Gallery Talk with Clive Frost

Clive is an award winning and internationally recognized photographer whose work is known for his travel, documentary, interior and architectural photography, and his environmental portraiture. Clive’s limited edition prints are in private collections around the world. Born in The Philippines and educated in London, Clive has travelled the world in search of places to document. His extensive travels to Cuba resulted in two successful photography books. He currently lives on the Greek island of Tinos in the Northern Cyclades.  


Is location important and how has living in and traveling to many different places influenced your work?

I have always, both with my commissioned as well as with my personal photography, worked on location. Being in a studio doesn’t energize or excite me. I enjoy the quality of exploration and discovery you experience with location work, coupled with sometimes unpredictable and changing light and weather and, of course, also with the variety of people you might encounter. There’s an element of ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ that I find very addictive and after over 45 years in photography, it still gives me a rush when I find and make an image and all the unpredictability, light and weather is on my side.

One of the consequences of where I was born and of my early childhood is that I have never felt that I have any real roots anywhere. As a photographer, being rootless has been a benefit to me. It has fueled and sustained my wanderlust - traveling is when I feel most alive, most aware of the place I am in, most open to the possibility of the present. In this respect, travel has inevitably influenced my photography – if you are open to the opportunities and challenges of travel, it is difficult not to be influenced, whatever creative route you take.

Do you visit a location with a preconceived notion of what to photograph or does the idea arise on the spot? 

To explain some of the ideas and thoughts I try to follow, I use a quote from the writer G.K. Chesterton – “True travelers let the experience of a destination come to them. The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”

I do some reading and research before I travel somewhere. When I arrive, I usually feel full of self-doubt and rather despondent for 24 hours during which I try to explore what the place is ‘giving’ me visually. As I start photographing, an idea or approach takes shape and I feel less doubtful and more confident about what I am doing.     

What types of cameras do you use and how has the digital photo revolution influenced your work?

During my career, I have used most formats of camera at one time or another and while it is true that different types (not make) of camera may change your approach to taking a photograph, it is the eye, head and heart that are most relevant to a photographer’s work, not the equipment itself. 

I am not a purist in my approach to photography – it is only the result that concerns me, not the means of getting there. Having done my time with film, in darkrooms and processing labs, now I work exclusively with digital technology. I enjoy the convenience, speed and spontaneity it affords when making photographs, the ease of any post-production work in Lightroom or Photoshop and the ability to show the work far and wide, quickly and easily, to those who might be interested. Who needs the days of making duplicate transparencies back again when you have copy and paste?

However, I don’t believe that using digital as opposed to analogue tools has influenced my work in the sense of changing the broad approach and style of my photography. That has remained fairly consistent throughout my career.

Are there photographers who inspired you to pursue a career in this field?

Again, using a quote by Henry R. Luce in the 1936 original prospectus for what later became LIFE Magazine: “To see life; to see the world; to see and take pleasure in seeing; to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed.” The photographers who worked for LIFE Magazine and Picture Post sparked my initial interest in going to college and becoming a photographer. 



What makes a photographic image exceptional?

I am a photographer not a hunter with a rifle, but we both adopt the same terminology, we go out ‘shooting’, we take a ‘shot’. Both activities involve trying to achieve a clean ‘kill’. 

In photography there is a difference between a ‘photograph’ and a ‘photographic image’. In an image, all the visual pieces, subject matter, light, composition, come together at the same time and are complete. What makes an image exceptional is its completeness, the totality of its form, but like ‘beauty’, it is ultimately in the eye of the viewer.

Ansel Adams wrote, “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”

What type of photography are you currently interested in and how will it influence your journey going forward?

The type of photography that has always primarily interested me is documentary photography although I would argue that all types of photography concern the act of seeing and the process of documentation. If forced to put a label on myself, I describe myself as a documentary/fine art photographer. 

In answer to a previous question, while the subject matter might alter, my style of photography remains fairly consistent and I don’t anticipate this changing now. 

I am still trying to get better at what I do.