“Is it or isn’t it? “ they ask as they stare harder at the prints being exhibited. “Yes they are photographs,” will come the emphatic reply from the artist.
You can safely say that those four words have pretty much become Simon’s catchphrase since he introduced the technique know as HDR (High Dynamic Range) to his photography.
“It really is quite interesting watching people’s faces as they walk past. They really are not sure whether or not they are paintings or photographs. Sometimes even when they are told they don’t believe it,” said the teacher turned photographer.
“I first saw the technique being used on a picture in a magazine and I was wowed. The painterly 3D look just blew me away and I knew it was something a bit different that I had been looking for that would make my work stand out from the rest.”
The HDR process involves taking at least three differently exposed images from exactly the same viewpoint and combining them with the aid of computer software.
“The best way to explain it is to imagine taking a picture of a stained glass window in a church. You either get an over exposed window or a great window surrounded by darkness. HDR allows you to combine both to create the perfect image – closer to that which your eye perceives,” explains Simon with the skills his years as a teacher have given him.
Whatever it is that he does, the results are stunning – especially the images from inside churches and of steam trains – and they are attracting a lot of attention from critics.
Last year Simon’s work was chosen by Innova Digital Art to showcase their trade stand at an exhibition in Munich, Cologne and then New York. Twenty-five of his images were used on a grand scale at the Munich event and more were used at another stand they had at the NEC last month.
His work has appeared in magazines and been shortlisted for awards. He sells originals, prints and cards all over the county and worldwide online.
“If anyone had told me a few years ago that I would be seeing my work in Munich, Cologne and New York and going to Nairobi for for a commission I would have laughed and said don’t be daft. I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Simon moved to Hathersage ten years ago when he retired from his job as a primary school teacher in the county.
“I started using my first Box Brownie camera when I was about ten years old and was always told I had a good eye for composition but my hobby was put to one side as other priorities in life took over.
“However I always dabbled with photography and I was lucky enough to be given a lot of free film and a good camera to use by my brother-in-law. That allowed me to experiment without worrying about the cost and skills have been improved with the help of books and magazines.
“I have learnt a lot by trial and error. Many times I thought something was going to be great only to find it hadn’t worked out so I had to go back.
“With the encouragement of my family I decided I was going to take up photography seriously and started by taking pictures of village life.”
Simon likes to take informal, natural looking pictures and is so often seen at village events with his camera that people have stopped taking any notice of him and then he really captures the moment. He’s recorded galas and plays, concerts and parties – even sheepdog trials.
As his confidence grew he started to look for a niche he could call his own and found it with the HDR work. Now he aims to publish a book; be commissioned to record a series of pictures and achieve a Royal Photographic Society Distinction.
“It just proves that you never know where you are going or where life will take you. This has been a great journey, an exciting journey and one I hope will continue for a long time to come,” he said.
Simon’s work can be seen at the Three Roofs Café in Castleton Cintra’s Tea Room in Hathersage and the Hathersage Craft Shop. Go to http://www.simonbullimages.co.uk for more about his work.