing in general, comes from studying photography since way before the digital revolution. I see photography as a three part process... recording light onto film, developing the film, then making a print... each part having its own disciplines and each part playing a vital role in realising the completed image. I see digital photography in much the same way, the difference being that when photographing digitally the developing and printing processes are more combined.

So to me, making a photograph is a whole process, ending only when the image is realised as a print. I had an art background growing up, studying the subject at 'A' Level before moving into photography, so I think of each print in the same way as I would a painting, the largest signed numbered print being my format of choice.

A-061. The Pit - by Greig Clifford
A-061 - The Pit.

I tend to delete most of my digital RAW or original jpg files once the images have been processed. To my mind, when the image is finished it's finished for good, so the original camera file is no longer needed and only serves to tempt me to re-process it again later on with some new software or technique I may have picked up. By deleting it, the finished image becomes a fixed marker in my photography timeline and when I look back I see my influences of the time. Deleting brings a sense of completion, a certainty in my mind that feels quite liberating. If I have doubts about deleting then I know I'm not finished.

I'm told this way of thinking is unusual for a photographer, but to me it feels right. I periodically have an "archive cull" as I'm really not interested in storing thousands of images that I'm never going to use. In the unlikely event that someone may want to study my process a hundred years from now... well I'm sure there'll still be plenty of unprocessed original files from which to draw comparisons (if the technology of the day can access them). There's no such issue with physical print.

The finished print is the most important thing to me. I process my images specifically to be printed, so that is how I prefer people to view them. It's incredibly satisfying to know that my prints and books are now in people's homes, and internationally too. Outside of the UK, I have had sales to the USA, Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg so far. Of course, I would love my photography to reach more people across the world, and I'm always looking for opportunities to help with that goal.

B-040. Incertitudinal - by Greig Clifford
B-040 - Incertitudinal.

Whether using a digital or film camera I only process my images using traditional techniques. It is important to me to feel that the images I make could also have been made by the great pioneers of photography in their era, too.

I know that sometimes this can seem to not be the case. I have come to realise my more abstract images, such as Incertitudinal above, can seem like they were not made by a photographic process at all. This image was photographed originally in 2016 on colour film using a Nikon F3 camera, and is a long exposure of myself at my local beach on the shoreline during the night, lit by street lamps from the nearby coastal road. I waved glowsticks around to create the main effect, testing an idea for a creative band portrait I made a few days later... that photograph is directly below.

Then during the UK's final Covid-19 lockdown period, five years after I made the original photograph, I revisited my archive and decided to work on it properly as a black and white image. I decided to keep it in its negative form by inverting the final processed photograph, so the night sky is white (the black dots in the sky are stars).

Photograph used for the cover artwork for the single The Grey by the band Vektrill - photography by Greig Clifford
Photograph used for the cover artwork for the single The Grey by the band Vektrill.

Obviously I do like to experiment from time to time. Some images involve more work than others, but for most I only ever basically edit for exposure and contrast... particularly the case with documentary photos made for photojournalism purposes, such as concert images to accompany reviews. I don't mind using more artistic and experimental techniques in my other work though, particularly my commercial music photography for artwork and creative portraiture as above. Even so, the settings for my creative portraiture photoshoots are always real, constructed in a studio space if not at an actual location. I do not use green screens.

I like experimenting with long exposures and layering. There's just something about blurs and transparency that seem to heighten aspects of emotion and energy to me. The image below, titled After The Wall Of Death, was made while tucked up against the stage photographing the movement of the crowd. It features 15 exposures made over a 35 second period of time. Key areas of action from each frame were overlaid onto a base image and evened out tonally by dodging and burning...

C-017. After The Wall Of Death - by Greig Clifford
C-017 - After The Wall Of Death.

I explain these processes a little because they are very much a part of my toolkit for artistic expression. Usually though, I try to look out for individual decisive moments, for when the world aligns in artistic ways with my own thinking, for something meaningful and representative of one of many themes I have catalogued in the back of my mind. Often an image becomes important to me much later, having made the photograph for no other reason than because I felt inspired to do so at the time.

B-009. Turbine Hall Stairs - by Greig Clifford
B-009 - Turbine Hall Stairs.

One of the things I love about photography is the human connection, that there is a person behind the camera... that we can see the world through another person's eyes, and sense something of their mind and thinking if they want us to. I hope that translates with my own photography, too. With every image I make, whether it is abstract, experimental or otherwise, I was there at the scene, pressing the shutter button while experiencing the moment. I then personally created the final image, with skills I learned through years of practice. I really hope there is some value in that.

B-052 - If Penguins Could Fly - by Greig Clifford
B-052 - If Penguins Could Fly.

Sincere thanks for your interest in reading this far. Hopefully, I have been able to offer some insight into my photography mindset. If you like what I do and are able to help bring my photography to a wider audience I'd be very happy to hear from you.

If you would like to support my work, the best way is to buy a print or a book, or commission me directly. I'm always happy to engage on social media when time allows... Instagram and Facebook are my most used platforms. Follows, comments and likes are very much appreciated.

If you would like to keep updated about my photography by email, please contact me with a request for your email address to be added to the list. Thank you.


reFocus Awards
Black and White Photography 2023.
Nominee, receiving an Honorable Mention for Which Way Hawaii? Info.

Which Way Hawaii? by Greig Clifford. Honorable Mention - reFocus Awards - Black and White Photography 2023

Siena Creative Photography Awards 2021.
Finalist, winning a commendation for Incertitudinal. Info.

Incertitudinal - by Greig Clifford, Commended in the Siena Creative Photo Awards 2021.

MPB competition
Black and White, Dec 2019.
Honourable Mention for Crowdsurfer.

Crowdsurfer - by Greig Clifford, Honourable Mention in the MPB competetion; black and white Dec 2019