"I really consider myself a backstage snapshot photographer. I like to take things as they occur." John Peri
John, could you tell us how did your passion begin ?
As a child, I used to take my father’s camera and shoot street scenes. I was sometimes able to capture shots of children playing which an adult would have had more difficulty in doing. Some of these were my first pictures published at around age 16.
Ha, I was particularly pleased with a photo that I sold to the Sunday Times. My father with whom I share the same name and forename was horrified at the idea that his name may appear under the photo!
"Sharing the housework"
So young... And how did you learn photography ?
I am a scientist and researcher by training (Medicine and Science faculties) and have no official schooling in photography.
In fact, I still only know the basics and have never been to a studio.
I did however belong to a photo club in university days and learned to do my own developing and enlargements.
Yousuf Karsh, Man Ray and Helmut Newton. I spent years searching for a cello player to photograph her nude with her instrument like Man Ray did ! I finally found her last year and took some shots while she was playing nude indoors. Our next project is to do it again in the street !
Sincerely, how long could you be far from your camera ?
Other than during vacation time, photography until recently was only an occasional weekend activity. So I have gone through extended periods of time without the camera, sometimes months at a time.
You have many indoors and BW shots, but do you feel particularly inspired by another type of location ?
Yes, definitely. I like to photograph in a natural setting. As Newton rightly said, people don’t live in front of a white sheet of paper.
I have always thought that to capture your subjects looking normal, they should preferably be photographed in a natural setting with as little artifices as possible.
And I love that ! And about your lights ?
I use available light mixed with flash light attached to the camera. Sounds primitive, it is so but it works quite well occasionally.
Some words about your models ?
Less than five per cent of the models in my portfolio have anything to do with the modelling world.
I mostly photograph people that I meet in every day life and those that they introduce to me.
I particularly like a model that does not suffer from the prejudice of experience. They are also less demanding, more tolerant and less critical of my amateurish approach.
Amateurish approach ?! Are you kidding ?... Your modesty is honorable. By the way, what is your process of creation ? Chaos or order ?
I really consider myself a backstage snapshot photographer. I like to take things as they occur.
Ideally, my models would not know that I am there and I would just follow them around with the camera. Surprisingly often, they get used to my presence and I end up in large part doing that.
I prefer Chaos definitely in comparison with order ! That being said, anyone that has studied even basic science knows that there is no such thing as disorder. Even the most random of events respond to some level of predictability.
"Just her"Do you make many corrections ? Are you a perfectionist photographer ?
Sure, I make some basic adjustments occasionally ; but I get quickly bored with an image that is over with and I move on to the next one.
I understand. Have you a special project you're dreaming about ?
Countless projects, but they involve more individual people than situations to place them in. That being said, I do like to vary the location whenever possible, otherwise work tends to look the same.
Maybe a next exhibition ?
Well, I do have a friend that is very well introduced in the art world on both sides of the Atlantic and who has suggested helping me with exhibition. But I am admittedly very lazy.
I wish you to find the energy ! By the way, you have published two books. Is there a new one to come ?
Actually, yes, I do have a couple of books published by Blurb.com.
The first, "An apartment in New York", of these is the result of a month spent in an apartment in New York, during which I photographed several young ladies that passed through, they were eight in total I believe !
The second, "Conversation Pieces", is devoted entirely to my friend Gaia, several photos of which appear in this article, including the first two and the last two. Elsewhere among the photos selected by your staff is another model and friend "N" whom I plan to make a book for soon.
I have also contributed to a number of teaching books on photography, ranging from portraits to glamour and nude.
Finally, I have published several works in various reputed photographic magazines. I was admittedly especially pleased by one apparition among others in PHOTO which was in consequence to a competition entitled "charm" that the magazine organized in honour of Helmut Newton. He was a member of the jury which adds a little spice to the event.
Congratulations ! And what for your next future ?
To remain faithful to my style. I do not believe in change just for the sake of change. Too many people do that and forget what they are good at and set out to do in the first place.
A message to send ?
Sure, remember that there are no rules in photography ! If so, who wrote them ?
Some people will go on ad nauseum about straight walls and horizons, missing feet, ears and all the rest. None of these things have much impact on the success of a picture. A photo is either good or it isn’t and that is the only thing that matters.
"No rules" is the best rule. Thank you dear John ! For your time and all the beauty you give us !