Exposure can be a fine line in modern media and in the wider art world. Underexposure; and your world remains conspicuously quiet like a church mouse with laryngitis. Overexposure; and the world’s your oyster … if I could just get the damned thing open! And an antihistamine for my seafood allergy. Or, failing that … a pram, some toys and a good throwing arm.

The Sublime Meets The Ridiculous

The highlight of my photography year was undoubtedly having an image curated for the Mobile Photo Now exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art [CMA] in Ohio, USA. The exhibition itself proved to be critically well received and presented a significant step forward for the medium and appreciation of photography as an art form. The exhibition, co-curated by CMA and #JJ community on Instagram, featured 320 images from 240 photographers representing nearly 40 different countries.

Overexposed : The Tsunami Effect

Only this week I had another image prominently highlighted within the #JJ community.




The image is one I took of my father for the project: The Anatomy Of A Stroke. It clearly made an impact in the daily #JJ community theme: Profiles. More than 4,000 images were submitted, with 188 selected by the army of community editors. Just 4 were then selected by Josh Johnson himself and posted under the main #JJ community hash-tag.


In posting Josh added “What a powerful and gripping image Will [Gortoa, my IG pseudonym]. I’ll just leave it at that. Anything else I write feels ridiculous. Thank you so much for sharing this.”


As you might notice by the numbers at the top of that image, the #JJ community has 636,000 followers and for a few hours my church mouse stream went atomic-powered church organ! Well, all things are relative.

Within 24 hours – and an increase in my own followers of about 50 – things returned to … ruined church at the head of the dusty high street in a desert town with no name. Cue tumbleweed! But it was fun while it lasted: watching my notifications window spinning like a Vegas jackpot machine … the modern day social media phenomenon that quickly becomes yesterday’s news [or a quick whack with the Like icon and onto the next Warhol].

Underexposed : The Pram

I also recently entered an image for consideration in the Royal West of England Academy’s 163rd Annual Open Exhibition. As it openly boasts “…[it attracts] leading artists from throughout the UK, it is open to all, and often includes work by unknown exhibitors alongside well-known names.” The selection process is notoriously … robust. And photography invariably maintains quite a low profile in the final selection. I was absolutely delighted to have The Falling Leaf curated for the 160th exhibition in 2012.

This year I was determined to go with a street photography image. I was pleased to get it through the initial online selection process, before mounting, framing and crossing fingers for the final selection. The subsequent email duly arrived … Selected! I do believe I may’ve done a moderate dancing movement – for anyone who knows me, they’ll know that’s quite significant.

But then something really quite cruel happened. I was to discover another category that I didn’t even know existed …



Just a few days before the exhibition was due to open, I received another email from the RWA with revised wording: Artist Selected Not Hung. Essentially this meant that the final curation essentially lies at the hands of the hanging team. But all is not lost … because in three panels placed around the exhibition is your name – effectively hung and displayed for all to see. And quite possibly point and laugh.

Well, I laughed. But when I returned downstairs another artist had brought in a pram containing a large number of toys and began hurling them out in quite dramatic fashion.

Exposure. Whatever the outcome, I think you should probably keep your dignity and modesty covered.





#MobilePhotoNow : Columbus Museum Of Art, Ohio, USA

Absolutely delighted to have my image  She Came… And Went… In A Heartbeat  curated for this impressive and important exhibition at the Columbus Museum Of Art in Ohio, USA.
Showing: February 6 – March 22, 2015
#MobilePhotoNow : Columus Museum Of Art, Ohio, USA

Columbus Museum of Art and the #JJ COMMUNITY, one of the largest photo communities on Instagram, present #MobilePhotoNow the largest mobile photography exhibition ever organized by a museum. #MobilePhotoNow [February 6, 2015 – March 22, 2015] highlights the emerging art form of mobile photography, and the power of social media and smart phones as a means of creative expression and connection. 

“CMA and #JJ partnered throughout October 2014 to post themed photo challenges that engaged the mobile photography community with inspiration from Columbus Museum of Art’s Photo League collection. More than 5,000 photographers from 89 different countries submitted nearly 45,000 images via Instagram. The resulting exhibition co-curated by CMA and #JJ community features more than 320 images from 240 photographers representing nearly 40 different countries.”

it would seem with only 0.007% of submissions actually being selected … I’m just trying to decide if that makes me extremely lucky, or extremely brilliant. Ha!

My image bottom left
My image bottom left

The criteria for submission was for images either taken and/or processed using mobile media. I invested in Instagram a couple of years ago as a potential new medium to express my creativity; partly due to my computer suffering a stroke; partly due to the school [where I teach part-time] furnishing me with an Asus MeMO 7 tablet.

I began processing older images – intrigued by the challenge of revisiting them with a new eye and, notably, Instagram’s default square crop.  She Came… And Went… In A Heartbeat  was one such image. And I’ve since moved on to capturing images with my smart-phone, as well as continuing to take images with my trusty Nikon DSLR, and processing these new images on the tablet. You can see many of these – mostly experimental, swiftly and intuitively processed images – on my Instagram feed here.

At some point I intend to reverse this process and potentially revisit the more recent images in their original full frame composition.

The exhibition itself has been picking up some excellent reviews from such notable sources as the New York Times, Newsweek and makes Brit & Co’s 2015’s Coolest, Must-Visit Art Exhibits alongside such luminaries as Roy Halston Frowick and Andy Warhol’s joint exhibition and Cartier!

Publicly Speaking : The Fear

For the love of sponge! I possess an almost pathological fear of public speaking. I’d rather plunge my face into a hive a bees – who are known to adopt a rabid stinging frenzy at the merest hint of the smell of jam – while wearing a face-mask … made entirely from jam!  

So, when I was approached  last summer by the steeped in history* Bath Photographic Society asking if I would consider giving a talk during their up and coming season of lectures, why exactly did I say yes? I know why… it was in part down to me going through a phase of accepting every opportunity, while also subconsciously safe in the knowledge that 27th May 2014 was not only forever away, but would most probably never come. Clearly, there was at least one serious flaw in my logic: that of the inexorable march of time.

Time waits for no man.
Time waits for no man.

* Bath Photographic Society shares the same birthday as Kodak Eastman in 1888; a year before the invention of the first flexible photographic roll film!

Essentially, I’m an observer, not a talker. [Although my closer friend’s might doubt that assertion when I’m talking all over them! The fear has always been associated with public speaking. I have inevitably had a couple of brief experiences feeding the pathology; predominantly recalling levels of hyperventilation in danger of sucking the entire audience from the room!] And now I’d committed myself to talk to a roomful of people for a mind-boggling hour and a half! So, how did this curious alignment even occur?

During the previous season of lectures my ex-friend Dave Lewis-Baker gave a talk on the History of Street Photography. “You’ll be fine,” he assured me. That’s … early retired Professor of Politics at Warwick University David Lewis-Baker: the professional lecturer! Since first meeting Dave about 5 years ago he’s been very supportive of my photography; and slipped two of my images into his own talk amongst the historical great and the good. It was in the aftermath he persuaded their secretary, Liz Bugg, to approach me.

Still, at least I had 9 months to prepare, right? Ah. See, there’s another flaw in the logic associated with hoping time stands still: fear induced procrastination. So it was probably less than 9 days before the talk when I finally began to select images and order a brown paper bag** from Amazon; which isn’t necessarily as crazy as it might sound, as I generally respond well to deadlines. But things did get a little hectic in the last couple of days, with the format only decided upon the preceding day – a hastily borrowed laptop [Thanks again, Dave – well, it was all your fault!]; realising the planned use of PowerPoint was completely impractical; writing onto cue cards; mysteriously losing an entire batch of images only hours before; a late morning timed run-through that hinted I might overrun – but with tweaks still to make; a subsequent timed run-through that hinted I wouldn’t overrun so long as I didn’t breathe, waffle and nobody so much as looked at me. It was too late to change anything now. I was halfway up the stairs to shower and make myself beautiful when I suddenly turned on my heels, returned to the slide-show and took out 20% of the images! A few minutes later I sat under the shower and wondered … at this late stage, would faking my own death be seen as an overreaction?

** One of the best concise pieces of advice had appeared on my Instagram feed from a virtual stranger no longer than 24 hours earlier: Let your work do the heavy lifting. Know what you want to say, but approach the whole ordeal with a relaxed, devil-may-care attitude. Mind the speed of your speech, and pause and breathe often. What’s the worse that could happen?” I did reply “The worst? .. I forget to breathe often enough.” Scott quickly retorted “Alright, so you pass out. Just make sure there’s a great image on the screen… no one will notice.” I pondered the eventuality and thought of a backup plan: maybe, like the bus in the film Speed, if the images drop below a certain rate, the slide-show switches to auto… and the remainder of the speech is written on the souls of my shoes. Simple. What could possibly go wrong?


Street Photography. Following the gut feeling last moment 20% untested reduction in images the talk runs for... almost an hour to the minute!
You get the point: Street Photography. Following the gut feeling, last moment 20% untested reduction in images the talk runs for… almost an hour to the minute. Gasp!
Seascapes : The ethereal use of light in my coastal images.
Seascapes : The ethereal use of light in my coastal images. [Don’t give up the day job, Rob! 😉 ]

In the cool, relaxed light of reflection… it was a lifetime pathological fear duly exfoliated. I may well have forgotten to breathe in the first few minutes, but the warmth of the reception carried me through. And the subsequent feedback [anonymously requested], so far, has been truly humbling, as it is equally encouraging … now where did I put the jam?!

Feedback from past day or so:


Me attempting to get my head around new technology with the ever resourceful and helpful Chris. Dave Lewis-Baker looks on.
Me attempting to get my head around new technology with the ever resourceful and helpful Chris.

“…we saw a very personal exploration and a piece of your soul. You were articulate, thoughtful and thought-provoking.”

“It was wonderful to hear the how-where-when-why, for each shot, from the horse’s mouth – it made such a difference to my appreciation of what you have achieved.”

“Overall, the evening was excellent and ranks among the best that we have seen this year.”


It's getting serious now! [Dave Lewis-Baker looks on.]
It’s getting serious now! [Dave Lewis-Baker looks on.]
“While you are not familiar with public speaking, you clearly prepared very well and this delivered a top-notch presentation.”

“A very enjoyable and informative evening, up there with the best of them.”

“… well-balanced great presentation …considering it was you first talk your passion came through…”

View from the cheap seats.
View from the cheap seats.

You were funny, very open and informative.” 

Excellent evening. I think your imagination and creativity are very original.”

“One of the most interesting evenings we have had.”

“A very inspiring and entertaining talk.”


Taken towards the end of the break. They seem happy enough?! And still awake!   [I also had prints, books, etc at the rear of the room.]
Taken towards the end of the break. They seem happy enough?! And still awake! [I also had prints, books, etc. at the rear of the room.]
“… your knowledge of and passion for your subjects [made for] an amazing first ever presentation.”

“For me, you should have no qualms at all about your ability to talk publicly. Your knowledge and sincere enthusiasm with excellent images speaks volumes!”

The calming presence of BPS president, Geoff Wood
The calming presence of BPS president, Geoff Wood.

“The photography was brilliantly original, esp. the street photography. I know of no photographer who can spot visual puns like Nigel…  [the] street photography is a very personal development of Cartier Bresson’s concentration on people in their own environment, and can be viewed in the same context. He has the very rare ability to photograph people unexpectedly without causing offence.”





I’m indebted to… Dave Lewis-Baker for the initial shove and subsequent support; my great friend Rob Jordan, who filled the car journey to Bath with distracting laughter, helped setup and took a few photos as evidence; my wife, Sue, for agreeing not to come [maybe next time!]; and all at Bath Photographic Society for the opportunity [especially Liz Bugg for my exponentially frazzled emails and texts!].

And… breathe…