Arne is one of my favourite places in Dorset by Jo Stephen

Arne is one of my favourite places in Dorset, at any time of year the woods, heath and saltmarshes are alive with wildlife and beautiful foliage. I love the colours of autumn best, foraging for chestnuts and searching for fungi.

Silver Birch Wood Arne by Jo Stephen

My passion is photographing trees and the silver birch woods at Arne are a favourite, a few steps off the path and you are lost in a choir of elegant, silvery barked trees, thick orange bracken and bright green mosses. Every vista holds a picture, and the woods are alive with deer, birds, squirrels, water voles, dragonflies and spiders, it is so easy to get completely lost in the moment and the conversations of nature.

Silver Birch by Jo Stephen

Silver Birch by Jo Stephen

When I walk in the woods I try to capture the folklore and the magic of a world before industry. Arne is so quiet; you can escape completely at times and feel a connection it is hard to feel elsewhere. I try to leave out any trace of man in my photography; I think I am looking for a world we haven’t touched, and although Arne is managed by the RSPB and is frequently visited it is still somewhere to be immersed in nature. I usually have a 70-300 lens and take most landscape shots with that, this allows me to see closer into a view without disturbing and be able to turn and take a picture of the deer that was just startled in an instant.

Silver birch by Jo Stephen

Silver birch by Jo Stephen

 

Artist of the week, Jo Stephen.

What first drew you to photography?

When I was little my Dad had a Polaroid Instant camera and it was like magic watching the pictures come out of the front of the camera and develop before your eyes. There we were captured in time, messy faced and grinning. I wanted to have that same power to capture and collect time. I got my first camera when I was 10, I liked to set up surreal still life images or stories and photograph them. As a keen naturalist from an early age I was drawn to wildlife and landscapes rather than people and urban settings. I always loved the creative process and worked as a glassblower for years but I find an honesty in photography that I haven’t found in other media. However, like all truths it can be manipulated and experimented with.

Weymouth harbour by Jo Stephen

Weymouth harbour by Jo Stephen

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What is your favourite photographic memory, and why?

It would probably be taking my first film camera camera to Slimbridge when I was 11 and imagining I was a great wildlife photographer, when the films I had taken were developed the stack of pictures of ducks in a distance didn’t put me off, they did however make me learn that if I wanted my parents to foot the bill I would have to improve and be less prolific. Getting my first DSLR was another great memory; I had full creative control and didn’t have to worry about the costs of developing film.

Who is your favourite photographer, and why?

One of my favourite photographers in Idris Khan, his series every…. really speaks to me, I love the way he overlays images creating new complex realities which seem to exist outside of time. I find the way he uses digital technology inspiring. It has encouraged me to create works which overlay multiple images taken at different times from the same view point to try and capture the passage of time or a timeless quality.

Littlesea, studland by Jo Stephen

Littlesea, studland by Jo Stephen

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What would be your ideal camera, and where would you take it?

I have always used Sony’s cameras as I like to use old Minolta lenses and I would love to try a top of the range model like an A7ii. I have never owned expensive camera equipment and am grateful just to be able to shoot in RAW with a clean image sensor.

I would love to go to Iceland, Russia or Scandinavia and photograph the forests and Northern Lights. Also I would love to return to India, where I spent part of my childhood and photograph the places I loved so much. That said however, I don’t think there is anywhere in the world more beautiful than a bluebell wood in spring and I am blessed to live close to many in Dorset.

Tell us what you enjoy most about your own work, and what has inspired you recently.

My work is an expression of my need to be out in nature, so what I enjoy most about it is the time I spend in the countryside noticing life in all its forms and relationships. As someone who is deeply philosophical I find myself frequently lost in an inner world of imaginings, fairy tales and mythology and I think marrying those inner experiences with the outer world I see about me through the medium of photography is my greatest pleasure. I love experimentation and for me photography is a way to express a love and connection to natural world. Through techniques like intentional camera movement I can play with that relationship. For me realism isn’t important as trying to capture emotion.

3 trees by Jo Stephen

3 trees by Jo Stephen

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Do you have bursts of creativity – and when/where are you most creative?

Most of my time is spent creatively, occasionally I have time when I switch off and recharge or I take time out to meditate and be still. I spend as much time as I can in nature and I think this is where I draw creative energy from. However recently I have played with street photography and really enjoyed it. I am often inspired by dreams, books I have read or just by the light coming in the window when I wake, I never plan anything, what I do just happens by accident or chance from a place of inner contemplation. I think there is beauty and story in every moment.

What are the most important elements of a successful photo?

I like photographs that are uncluttered, express movement in their stillness and tell stories. I enjoy looking at careful observations of the natural world and I love the beauty in the ordinary and objects or perspectives that are often overlooked. I like to see rules broken too and am a fan of surreal fine art photography. A successful photograph is such a subjective thing, with my own work usually the photographs I like most others don’t and I guess it depends on what speaks to the observer at the time of viewing. I suppose capturing the quality of light in your image is fundamental to a successful image.

Ocean by Jo Stephen

Ocean by Jo Stephen

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Tell us about your favourite photograph, either your own or someone else’s, and please send us a copy/link from their website if you have can!

One of my favourite photographs is Pink Footed Geese by Milo Newman, I love the simplicity and the mountainous shapes the flying geese make, like a landscape drawn with birds.

Geese by Milo Newman

Geese by Milo Newman

I find the work of many of the artists at The Shed really inspiring and beautiful, which is what lead me to become a part of the gallery. Russell Clarke’s Misty Morning is a hauntingly evocative image I really love. Concrete Wall with Blue Door and Toxic by Paul Taylor are also favourites of mine, the ability to capture beauty in the ordinary is a skill I admire and Pauls composition is excellent. Although not photography I adore the work of Cristian Sainz, Natural Serenity is an image I can become lost in for ages, full of peace and all the energy of nature at once.

How do you spend a creative day? 

Alone in nature exploring, usually in the local woods, then drinking tea and looking at the images I have captured choosing which to share. For me things happen when they happen and nothing is planned, I can’t predict when I will have an idea or desire, some days are prolific, some weeks are non-productive. I think creativity like nature is cyclical and if nothing is forced things will unfold. I try to live in the moment and capture the moment when I can.