Where did your love for photography begin?

I was studying Graphic Design at the University of Lincoln and photography began to creep increasingly into my work. It was a t a time when digital SLRs were reasonably affordable and I began to experiment and learn (which digital is fantastic for) about various aspects of photography. After a few years I came to the realisation that I took a lot of pictures but had none… I never printed them… they were all just space on a hard drive and despite liking what I did I never created much I was proud of. Whilst researching in the library I saw a book cover that featured an image by the Parkeharrisons (from the architects brother) – I later learned it was created in the darkroom via a complex version of the paper negative process – I had never seen anything like it, it blew me away.

Your work is based on traditional media, film and alternative printing processes. At the same time, you embrace modern marketing really well, you have your own website, you blog and you tweet. Could you talk a bit about the role online networking plays in your life?

Stress, boredom, screen time – thats what online is to me! Its more of a necessary evil than something I enjoy, but it is a tricky line to walk… there is way to much content being created – photographically or not. I am very wary of creating work because I feel I should and as a result I don’t have a great output but everything I put out there is considered and furthers my understanding of the medium or a subject. I am far from the best (literally bottom of  the pile) of successful online marketers but being online allows for a greater reach than ever before, I had a guy come do a couple of workshops with me from Beijing, and believe me I don’t have any posters or a profile out there, but he discovered me and I taught him Lith printing and Glass plates – that only works online.

Are you using digital cameras at all? Do you think you will move to digital one day or are you planning to stick with film and what are your reasons behind it?

Literally if we had a ‘digital camera virus’ I’d not mind at all, sure I shoot some digital work but thats when budget does not allow for film. The problem with digital is people expect too much… its always ‘how many shots will we be getting for our money?’ Most of the time they only need a few to fulfil the brief but somehow 10000 shots seems better than 10 correct, considered ones. For me, the single biggest reason to shoot film is the considered approach that it fosters. I shoot less, I shoot better and I’m not afraid to not take the shots ‘just incase its a good one’ – I trust myself more. I also really enjoy the fact that a negative is everything and nothing – it contains a fantastic amount of information in a raw state – and the possibilities and options from that starting point are almost endless.

 A lot of your work is focused on memory. What other ideas motivate or inspire your photography?

My work is around memory because I find it so fascinating – I came off my bike when I was around five, I flipped over the handle bars and smashed my chin. I remember – as clear as day waiting for my dad to come around the corner and help me, but he saw the accident and was there immediately. Memory is just so personal but at the smae time we have a shared memory of certain events and happenings that connects us all.

As upsetting and unsettling as it is having watched my Nan go through – and my other Nan starting to go through dementia is fascinating, three days ago she asked what time she was going to see her sister – and she died 15 years ago. The links with photography both as a subject and as a metaphor are endless.
Which photographers’ work has been an inspiration for you? 

Today – Parkeharrisons / Benjamin Goss / Sally Mann, tomorrow who knows.

Could you talk a bit about how you got into teaching and what kind of experience this has been for you so far? How do you find people’s interest in traditional photography these days?

There seem to groups, or rather two stages of people I teach, there are those who have shot analogue for a while and either want to take their skills to the next level or try something new such as glass plates. And there are those who have just started shooting film and want to explore the possibilities, right from developing their first roll of film right to seeing something mercurial like an Ambrotype and wanting to create something unique. I see an exciting future ahead for traditional photography I think a lot of people are moving from consumerist mass market objects and possessions and looking for much more crafted and artisan things – either to own or to create. People sit on computers all day, the thought of shooting a thousand photos and photoshopping the weekend away is not a place I fancy being.
What workshops are you planning to organize for 2013?

I run one-to-one workshops from my darkroom in Sheffield all year round – which is great for really getting to the bottom of a process or technique as you can ask questions all day long and get hands on experience and leave with the knowledge to develop further. I am also just putting together plans to run workshops from London as I realise Sheffield is a far away place for a lot of folk. At the moment I’m looking to run something from Double Neg Darkroom but there are other options I’m working on too. I’ve done a few talks and demonstrations at colleges and Universities to as the glass plate technique I use (Gelatin Dry Plate) is safe ‘Health and safety’ wise as some places have problems with Wet Plate due to the chemicals. I have  mailing list on my website and my email is jon@jonathanstead.com – I’m pretty flexible and love to teach and inspire and love to show how accessible analogue photography is – I’m always interested to hear of people needs and ways in which I can help develop peoples knowledge and skills.

Are you working on any particular project at the moment, or is there something you’re excited to work on in the near future? 

Much of my work is slow burning as it’s all personal. I am, and always have been drawn to the ocean and have made various inroads to projects over the years but have never accomplished the intangible thoughts I have about the subject but 2013 sees me spending a lot of time at the coast both in this country and far away places so that may well develop.

Additionally my current work on various elements of humanity – both mental and physical aspects are very interesting to me and are and will lead me in another direction. My subject – or at least the things that interest me are often intangible and the way i work is often back to front – I work with a subject and things start to come together i dislike trying to imagine the outcome before I start a project as I think allowing the subject to speak is truer to the medium.

Finally, what would your advice be to a beginner photographer?

Look at things realistically… photography as a career is only 1% behind the camera. Do you really know enough people to pay you ÂŁ300 per week for your skills, every week of the year – and that’s only minimum wage. For me, analogue is all about vision, creativity and creating physical tangible work. I want boxes of photographs that I love not terabites of image data waiting to be lost. If a print of the image doesn’t exist, neither does the photo. I’m sure I could eat a few tablets of all my vitamins and minerals but I’d much rather experience the delights of real food.

If you’re not getting paid – there is no excuse, you should be shooting for you, in a way that satisfies you and makes you content.

Please see Alternative Photography in our Directory for links to more information