Charlie Waite, a hugely influential landscape photographer and the driving force behind Landscape Photographer of the Year, has been discovering new genres during the lockdown. He’s also been reflecting on the psychological benefits of photography
“Do you remember how everyone said they didn’t have time for things, were too busy, and about to burn out?” ponders an ever-ebullient Charlie Waite, during a phone call from his base in rural Dorset. “You don’t hear that so much now, although I am still very busy. It seems like everyone and his dog is online!”
Charlie is keen to tell AP about his new interest in macro photography, which is something he has developed during the lockdown. With many landscape photographers prevented from travelling around the country to popular destinations, or unable to run/attend courses and workshops, top shooters like Charlie have had to find inspiration locally.
“I hardly ever did macro photography before the lockdown but have recently been shooting dragonflies and earwigs,” he continues. “I didn’t have the kit, but I’ve always admired macro shooters – how they get muddy knees, laying on the ground, photographing things most of us ignore. They would say most people just tread on beauty, while we capture it. Anyway I was looking at a dragonfly and took a picture with my phone, which I then enlarged, and thought oh my word I’d love to learn more about insects and photography.”
The lockdown has also boosted Charlie’s interest in wildlife photography. “I love buying images from other photographers, and recently bought an image of a hare from a woman who has been photographing them for 50 years…”
Rather than just getting into the technicalities of close-up and wildlife photographer, however, Charlie is finding a more profound, even spiritual dimension to his new pursuit. “I am getting close to things I had always seen and wondered at. I want to honour them by producing a photo I can enjoy and look at and show my grandchildren. For creative people, picking up camera is like a wake up call – wait a moment, this is a wonderful creative tool, look at the possibilities. It’s as if we have woken up to beauty during the lockdown. I have always admired the mystery of existence and in our quiet moments during the lockdown we can reflect on this.”
Charlie believes photography helps people gets closer to the natural world – “something which we have all become bit dislocated from. The camera can do a power of good for us emotionally, too. Photography is like an exercise in mindfulness. Even if you don’t get a result, that’s not the issue, it’s about engaging with the pursuit. People might say ‘ah it’s ok for Charlie, living in the countryside, he is not stuck on the top floor of an inner-city tower block,’ but can you still get a lot from mindful photography wherever you are.”
As well as discovering the joys of macro and mindful photography, Charlie has been busy giving online talks and recently judged The Art Society’s Isolation Artwork Competition in support of young artists and photographers from across the UK. “The Art Society been going for years and I joined about two years ago. It turns out they have 90,000 members, with a presence in most towns. After passing an audition, I become their photographer! Anyway, the young people who took part in this competition were really talented. I was certainly never that good when I was that age! The process of judging was illuminating, as it was really interesting to see young people looking at the world in a new way.”
Charlie Waite is a judge for The Arts Society’s Digital Isolation Artworks Exhibition and Competition. You can see the exhibition and vote for your favourite artist here.