10 January 2019 (The Camera Never Lies)

Our club meetings resumed after the Christmas break with a talk by Edinburgh photographer Neil Scott FRPS (who had given us an entertaining talk, “Keep It Simple Stupid” in 2017). We were one of the first camera clubs to hear a brand new talk from Neil:  “The Camera Never Lies”.

Neil explained that he likes to specialise in 3 kinds of photography: Still Life, Street Photography and Surreal or Abstract photography. He showed us in each of those categories how the photographs can lie about a subject. A common technique is translocation, where a subject is extracted from one scene and added to another, unrelated background. Neil is particularly successful at doing this in his street photography, where a snatched shot of someone against a cluttered background becomes a studio-like shot of that same person against a fresh background. In one example, a shot of a gothic street performer in the Royal Mile looked much more dramatic against a graveyard. Neil has the knack of being able to crop right in on his subjects to cut out the clutter. Neil is also extremely imaginative: combining seemingly unconnected subjects together to make an impact. If you want your subject to look like they are in jail, place them against a crumbling wall and use a photograph of a grill pan in the foreground to make the bars!

Neil also showed us how he constructs his still life and abstract images. Some of them start as an idea seen in passing: a coffee mug placed oddly on a saucer or a picture hanging on a wall in the background. Neil will play with an image until it works; sometimes replacing all the original components on the way.

Neil finished his presentation by taking us through a history of fakery in photography, which has been happening long before Photoshop let you do it more easily. From the Cottingley Fairies to the less favoured compatriots of Lenin or Stalin being conveniently air-brushed out of their publicity photographs, the camera has had the ability to lie to us since the day it was invented.