Interview with Joe Cornish & Gallery

The Joe Cornish Gallery has been located in the North Yorkshire county town of Northallerton since 2004. Joe and his team have beautifully married the characteristics of the building with a warm and welcoming feel. On top of this is a desire to make the gallery and the art as accessible as possible. The gallery understands that buying art is a personal experience and are on hand to offer all the assistance and advice. Joe Cornish Galleries are also members of Own Art which provides an interest free purchase scheme to make buying art, simple and affordable.

The gallery holds a permanent exhibition of Joe’s work as well as his print archive. In addition to his own work, the gallery also exhibits work by other photographers, artists and craftspeople as well as hosting regular craft and photographic workshops and cultural events. Joe Cornish and the gallery are keen to promote the cause of the community of nature photographers, reflecting a broad spectrum of work in the process and emerging talent. We caught up with Joe Cornish and sat down to talk about more about his work and his permanent iPhone photo collection all taken on a wonderful smartphone and post-processing with the means of various apps.

Could you tell us more about yourself and the gallery?

JC: My work is informed by a commitment to nature wild places and wilderness. It was a trip to Alaska in 1991 as the official photographer on a Raleigh International expedition that really fired my commitment to the great outdoors. Already having traveled extensively, the beauty of this wild undisturbed land took hold and I was hooked. These experiences convinced me of the vital role photography plays in environmental advocacy. I believe that as well as images of pollution, disaster and suffering it is essential to make pictures that convey beauty and inspiration; that give meaning to what we might lose if we failed to protect our planetary home.

Here in Britain, my professional work for the National Trust, Woodland Trust and Wildlife Trusts over the last 30 years has helped me feel I am part of a positive environmental message, of care, and hope. Britain undeniably , has wonderful landscape, a land that has inspired artists, poets, composers and photographers for hundreds of years. The cycles of life and seasonal changes are a reminder of the amazing abundance and resilience of natural flora and wild creatures and the unpredictable weather provides an endless and enjoyable artistic challenge. The camera has helped me understand this is a truly living landscape of variety , character , history and humanity. The gallery is located in the North Yorkshire market town of Northallerton perfectly located with both the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales National Parks on our doorstep.

Joe Cornish- Sheep, Hvertsikur Iceland

In addition to a permanent collection of my own images, the gallery team do a great job of exhibiting work by other photographers, artists and craftspeople as well as hosting regular craft and photographic workshops and cultural events. I am keen to promote the cause of the community of nature photographers and to that end I am always happy the galleries reflect a broad spectrum of different work through ‘tenant’ photographers and temporary exhibitions which I hope provide a unique shop window for new and upcoming talent.

” Some of my personal favourite pictures of recent years were shot with my phone, and the reason is simple…they are responsive, spontaneous and fresh. ”

Joe Cornish

How did your iPhone gallery concept come about?

JC: Over the last four years or so my sketching and my note-making processes have been done with a smart phone camera.

Having seen other exhibitions where artist’s sketchbook work had been framed and exhibited, Jo Rose (Gallery Curator) and I decided to stage a similar exhibition of photograph sketch-making. The photographs are 5”x 7” in size, relatively small, to ensure the print quality is just as good as the rest of my work at the gallery.

What apps do you use for post-processing on the iPhone?

JC: I use both the iPhone Photos basic app, and also Snapseed (by Google).

How similar or different is it to use the iPhone and digital camera?

JC: Photographic seeing is the same, but the mobility and lightness of the iPhone means that it can be used almost anywhere that it can be handheld, which encourages spontaneity and experimentation.

Some of my personal favourite pictures of recent years were shot with my phone, and the reason is simple…they are responsive, spontaneous and fresh. Sometimes they show a unique moment of light, never to be repeated. At other times they reveal a perspective which, for reasons of convenience or risk, are unobtainable with a ‘proper camera’ .

What are some of your best tips for composition on the iPhone?

JC: Probably to indulge your curiosity. Even so the fundamentals of composition, (assuming we accept the 4-sided rectangular paradigm that has prevailed for so long) remain the same. So pay attention to the edges, feel the balance of line and light, respect the space in front of you, strive for depth…and rejoice in the freedom!

Joe Cornish- Glen Coe

What do you see as some of the main challenges for a photographer operating in the current art market?

JC: I think the Joe Cornish Galleries staff, Gallery Manager Adam Richardson and Curator Jo Rose, are best positioned to answer this question.

Adam: The bombardment of images that flood social media and the contemporary art market can devalue and desensitise people to photographs in a way that doesn’t happen with paintings. The resulting competition and the reproducing of certain scenes by enthusiastic photographers makes this corner of the art market difficult to navigate both for practitioners and the general gallery buyer and visitor.

Jo: There is a lingering perception that photography is not ‘fine art’ . We feel we have a role in educating the wider general public about the skill and creativity of talented landscape photographers and about the prices we charge for Joe’s framed work. For any photographer who wants to exhibit and sell their work the cost of producing and framing prints is high and for some practitioners, prohibitive. To have a photographic gallery operating in the long-term means keeping the space exciting and always encouraging your photographers to exhibit, enter competitions, teach, write and take all the opportunities offered to show their work. In this way we trust that photography will come to be valued as equal to traditional art practices and photographers will be able to charge comparable prices for their pictures.

Joe Cornish- Balls Pond Wood, Hertfordshire

How do you perceive the future of photography?

JC: Digital photography might currently be thought the biggest revolution in photography. It may well turn out that these small flat cameras, which started their design evolution as voice communication devices (telephones) will be the biggest revolution of them all. The coming of computational photography on mobiles allows anyone to produce an okay snap, and for the visually articulate to to perceive and share the beauty and the stories they see around them with the minimum of fuss.

Not just photography but society itself is being changed by the iPhone/smart phone. The coming of high resolution smart phones may marginalise the camera industry but not photography itself, and photography’s influence on the world will grow. Humans are intensely visual animals. Having a device which allows us the share our seeing as an extension of our lives and a reflection of our personalities is revolutionary. Additionally , people will soon realise that mobile phones are not phones, but cameras, and will buy them as cameras, perhaps not bothering with a sim card for phone calls…although for now sims may be needed for internet access. If traditional cameras are to survive they will have to find new tricks to distinguish what they do from mobiles, beyond just offering long lenses, long exposures and immersive detail.

Read more about the iPhone prints collection.

Find out more from Joe Cornish Galleries.

What’s on at Joe Cornish.