With a client list including photographers Joe Cornish, Drew Gardner, Nick Meek, John Rawson, Roger Charity; award winning animators, Aardman Productions; to scientific users such as the National Physics Laboratory, Chris Ireland's expertise as professional photographic consultant is highly sought after, while his own photography, which he showed to demonstrate the potential of combining pinhole with the latest digital technology, was simply awesome.
Chris explained the proliferation of digital with some startling sales figures of 109.9 million digital cameras were sold in 2010 and camera phone sales were expected to rise to 1.11 billion in 2011. While Chris acknowledged that he still loved film, it was undeniable that digital was opening up photography to a huge audience. He then amused the audience with a blast from the past, producing the first digital scanning camera he had sold in 1998. As well as being housed in a huge case, this cost £18000, didn’t work with flash and needed to be attached to a computer. Chris noted that although professional photography started in moving into digital during the early 1980s with video, progress was initially slow. He charted the developments, from the Sony Mavica in 1981 which had used floppy disks and had to be played back on the TV until a decade later when cameras had autofocus and could deliver to ccd. In 1991 the first proper digital, the F3 DCS100, a collaboration between Nikon and Kodak, was mostly used in high end sport. Phase One was founded in 1993 making scanning backs. In 1998 Phase One launched he Light Phase, their first one-shot back, and Chris recalled that when they produced their first digital back he “didn’t think it could get any better.”
However, as he showcased the latest technology, it was clear that what was possible continued to advance at an incredible rate. Chris declared, “Bigger is better in this world. The more you have the more creative you can be. It is about pushing the envelope commercially as well as creatively. Chris advised that Phase One digital backs were not damaged by rough handling and could withstand extremes of temperature. He illustrated this with an amazing short film taken on a Vogue fashion shoot which revealed they were so hardy they could bear the weight of an African elephant and still take perfect pictures!
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Chris explained the technological advances in various versions developed over the years. He noted that while many other digital devices struggled with time exposure (30 seconds for most devices, though 35mm can do longer) with a P45+ a photographer could work for an hour. He said, “This means that they can paint with light and it opens up the landscape and architectural market.”
Chris illustrated this by screening a film of Joe Cornish working in the field using Phase One technology.
Chris then gave a view of the future with the latest IQ180 camera which was the world’s first touch screen with 80m pixels on sensor plus which allowed photographers to zoom in and out to check an image without using a laptop. While the audience looked forward to trying out the IQ 140, 160 and 180 in the afternoon workshops, they were inspired by watching incredible film footage of this in action. “You can capture movement with a digital back and digital back and pinhole that you can’t with pinhole and film. I try to be stringent that my images are just what was taken. I don't use Photoshop just Capture One.” Chris showed a metal camera he had converted with a pinhole to use in Mexico in 80% humidy and heat of up to 37 degrees. Sadly this amazing technology remains beyond the budget of many photographers, as reconditioned backs are £7800 plus VAT and new ones can cost up to £36, 000. However students in College have the opportunity to work with superb Phase One technology in the College's state of the art photographic studio.
Chris concluded his lecture with his Painting With Light presentation, featuring a comprehensive portfolio of his own breathtaking photography taken using the digital pinhole camera and cutting edge technology. The work had such a poetic quality that it was truly magical. Everyone felt privileged to view it before it is exhibited or is published.