Photographers You Should Know: Bruce Percy

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As the first in a new series of journal posts I wanted to start with a photographer whose photography has served as an inspiration and a challenge to my own work.  Bruce Percy is a Scottish photographer best known for his landscape photography from locations such as Iceland, Bolivia, the Chilean Patagonia, and his native Scotland.  His client list includes American Express, National Geographic Traveller Magazine, and Fujifilm UK to name a few.

To get started, I’ve created a Pinterest Board with some of Mr. Percy’s work.  Also, take a look at this website.  

To me, Mr. Percy’s takes dramatic landscapes and imbues them with a sense of simplicity and calm.  I’ve had the opportunity to photograph the Chilean Patagonia myself (a place where Mr. Percy frequents) and let me tell you, its a wild place.  The landscape (the the photographer!) is often bombarded with high winds and rain.  In fact, the week I spent in the area I was only able to glimpse the peaks of the Torres del Paine mountain range a couple of times.  To that end, the Chilean Patagonia, the Bolivian Altiplano, Iceland, and his homeland of Scotland all share these similar characteristics.  Perhaps that is why Mr. Percy feels drawn to those locations, to find a certain peace and quiet in the midst of dramatic and desolate landscapes.  

In his podcast series (which is highly recommended), Mr. Percy often speaks of the loneliness and desolation that he feels when he is within an landscape creating photographs.  Often by himself and camping for stretches of several weeks, the work that he returns with brings this spirit to the forefront.  In his work there is stark loneliness, however it is mixed with the peace that one can find after spending an extended time alone.  While I have never gone to the lengths that Mr. Percy does, as an introverted person myself, I can identify with finding rejuvenation in being alone, especially in wild places.  I don’t know first hand whether Mr. Percy has these character traits, however I would guess that he does.  During these types of photographic explorations, it can be more about the photographers experience in the landscape; what he or she is learning and finding within oneself and bringing that to the images that are created.  Rather than simply documenting the natural beauty of a place.  The art then becomes not just as a record of what is happening environmentally, but what is being renewed and revived from within.  This is why I am drawn to his landscape work.  It is not only beautiful on first glance, it contains a depth that makes you want to keep looking.  

Mr. Percy chooses to work primarily with medium format film cameras.  When learning this information, and seeing Mr. Percy’s amazing landscape work, it can be tempting to want to go out and buy the same equipment.  But its not that simple.  His choice of format is deliberate and requires patience and a deep knowledge of how to work with the format, especially when photographing places such as Scotland or Iceland, where the light can change in an instant.  It’s not as quick as flicking the on switch.  Light readings have to be taken and filters set in place.  Often when I am photographing and the light becomes perfect, I can begin to panic and rush my work, hoping to make as many images as possible in that short period of time.  This just isn’t possible with this type of equipment, and it requires deliberate planning and forethought.  With this knowledge of how the artist works it helps to deepen my understanding of it.  As mentioned above, it is clear that Mr. Percy is extremely thoughtful in his overall approach to the artform.  

While to many, Mr. Percy’s work may make them think of faraway landscapes such as Iceland, Chile, Bolivia, or Norway, he is also an accomplished portraitist.  When roving around his website, make sure to check out his recent work highlighting Japanese Geisha’s.  Really really good stuff.

Bruce is also a phenomenal blogger and I have been a regular reader of his blog for years.  As with his photography, you can tell he is very thoughtful with his blog posts and is someone that prescribes to a quality over quantity philosophy when it comes to his writing.  A post he wrote in February about the uses of focal lengths is something that I tried to deliberately implement with my own photographic process on a recent trip to photograph Acadia National Park.

And finally, I hope to one day join Mr. Percy on one of his workshops.  I can’t recommend them from personal experience, but I am almost certain it would be a great investment into your personal growth as an artist.  

- David

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