September 20, 2012

Howard Nowlan's Interview

" My aim when I'm creating images is to seek to 'bring out' something of that charm through my subject's look, mood, pose, commonly adorning this with light and shade and, when possible, in more natural surroundings (especially the Cornish landscape)." Howard Nowlan

Art Model and Muse Magenta

Howard Nowlan and here, at, his first feature.

"Sky Spread"

Dear Howard, tell us how did your passion for photography begin ? Do you remember your first experience ? It's always a great moment.

I think it really began in my late teens (thanks to my tutor) with my passion for art. A visit to London's Tate Gallery in '76 entwined me in the enchantment of the Pre-Raphaelites and other Victorian painters like Waterhouse, Danby and Leighton.

This awakened in me the desire to not only enjoy such images, but to create something myself.

A parallel 'awakening' through the work of contemporary English artist Roger Dean allowed this ambition to take form (especially when given the opportunity to spend a day working with him !), but photography as my principal means of expression would come much later.


It was in 2002, after moving to Cornwall, that I had an opportunity to work with a figure model named Natasha. My wife and I, along with another photographer, headed out to a remote Cornish beach for an afternoon, and after some initial feelings of awkwardness on my part, the session went like a dream. That was the seed - it would still take a couple of years to really 'gain wings' and become the focus of so much creativity, but that's how it came to be.

Where did you learn your art ?

My wife, Kay, was a professional Photographer for over 30 years in Sussex, England, teaching for the last decade of her life, and whilst I never actually sat down to take lessons with her, photography was in almost every day of our 25 years together.

Angus Mc Bean was a close friend of Kay's family, and Kay became well known for own compositions, exhibiting at Photokena several times (I understand one of her images was one of the first nudes ever published in Amateur Photographer magazine).


Kay encouraged me into the field during the last two years of her life whilst battling cancer. I found myself in at the deep end, having to teach her classes after her sudden re-admission to hospital, and not only managed to stay afloat (running the class to the exams) but developed a passion to do more. The result was the forming of a local Photo Arts Group with four other photographers and Kay as mentor.

I would bring my latest work into the hospice each week for her reviews and advice, which gave us a brand new field of interest to share in a manner unseen prior to this.

Since Kay's death in 2005, I've continued to work closely with a local group of Artists on joint projects (exhibits and shoots) and sought to find ways to bring my work to a wider number of people, principally through the internet.

"In full glory"
Art Model Magenta

"Beneath the trees of May"
Fashion style
Art Model Holly

You were a beautiful team... How long could you be far from your camera ?

I'd probably have to reply in hours ! There are now very few days that go by where either my camera or my computer are not in use either taking or preparing images.

I find that if I have do not have a shoot or other artistic activity at least every few days, I begin to get withdrawal symptoms !

"Morning Glory"
Art Model Magenta

Howard, how long did it take to find your own style ? And, more difficult, could you define it ?

Not too long - Summer '76 and that visit to the Tate pretty much defined what my own passion would become - beauty, and especially that of the the grace and elegance of women.

My aim when I'm creating images is to seek to 'bring out' something of that charm through my subject's look, mood, pose, commonly adorning this with light and shade and, when possible, in more natural surroundings (especially the Cornish landscape).

"In the breeze 2"
Art Model Lisa

I work almost entirely in natural light even when in a studio situation, and usually prefer monochrome to colour productions.

My work can therefore, on occasion, come over I think as quite a bit 'softer' than much in the field, as I'm always seeking a connection with what, I guess, could easily be deemed a fairly romanticised aspect of the feminine. A fair few of the artists (subjects) I have worked with for such images, and hopefully a few others, seem to generally enjoy the results.

"Life Sculpture"
Art Model Magenta

What message do you want to express through your work ?
Old King Solomon refers to the fact that everything has " been made beautiful in its time ", and I am constantly amazed just how much of that gift I miss, simply because I need to be 'looking with better eyes'.

I hope that at least something in some of my work allows those who participate (either in front of the camera, or in looking at a finished image) to glimpse a little more of that inherent beauty. Photography has most certainly aided immensely in granting me a better, often deeper, perception of our days here. I hope I can pass on the favor.

"Red 1"
Art Model Magenta

Who are your favorite photographers ? Did they have an influence on your style ?

The first photographer who had a direct impact upon me, aside from my wife, was David Hamilton. I'd seen countless works by an array of photographers before this, but it was the sheer resonance of Hamilton's style and aim that hit a pretty deep chord. I know that, even today, his subject matter is pretty controversial, but it is the seeking to capture a composition of form and light that so tenderly conveys a representation of elegance, that makes me elated and astonished.

In more recent times, I've been stunned by the work of artists such as Gerhardt Thompson in his publication, The Sun Drenched Nude, and Craig Blacklock's breathtaking A Voice Within. I'm equally a huge fan of the work of American artist, Steve Hanks, and immensely grateful to the continuing input of warm and astute masters like John Peri and Raymond Ellstad - people who really share the passion for the art.

Gerhardt (who offered me my banner ! I'll never forget his immense kindness...) and John, both contributing artists of this site, will appreciate ! Howard, what is your process of creation ? Do you plan every details or is it just improvised ?

I'd have to say it's pretty mixed. Sometimes, I have a burning idea for an image or an entire set of work, and it won't leave me until I get what I'm looking for - it took me three years, for example, to get one particular image just right. Other times, especially when doing portfolio based work, I really want to get to know something of the artist I'm working with first, to allow some kind of participation to begin so we can genuinely work together in making something worthwhile.


I am very fortunate in being part of a local Photo Arts group in which I can work regularly with a small group of local artists, and I can work with these models when there are particular projects in mind - they could equally be their projects as well as mine. This allows for a rich pool of creative ideas, some of which are slowly 'brought to the boil' whilst others seem to demand immediate action. It's wonderful.

Art Model Magenta

Art Model Magenta

What locations do you prefer to use mainly ?

I've been to several places in my travels and worked (and hope to again) on images in the Canaries, but I'm so blessed to have the glories of Cornwall not far from my doorstep.
In terms of grandeur, intoxication, and just sheer marvel, you'd be hard pressed to find places which compare with the barren elegance of Bodmin Moor or the literally towering majesty of the North Cornish Coast. Some of my best work has been here, and I will go back again and again and again.

I never tire of such magnificence - it truly weaves itself into the soul.

Art Model Magenta

How I understand you ! Beauty is the best reason to live... By the way, some words about your so beautiful models ?

I've worked with around thirty models over the last three years, but the joy of my current work are my local 'Muses', Kari and Kat and most especially, Magenta.

I met her two and a half years ago and it was like we were from other planets, but as we talked, we quickly found a common creative passion, and we haven't looked back since. She is one highly artistic nymph.

Kari is gorgeously natural, and Kat is still comes over as superbly innocent in front of the lens.

I love working with these very intuitive and original 'movers and shakers', who bring a richness to the genre that would remain pretty uni-dimensional without their flair.

I am enormously grateful to them, to the other models I have worked with and especially to the likes of Alison and Joceline in 2005 and 2006, for all their superb contributions.

"Her Gaze"
Art Model Kari

Do you remember a shooting you particularly liked ?

One of the most memorable, I think, was a choreography shoot last summer with Magenta. The aim was a set of images and video for the In the Flesh arts festival here in October. Not only did she create her own improvised dance, but she also made a costume and did her own body art and make up. It was a superb piece of work, which actually got taken off of You Tube as it was deemed to show too much flesh (!). It was certainly well received at the festival.

"The New Look"
Art Model Kari


How do you feel at the end of a shoot ?

Um - Mentally delighted, spiritually inebriated and physically exhausted ! I relish the moment when you can sit down and review the highs of what you've just produced, it's like opening presents at Christmas, especially if you get to share this with the subject of the work.

I usually find I'm pretty 'wired' after a session, and keen to start the download process right then, so I tend to go straight into that side of things, usually eating a meal and playing some favourite tracks whilst I do. I often find myself wanting to share the best items from a day as soon as I can, so these quite often get posted on the net within 24 hours.

What a work ! Bravo. Have you some challenges you're dreaming about in a near future ?

I'm about to begin my third year of studies in Photography with the Open College of Arts here in the UK. Whilst the first two years were focused on tuning my general skills and developing approaches to landscape, I should be able to spend more time this year on assignments directly related to fine art work, so I'm hoping my main subject will be the nude.


After much time away of late, my muses are now back in the area, so we're already planning some new projects for the forthcoming year, including, hopefully, another project abroad.

It's also been brilliant this year to have the opportunity to work with Photographer, Laurie Jeffrey, and I'm hoping that this will happen again very soon.

I wish you the best ! Then, when and where will be your next exhibition ?

A selection of some of my work will be displayed at the BAF International Photography and Arts Exhibition in India this November.

Good news ! Keep us informed. You have published 4 books !... Is there a new one to come ?

That's certainly looking possible.

I am working on producing a hard back edition book at present entitled "Gentle upon the Eye", which I hope will feature some of my best work over the last five years. If all goes well, it could be in print next Summer.

Here again, don't forget to announce it ! And besides shooting, have you another passion ?

Several ! I guess that a biggie is Science Fiction. I've been a big Star Trek fan since I first saw the show in the late 70's, and that lead me to enjoy lots more in the genre. I also love movies and music of several varieties, and meeting artistic and interesting people, so life is pretty good.

It seems we share the passion for Science Fiction. Is there a message you’d like to leave our readers ?

Keep enjoying the beauty and, as and when possible, engaging with it, whether the medium is light or paint or sound.

"The honor is to inter-act with the dance, the art of life,
so when the door's open, get up and go !"

A big thanks Howard ! It's a wonderful interview. Thanks for your support and your confidence... And come back soon ! This site is truly yours.

"The Daydream"
Art Model Kari

The Howard Nowlan's books are available at

Note : Any profits made from the sales of these publications will assist in financing further projects for his Photo Arts Group.

No comments: