In the summer of 2014, a talented young photographer won our first ever Open Road competition. Here, he shares his journey.

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WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY

Scott Charlesworth

I have a reputation for photographing uncanny scenes that seem to lack any obvious sort of subject matter and others are often left wondering what led me to capture the scene in the first place. With the rapid growth of the Internet in my lifetime, my eyes have been littered with images and thus I have developed a very specific way in how my eye responds to these visual stimuli; even when I was younger I would look through history books just for the illustrations because they were more efficient and more exciting than the words that told the story. This is probably why I chose to start taking photography seriously; ever since I can remember, they’ve always inspired me to listen more closely or, in the case of a photograph, see.

Before I embark on any shoot, I always do a basic Google Search to create a foundation for what I want to my images to look like. When I’ve photographed events or establishments in the past, I’ve always started by creating a visual mood board of what aesthetic I’m trying to achieve; taking all the best bits from other people’s work and applying them into one collectively great idea. There is also the cliché within photography that equipment doesn’t matter and I am a great advocate of this, especially with the rise of the smartphone. My Instagram account is basically a diary of my location scouting, whether I am doing it consciously or subconsciously.  I used to carry my DSLR with me everyday but now I just take my phone, knowing that I can still create the images that I notice when exploring. The secret is actually in knowing what to spot and unfortunately, that cannot be taught.

Many have also noticed that there is a lack of images from cities or busy locations within my portfolio and that’s mainly due to my upbringing. Since I grew up in a small industrial town located in the North West of England, I never visited cities until I was a teenager and grew more independent.

Being absent from these types of spaces has taught me to be efficient with the locations that I had around me. I was introduced in college to the work of whom I call “The Great American Photographers” which consists of the likes of Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, Fred Herzog and Joel Sternfield who all used the camera to create these amazing modern landscapes that were somehow beaming with colour yet showing nothing particularly new that I hadn’t already seen.

They were all very reminiscent of a childhood trip to Florida with my family so that nostalgic emotion may be closely tied to my adoration of these old school American photographs.  I absolutely love all things American and my love for this stems from a great number of things, music being one of them. I always imagined myself when I first enrolled on the photography course to be travelling down Route 66 with Bob Dylan or Elvis Presley playing out of my black Ford Mustang. At least three members of my family have all travelled the mother road so I figured that it must be in my blood to travel.

I don’t just photograph empty spaces; sometimes I like to add myself into them. My university regularly gives me briefs so I’ll pick a nearby town or location and photograph anything that catches my eye that coincides with the given theme. For instance, I’ll be walking down a high street and spot a beige wall with a red line of paint running horizontally along the top. For some untold and unexplainable reason, my eye won’t leave me alone until I take a picture of it. I’ll try to walk away sometimes and pretend that I haven’t seen it to avoid the hassle of unpacking my camera but I’ll then be haunted for the rest of the day for not taking that one image.

 Often when I see locations similar to the one described, they are void of any human interaction and need that one subject within the frame to make it work. Most of the time, I’ll wait for pedestrians to walk past and use them but in some remote locations I have to use myself.

More recently I’ve discovered that I actually prefer taking self-portraits as they act as a visual memento of that specific day which would otherwise be forgotten. I’ll set my tripod up in the same way that I would if I was going to just shoot the space itself, but then use my Intervalometer (A fancy remote control used for creating time lapses) and then do a number of candid poses of me against this wonderfully bland yet beautiful backdrop. I use the Intervalometer to take a shot every three seconds to save time, otherwise I would have to return to my camera to take a new image and wait ten seconds for the shutter to fire, something that I did for a long time and finally lost patience with.

The important thing with any tool is knowing what to do with it. Over the years, I’ve upgraded as I’ve evolved as an image-maker. I now have a Canon 5D Mark III which is absolutely amazing. My go-to lens is always a 50mm. Whether I’m working in film or digital format, you’ll nearly always find me with one of these fitted on the front of my camera. The reason for this is that 50mm is actually the closest point of view to the human eye which I feel adds a certain honesty and realism to every image. However in confined spaces, this lens has it’s limitations so I keep a 24-105mm lens in my bag just in case something unexpected crops up, pardon the pun. I even carry an old Hasselblad medium format camera with me that was made in the 1950’s. I think experimenting with all variations of the art form helps me to pinpoint precisely what it is exactly that I’m looking for in the world.

I’ll then return to my computer and edit my images in Adobe Lightroom where I try to emulate what I originally saw when originally shooting. I’m very much inspired by the way that film photography looks, especially with the colour tones so I try to take aspects of this into consideration when trying to reinvent my initial images.

Scott’s trip took him throughout the Yorkshire Dales during a chilly week in September. He stayed at The Bivouac at Druids Temple, Masham, North Yorkshire.