Steve Middlehurst – Husband, father, grandfather and photographer, now on the forth stage of a BA (Hons) Photography Degree at The Open College of the Arts and living on the Surrey & Hants borders.
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I was born in Surrey in the early 50’s, growing up in a small rural village a short bus ride from Farnham where I attended Farnham Grammar School in its twilight years before Six Form Colleges and Comprehensives. Leaving school at sixteen and after flirting with various college courses I began to train as an accountant. After a couple of eye-opening years at Times Newspapers, newly married and bored with commuting and counting, I joined a local computer bureau and thus started a 30 year career in, what became, IT.
I now work for my son and daughter-in-law’s event catering business and, part-time, as a volunteer helping GCSE and A’ Level Photography students in an Academy where my daughter is head of Art.
Photography has always been an important part of my life, as a child I loved the black and white photos my father collected during the war in North Africa and my mother’s old family photos. I think I always owed a camera of some sort or another but it was my father-in law, a talented amateur painter, who encouraged me to try to capture something beyond the mundane and led me to owning my first 35mm SLR camera – a Russian Zenit EM. A rather industrial machine but a wonderful entry point to SLR photography with its built in light meter and a 50mm f/3.5 lens. .
In the 70s we Brits started to holiday abroad in greater and greater numbers and backpacking each year in Greece before we had our first child and then family holidays in Europe were the major focus of our year and of my photography. I still love travel photography, there is nothing more exciting than exploring and trying to capture the essence of a new location. A beautiful wife and lovely children inevitably meant I spent a lot of time photographing the family so boxes and boxes of 35mm slides from the early years tend to fall into those two categories.
We were lucky enough to live and work in Hong Kong and then the Philippines in the late 80’s and early 90’s and to travel, because of my work to Australia, New Zealand and many parts of Asia. Photographing the people and places we visited was immensely fulfilling. Asia in those years was an intense experience, the light seemed stronger, the colours brighter the streets more exotic and the people more willing to engage with you and the camera. By now I was using a Nikon F4 and a Bronica medium format camera, cheaper equipment being another benefit of living in Hong Kong.
Return to the UK was the start of a fallow period as far as photography was concerned and a period in which neither my skills nor my “eye” seemed to progress. However, my interest was re-stimulated with the advent of high quality digital SLRs, Adobe Photoshop and the whole digital experience. The instant nature of image capture and review, the ability to experiment in a darkroom on your desk and to print your own work or to publish on the web was exciting and re-invented my hobby. I was 100% digital a year after taking my first digital image with a cheap compact and had traded in all my film equipment for a Nkon D1.
After working with the GCSE and A level students for a number of years I am now highly motivated to improve my own skills and my depth of knowledge in the hope that I can help and support them in reaching their creative goals. We are now seeing students progress from the Academy to start degrees in photography and, whilst I only play a small part in this, it feels like a major achievement and one that I hope can be repeated year on year.