Page 17 - Photography

                                       
                    A New Beginning


Roger reckons he's taken about 60,000 to 70,000 pictures since his teens. The majority are black and white and are being printed up only now because he was earning a living. Besides his early work Roger has produced major photo essays since he became a broadcaster. They include Paris. You can see him at work in the self-portrait below - a reflection taken in a mirror on a platform of the Eiffel Tower during one of his visits to France.

In addition, Roger has taken thousands of images of Henley Royal Regatta, Leningrad/St Petersburg and Moscow. 'I liked Russia for the same reason I liked Henley Regatta,' he says. 'It was old-fashioned. I felt I was stepping back in time into the land of the tsars. The Communists might have slaughtered millions of people, but somehow the essence of the country survived.  Imagine my surprise when I found many of the places still existed. Even the wooden bridge off which Rasputin's body was thrown into a river was still there.'

Roger has also taken tens of thousands of images of Rome, New York,
the Netherlands, Rhodes, Lindos, Pompeii and Herculaneum, Capri, Oxford, Cambridge, Chelsea, and Richmond upon Thames. The annual London to Brighton veteran car rally was a must for his cameras. And fairgrounds and local village-style fairs provided wonderful opportunities. In addition, Roger photographed Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, and people in Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. 'I know they're corny subjects,' he says. 'But I could never resist the allure of the ordinary. Many photographers boycott these subjects. That's why they need recording. We must capture everyday life, as well as celebrities and the exotic. I'm acutely aware of passing time. What we take for granted quickly changes, or disappears.'

Roger was hoping to produce a series of new photo essays in the 1990s when disaster struck.
Domestic problems brought Roger's creative life to a halt for over ten years. From the mid 1990s until the beginning of the 21st century he was unable to broadcast, or take photos. He was, however, able to write a children's novel, The Magic Statue.    

Roger resumed work in 2003. By now the world had changed. Western society, which he had recorded on film since his teens, was threatened by terrorists. And the digital age had arrived. Roger bought a computer and a new camera and set up a website. In addition he created an online showcase for his pictures - the ROGER GEORGE CLARK PHOTO ALBUM. This enabled him to launch photo exhibitions on the web. 'These show mainly journalist pictures,' he says. 'I've got more artistic images in my files. But the ones I've put on the net are interesting documents. They contain information about people, places and events. Some photographers try too hard to be artistic. They end up being pretentious. Often a simple record has more value. For example, the pictures I took at BBC Radio London (above) show a bygone broadcasting age. Everything's digital now and tape recorders have disappeared.'    

In the summer of 2006 Roger began taking pictures once more. He decided to photograph central London. 'London has never looked more affluent and alluring,' he says. 'But this is a city terrorists have vowed to destroy, along with the rest of Western civilisation. These fools have nothing to offer the civilised world and want to drag us back centuries. In the meantime, I shall go on celebrating Western society in my pictures, like the one below.

'In my latest photos I've changed direction. I'm concentrating on street art in the modern fashionable world. I leave the slums and ghettoes to others. Back in the 1920s the American photographer Walker Evans began photographing signs of all kinds - adverts, billboards, movie posters, newspaper headlines, theatre and cinema adverts, graffiti and shop fronts. I'm doing something similar in London. A city is a gigantic outdoor art gallery. The picture on the left, taken in Piccadilly Circus, illustrates the point. It's pop art and tells us something about a society. Moralists will carp about decadent consumerism. But the women are beautiful and the advert is sexy and fun. Like all street art it's ephemeral. But that's what makes a city exciting. Each day there's something new to discover. Our streets are constantly changing art galleries.'


So how is Roger finding photography after a ten-year break?

'Easier than ever. It's as if I never stopped. Although digital cameras have some way to go until they match the quality of film they're obviously the future. I have no difficulty finding subjects and taking pictures. For the first time I'm shooting extensively in colour,   but I find many of my pictures translate into black and white as well.   I'm using the same lighting and techniques I employed when working in mono. They're perfect for colour. But now I have the option of converting pictures into black and white. All being well I hope to produce major photo essays on Western cities I've always wanted to visit, but never had time to explore. And I want to take up portraiture once again. So I hope some of my best photos lie in the future as well as the past.'


Roger's pictures are far removed from the violent, in-your-face images that some critics favour. 'Pictures of agony are not for me,' he says. 'I prefer beauty to ugliness. Just because you photograph war, pestilence and famine and produce grainy, high contrast images doesn't make you more sincere than someone with a gentler eye. I dislike sloppy technique and the raw snapshots produced by Robert Frank and William Klein. I prefer elegance and style. Urban societies and civilised life appeal to me more than backward cultures.'

Although Roger has photographed many famous personalities they make up only a fraction of his photographic work - 2 or 3 per cent. 'The majority of my pictures - the remaining 97 per cent - show ordinary people and everyday life,' he says. 'The picture on the left, showing the May Fair on Richmond Green, is typical. Londoners take this type of event for granted. But how strange it must look to people living in other countries and cultures. Indeed, it would look strange to a Londoner living a hundred years ago in Victorian times. He would recognise the carousel, but the 1950s-style cars, and clothes and hairstyles, are different from what was typical in the age of Sherlock Holmes. But Richmond is changing fast so  a scene like this is worth recording.



'As I earned my living in publishing and broadcasting few people were aware I was seriously engaged in photography and taking thousands of images in my spare time. Occasionally they saw me with a camera in my hands, but so what? Most of them had no idea I was leading a double life - recording our life and times and building up a large photographic library. I'm glad I did for the world I grew up in was far removed from the multi-cultural society we live in today. Surprising changes have occurred and some are disturbing.'

                                                                                   
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