Roddy Williams – An ongoing portfolio

Archive for May, 2013



Some years ago I wanted to paint some portraits of people with dark skin tones so I bullied a few colleagues into having their photos taken. (Actually one of them bullied herself into this experiment, but you do find that this tends to happen when you start making people look good..)
This is Fitzroy. The painting came out really well, but having rediscovered this photo lately, I really really like it. It’s very sculptural. It was taken in a meeting room in one of our office buildings in Brixton with an Olympus E420, and was one of several I took of him with or without his glasses on.
I usually paint in colour from black and white photographs because I am more interested in the tones than realistic colours, and there is an amazing range of tones here.


Scotland #001


You can’t really go wrong taking photographs in Scotland. The country is wild and magnificent, and the weather changes with relentless regularity. This was taken in autumn when the vegetation on the mountains turns a particularly beautiful shade of intense russet. You can’t see it here obviously, as I much prefer the drama of monotone, but I know there are photographers and artists out there who would enjoy recording the varied moods of Scotland’s landscape.

Angel #002


This angel lives in Brompton Cemetery, a place sandwiched between Earls Court and Fulham. It’s very popular with picnickers, gay cruisers, film makers and featured recently in the first Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes movie. Emily Pankhurst is one of the celebrated dearly departed interred here, or so I was told by a random stranger on my last visit there. I’ve not found Emily yet.
The back view, I feel, provides a taste of mystery, especially combined with these marvellous cloud formations which add a great sense of distance and immensity.

Osterley Tube Station


Osterley Tube Station has this wonderful tower with some weird aerial thing protruding from it. It is in fact, the weird aerial thing which makes the building interesting.
Osterley is far to the West of London, bordering on Hounslow and Heathrow. Having been to visit a friend in Hounslow West I took the opportunity to get out at Osterley and take some photographs of whatever was there, as I had never been there before. I am very glad I did. I love this photograph.

The lesson is:- Go somewhere you’ve never been before.

Self Portrait #001


Part of the reason that this picture came out so well is due to the lens. Back in the 80s I had an Olympus film camera and used to buy second hand lenses from one of the many independent camera shops in London’s West End. I picked up one very cheaply because it was missing the inset disc on the front of the lens where you usually have the make and the focal length and the filter size printed. There’s probably a name for this part of the lens but I’ve never discovered what it is. Let’s call it the Gazebo. This lens had its Gazebo missing. but I bought it anyway.
Anyhoo, it turned out to be a Zeiss lens, which are marvellous beautiful things that pick up much detail. New ones these days are about £1000. I then bought an adaptor for my Olympus E420 digital camera, which meant that I could use all my old Olympus lenses, albeit with manual focus only. Thus, there was a lot of jumping about between the chair and the camera before I got myself in proper focus, but the results are quite amazing when you get it right. There is some Photoshop jiggery pokery, but not a huge amount. I didn’t use any added lighting. I sat in my mum’s chair next to the window in North Wales. I always prefer natural light. Job’s a good ‘un.

Wild Wales #001


This came out a lot better than expected. I have been experimenting with Adobe Lightroom 4 recently, and am slowly coming to terms not only with what it is, which is a collection of software modules featuring an excellent photograph cataloguing feature, and a Raw file editor, from which one can export directly into Photoshop, Elements etc. It takes a bit of getting used to, but there are lots of opportunities for automating processes and speeding up the process of naming, keywording, basic conversion etc, by the use of customisable presets. I’m sure to some people that just sounds like ‘blah blah blah’ but if you’re at all interested, check it out. You can I think get a trial version from the Adobe website. You can get a fairly decent final version of your work in Lightroom alone, but I like to go back to my Photoshop comfort zone for some final tweaking (Photoshop Elements in this case)

I took this picture last week on a trip to North Wales, Land of My Fathers (and Mothers), on one of the few occasions it wasn’t raining or hailstoning. Yes. I was born in a very spooky place.

The Seagull


It’s odd how we have misconceptions of things. Rather like sunflowers, which are usually more angular and aggressive than we imagine them in our heads, seagulls in the flesh seem much larger and possessed of more menace than that with which our imagination usually credits them.

This is a Brighton seagull. I have no evidence that Brighton seagulls are more sinister than seagulls in the rest of the country, but I have a theory that they are. There is a malign intelligence behind those beady eyes and a fearlessness that is unnerving.

As I was preparing to take this photograph a local came up to me and said ‘You can go a lot closer, you know. These buggers are scared of no one. He ain’t going to fly away.’ He was right.