That's a very tough question. I'd like to think there is one photograph that instantly gives you an idea of what all my pictures will be like, but I take such a variety of photographs, so it's difficult to pick one that truly represents me. If I had to pick one, it would be the green camper van with the red scooter in the foreground (top row, far right). The reason being that it's instantly familiar, because everyone knows a vw camper van when they see it, but it's very unfamiliar at the same time; the road, pavement and trees that frame it all look very tropical. I suppose it's a bit of a metaphor for how it feels to arrive in a new country.
2. What are the two most influential experiences you've had while taking photos?
- The moment I mustered the courage to ask a person in the street if I could take their photograph. I was in Indonesia, on the last couple of months of a long trip. Beforehand I had been dreaming about taking the perfect portrait of a stranger, but kept shying away from potentially great photo opportunities because I was afraid to stop and ask people. Eventually I convinced myself to ask a man on the streets of Yogyakarta who was more than happy to pose for me, my interaction with this man was such a positive experience that I experienced a turning point and began to ask almost everyone I came across for a picture. Unfortunately, once someone agrees to pose for me, I often find myself a little flustered so I try to take the photograph as fast as possible and end up fumbling around with my settings and don't quite get the result I was hoping for. I either need to up my people skills, or start making more use of my telephoto lens!
- The moment I'd come to the end of a roll of film so began to unwind it. Then I noticed it was unwinding a little bit to easily... Turns out I hadn't actually put film in my camera in the first place, so all the photographs I had ‘taken’ were lost. I don't know how I did it, but I know I'll never do it again.
3. What's your favourite camera? Why?
My Canon AE-1. Firstly, it looks beautiful; it has a very classy design that I love and it’s weight gives it an extremely good quality feel. It has survived quite a few drops, bumps and bashes over the last couple of years and still works perfectly. There are a number of good quality lenses available for it, which makes it really versatile, so it's always my go-to camera. On top of all that, it can make some wonderful photographs. Even the bad ones sometimes have a bit of hidden magic in them that you don't get from other cameras. Oh, and the “CHICKA” it makes when you take a photograph is very satisfying.
4. Do you find that it's easier to find different perspectives while specializing in travel photography because you're constantly immersed in unfamiliar environments?
Most definitely. It's easy to get comfortable in a familiar environment and take the features around you for granted, no matter how astonishing they may be. I live in Edinburgh, one of the most picturesque cities in the world, but I often have to remind myself to actually take photographs when I'm here. Although when I visit a generic small town, I suddenly have the urge to capture everything in my sights. The moment your brain registers something for the first time is the best time to get creative with it.
5. Some of your photography is fairly abstract. Do you have an idea of what these images are going to look like while you're shooting them or is developing the roll just sort of a pleasant surprise?
I suppose the beauty of film photography is that you never really know exactly what you're going to get, whether you're searching for the abstract or not. I will plan some of the shots to a degree and the more I experiment, the more I learn what to expect.
Some of my favourite abstract pieces were entirely accidental and I have no recollection of taking them at all.
6. Lastly, why is photography important (both to you and as a general art form)?
Photography is important to me because it gives me an opportunity to capture my own perspective and share it with others, I also appreciate other people's photography as it gives me the chance to see their unique perspective. It is endlessly interesting to me that different people can capture the exact same thing in so many different ways. That's what it all boils down to for me.
Manuel's photographs have been featured in two recent exhibitions:
Analogue Photography Exhibition (Scottish Fashion Creative Network) July 2015 @ The Biscuit Factory, Edinburgh
Life: only happening once, February 2016 @ Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh
Find Manuel on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.
Check out his photozine here!