Photography and design

As with playing music, running magazines and everything else I do, I’m completely self-taught as a photographer and designer, in both cases because I needed it done and it was intriguing and interesting to learn. So I did a lot of reading, practicing, studying what I liked and disliked about others’ work and experimenting and doing.

We were lucky that the fRoots office which we rented for some years in Farnham had previously been used by a professional photographer so came with a ready built, blacked out and plumbed-in darkroom. I spent many happy hours in the early 1980s learning different types of photography and then how to develop and print the results.

I’m also very glad that the early days of computer typesetting for fRoots were on a Linotype terminal where you coded on screen but didn’t see the result until the bromide was run out by a bureau to physically cut and paste (ah, scalpels and hand waxers and the smell of Spraymount!). In order to avoid lots of expensive mistakes – and because I was interested – I had to study the proper rules of typography, which many designers who’ve come up since the days of desk-top publishing have never learned – don’t start me on kerning, leading, font sizes, widows and orphans!

AAs well as doing design and photography extensively for fRoots, my own projects and pleasure, I’ve often been asked to design CD packages, adverts, posters and fliers for others, and used to do a fair bit of commissioned photography for everything from artist publicity to covering the Cambridge Folk Festival for the Melody Maker.

I had a break from photography in the 1990s when running fRoots, a record label and managing Tarika more than filled my hours. During that time everything started changing to digital. Since I re-started on digital myself I no longer take paid photography work, preferring to collaborate with other professional freelance photographers like Judith Burrows and Elly Lucas. Oh yes, “Jali Roll Martian”: if you’ve noticed that credit on all sorts of projects, that’s my nom-de-design. So there.

Since inheriting a lot of old family photos going back to the mid-1800s, I’ve become fascinated with digitally restoring and printing old images and might well produce a series of postcards and larger framed prints: when time allows …

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