Cymru Culture

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Ceri Vale interview

(December 01, 2011)

Interview with Ceri Vale

We discovered Ceri Vale on Facebook, where his comments on other's photographs were knowledgeable and generous. Realising immediately his work was something special, we were keen to see more. His wide portfolio is interesting and varied. Whichever genre Ceri undertakes, he seems to have an instinctive eye for a well framed shot. The images shown here represent only a small selection of his work and we urge you to visit Ceri Vale's Facebook page.

We were interested in what makes Ceri tick artistically, so we asked him …

Ceri Vale - I Wont QuitI won't quit, Ceri Vale


CC … When did your interest in photography begin?

CV … I bought my first digital camera (Fujifilm FinePix S9000) some seven years ago. Whilst I’d always owned a camera, from my first Polaroid Instamatic, I’d never considered photography to be anything other than a means to record personal events. Not that there was an instant change when I moved to digital. I continued to snap away, delighted by the freedom and economy of digital storage. I could, and (unfortunately) often would photograph anything that moved, with little or no thought for the photograph itself.

Then, in a local bookshop, I flicked through Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Mexican Notebooks and realised that photography could be so much more. My first self-imposed assignment was to drive around the Rhondda Valleys to photograph everyday scenes and life. Neither original nor, when I look at the results, particularly inspirational, but that was the day I began to think as much about what was going on within the frame as what was in front of the camera.


Ceri Vale - BarryBarry, Ceri Vale 

CC … What inspired your work and how do you instinctively know when an image is worth capturing?

CV … Since that first assignment, people have fascinated me, either as subjects in themselves or as components of a larger picture. Although I rarely leave the house with the intention of photographing people, I find myself drawn to Cardiff’s city centre. There are so many characters and so many moments that pass without note. I’m happy if I can capture a few of those moments.

Ansel Adams once said, "There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs." I don’t have a formula for capturing an image, it’s simply a case of recognising a moment, or a face that tells a story and clicking.


Ceri Vale - IndifferentIndifferent, Ceri Vale

Sometimes I have the luxury of time, when I can see what’s developing and can spend a few moments planning a photograph. A perfect example would be Indifferent. When I first noticed her she’d only just lit that cigarette and was happily puffing away, but as I watched she became lost in her own internal world. She became very still and the cigarette smouldered away on its own. I grabbed the shot at exactly the right moment because an instant later the ash fell as she moved.

More often than not things happen in an instant. I can remember so many photographs that might have been, such as the toddler who, for a few seconds, marched beside the soldiers on Armed Forces Day. I had a feeling that his antics wouldn’t stop there so I let the lens follow him for a while and managed to catch Parade.


Ceri Vale - ParadeParade, Ceri Vale

CC … Which photographer do you most admire? Which era, or style of image influences your work? 

CV … As I mentioned, Henri Cartier-Bresson was (and continues to be) a major influence, not only because of the quality of his work but also because of his ability to capture people at their most natural. He once said "The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box." His is a chronicle of everyday life around; something I’ve tried to emulate in my own work. It’s unfortunate that society has come to view anyone holding a 'professional looking' camera with suspicion, but I find that eye contact, or a brief, polite word is still enough to yield the results I’m after. As an example, I sat down and spoke to 'John' for some fifteen minutes before I got the photograph I wanted. Now, My Only Comfort is as close to being my iconic street photo as any other.


Ceri Vale - My Only ComfortMy only comfort, Ceri Vale

Beyond street and nature photography, I’ve tried to develop my own style, often mirroring my taste in literature (Stephen King), film (horror and sci-fi) and music (metal, jazz, classical).


Ceri Vale - HopeHope, Ceri Vale

CC … Producing accomplished photographs is commonly believed to involve considerable expense. What is your view?

CV … It makes me angry to hear people boast the virtues of one system over another, citing dynamic range or feature sets or the dreaded megapixel count as the wonderful aspects of their chosen brand. Digital photography is identical to analogue in one important respect. A bad photograph is a bad photograph, regardless of the equipment used.

Check out Chase Jarvis’ i-phone work and tell me you have to buy an expensive camera to create outstanding work. Visit his website ( and you’ll see a link on the left hand side titled "10 Things Every Creative Person Must Learn" Read and digest those ten points. They’ll serve you far better than an expensive camera.

Having said that, if someone has money to burn, my advice would be, invest in lenses. If £1,000 will buy one pro lens or four kit lenses, buy the pro lens. Its depreciation will be minimal and, for as long as you stick to the same system, it will always be your favourite lens. You won’t want to put it down.

Ceri Vale - Macro

CC … Your portfolio is vast. Which types of assignments to you prefer above all others or is this a difficult question to answer?

CV … That’s a hugely difficult question to answer.

Over the years I’ve explored as many genres as possible, experimenting in macro work, photo journalism, landscape and architectural photography, wildlife, candid portraiture, even the odd wedding. Currently I’m working with models to develop and extend my portrait and editorial skills

Yet, although I’ve been photographing models for a little over four months, and have enjoyed every shoot, I’ve found myself returning to my street work. Come the spring, I’ve no doubt I’ll be returning to my wildlife haunts to find the silent world I’ve been photographing for the last three years.

I do worry that the moment I tie myself to a specific genre I’ll lose some of the elements I gain from the others. For example, model photography is forcing me to learn about flash and artificial lighting. Nature/wildlife photography has taught me patience and how to handle a heavy camera without a tripod. Street photography has taught me how to interact with people without destroying the moment I’m trying to capture. The list is endless.

So, if pressed for an answer I’d have to say ... I can’t say.


CC … Your images are wonderfully atmospheric; your black and white images being particular favourites of Cymru Culture. However, you also seem to work confidently in colour. Photographers often seem to settle on a particular type of 'style' or feel to their work, but you happily seem to work in both mediums?Ceri Vale - A Grimm Tale

CV … For a long time I found it difficult to work in anything other than black and white. Images that I processed to be "wonderfully atmospheric" in b&w would look dull and lifeless in colour, mainly because I never took the trouble to learn how to balance and process properly.

Now that I’m photographing people on a weekly basis, I have to be able to process skin tones and I have to understand the relationships between primary and secondary colours, both to create dramatic effects and to avoid the garish clashes that can occur.

My first attempt at tapping into the darker side of my imagination, in colour, took place only a few weeks ago when I worked with Mel Davies (model), KB Artistry (makeup artist) and Sasha (husky) on A Grimm Tale. It was Mel’s idea to give the Red Riding Hood story a twist and I jumped at the chance. The colour images are, I hope, as atmospheric as my b&w work.

The exception to the above has always been my wildlife work.


CC … You use on-line media to exhibit your work to great effect. Do you feel that using the internet is important to all modern artists, to expand and make your work known to a wider audience?

CV … At the moment, Facebook is my main shop-window, whilst my website ( is more of a static entity; a place to display some work and offer a price list. Despite Facebook’s numerous drawbacks, it does give me access to a thriving South Wales photographic community, people who will offer constructive criticisms and advice as well as people who will happily model for new, inexperienced photographers (often for free as they develop their own portfolios).


Ceri Vale - AlexAlex, Ceri Vale


CC … Portraits seems to feature heavily in your work. Do faces fascinate you?

CV … More than anything else.

For me, portrait photography is a ménage à trois consisting of subject, photographer and viewer. If the viewer’s unmoved by what he sees then the photo fails.

With street photography, the subject’s story is, more often than not, unclear; but if the image is strong enough, the viewer’s own mind will back fill the story. Woman is a perfect example of this – she and I spoke for less than a minute, but her photo holds me every time I look at it.


Ceri Vale - WomanWoman, Ceri Vale


CC … What advice would you give to someone interested in taking up photography? Would you advise using any courses or texts that you have found particularly useful in establishing yourself?

CV … My advice would be to go out and use the cameras you have, be they compacts, smartphones or film cameras. Photography has far more to do with perception and imagination than technology. Look for sources of inspiration - the internet, books and magazines - but work to develop your own style.

Before investing in a camera, try to spend some time using your intended purchase. I wasted far too much time and money on various systems before settling on Olympus.


Ceri Vale - KayleighKayleigh, Ceri Vale


CC … Do you have any plans for any traditional exhibitions?

CV … My first exhibition will take place in November 2012. Hosted by the National Assembly. It will show a mix of street and wildlife photography.


Ceri Vale - The regimentThe regiment, Ceri Vale


CC … What are your professional goals for the next 5 years?

CV … My goal has to be to earn my living from photography, although the current recession demands a realistic attitude. Over the next year or two, my aim is to show my work to a wider audience, be that through exhibitions, leg-work and leaflet drops, or online forums … and magazines.


CC … Ceri Vale, thank you.


© 2011 Caregos Cyf. | Hawlfraint - All rights reserved

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