Straight out of school and following his dream eighteen year old Paul Gallagher opened a professional photographic studio. The only problem was that he didn’t have the money to buy the expensive camera required for the job. He didn’t hesitate; he sold his most prized possession, a complete set of autographs of The Beatles, and bought the camera with the proceeds.
The gritty determination he displayed in his teens has been evident throughout the Liverpudlian’s career and he is now widely regarded as one of the foremost landscape photographers in the business. He shared some of his secrets and gave a brief resume of his career when he was the special guest of Bangor and North Down Camera Club on Friday night.
A rapt full house heard how he had developed his own individualistic style by learning the rules and then breaking them when he discovered he could make better pictures by disregarding them. Following the well trodden path of film camera and darkroom developing he progressed to digital technology although he explained that he places only minimal emphasis on computer enhancement of his images.
“The camera may take the picture but it’s the eyes that make it,” was the underlying mantra of his message, emphasising that there is a world of difference between looking and seeing when you have a photograph in mind. Paul’s discourse was admirably illustrated by examples of his work – including samples from his numerous books, publications and television programmes over the years. He is fondest of the rocky grandeur of places like the highlands and islands of Scotland. Scenes from romantically named places like Beua chaille Etive Mor and Loch na Chairn Bhain and dark brooding aspects of The Isle of Skye came to life when coaxed through his expert lenses. The weather and the light were the most important components for a good landscape in his book and he thought nothing of waiting all day for a transient glimpse of sunlight to enliven a vista. ”Making order out of chaos” was how he described his approach to selecting and recording a landscape.
In a witty couple of hours he infused the audience with his love of the job he does and, especially when displaying a short portfolio of Icelandic scenes, he offered them much food for thought . Unlike most photographers who visit the vast snow and icefields of that country he opted instead for the rolling flatlands, vast cultivated areas with little human habitation. The message he imparted was that rather than take the same pictures that all the previous visitors had taken it might be more productive to look for something different. Don’t take the obvious picture.
The members gave the visitor a rousing appreciative reception at the end of an enthralling couple of hours and some went on to participate in a weekend masterclass with Paul.