Updated: Feb 24, 2021
Since 1960, at the age of seven, Paul Chilton has had a passion for photography, from sitting on his dad’s knee in their temporary darkroom in the family airing cupboard to even now, sitting in his own home office, surrounded by the latest technology.
When he began his journey into photography, over fifty years ago, Chilton used 127 black and white film using a Comet camera. Eventually, he made the switch to 35mm film, starting with print and then moving onto slides.
Over fifty years later, he now uses a Canon DSLR camera.
“Bye bye parallax, and welcome to ‘real’ photography.”
Despite starting out as a film photographer, even going as far as building his own colour darkroom, he says he “hands down” would rather shoot digitally.
In addition to the ten years where he worked professionally, he had 20 years prior to this where he worked semi-professionally taking pictures at the weekend and processing them at night.
“I taught myself to print in colour. I built a colour darkroom and bought all the gear. If you’re in a colour darkroom, you can’t use safelights. It’s like being in a cave: you have to learn everything by feel.
“I couldn’t wait to not have to use darkrooms anymore,” Chilton said. He also acknowledges that there are still some people who predominantly use film but fewer and fewer every year. “It’s a bit like travelling on a horse and cart when cars have been invented.”
At the young age of 51, Chilton retired from his job at the large car company known as Jaguar. However, he decided he was not ready to throw in the towel altogether and started his own photography business, and for the next ten years, Paul took photographs professionally.
“When I was working professionally, I used to limit myself to ten weddings a year because they’re quite difficult,” Paul Chilton says.
Now, fully-retired, Paul Chilton is an active member of the committee of the Nuneaton Photographic Society.
“It’s a group of like-minded photographers who like to photograph a range of different subjects,” Chilton explained.
Despite being an active member of the society, he admits it has some flaws, namely the competitions.
“This is where I start to get a bit iffy,” he explains. “There is a competition culture amongst the camera clubs and there are awards you can get for winning competitions. A lot of people do that and they are only in it to win a competition, to get some status. I am the other way around; I want to photograph what I want to photograph, not what will make a good prize-winning photograph. I photograph for myself.”
Chilton also explains that there is actually a two-page A4 document that describes the formula for a good photograph. He believes this formula kills creativity and a lot of members only photograph what they think the judges will like as opposed to what they like themselves.
“If anything is made to destroy creativity, that’s it,” Chilton believes.
“It doesn’t help creativity in photography because the majority of people are trying to win competitions so they’re only taking photographs that they think people judging the photographs will like.
“I don’t really like camera clubs because of that.”
Nevertheless, he does believe that the Nuneaton Photographic Society has helped him develop even further as a photographer.
“When I first went, I had quite a lot of knowledge and thought that knowledge was fairly extensive. But there is still stuff to learn. There were other guys and women who were doing different things, using techniques that I’ve never heard of or seen before. Gradually, my head was filling with more and more stuff.”
Chilton’s main style of photography is landscape but he has said that he will take pictures of whatever he can whenever he can.
“I’d love to photograph in, let’s say, Hinckley, just taking some architectural shots.”
Paul believes as a photographer, you must be prepared for everything. You need to know what the day is going to be like and how to take the perfect shot.
“For landscape, I use an app called Photographer’s Ephemeris. It is something that will tell you where the sun is rising from and where the sun is setting anywhere on the planet, any time of the year. All my gear is set up for landscape photography, so I’ve got everything with me.”
Not only does Paul prepare for his day based off of the weather and the position of the sun, but he also has a kit list for what he needs to be carrying that day. He says he sets the camera for the location and all that is left to consider is the weather and his own skill, both people and photographically.
Chilton would like to photograph in towns and cities, including Hinckley, taking architectural shots. However, he says the issue is that as a man with a camera in a very public place, he would be hassled, especially if he’s carrying a tripod.
“If you walk around the town with a tripod, you get called all sorts of things,” Chilton informs. “I’m only taking pictures and it’s perfectly legal. Anything you can see from the public eye-line can be photographed, including people.”
Chilton has actually been on a commissioned photo shoot, photographing buildings and has been approached because of his camera.
“I had a woman shout from all the way across the car park: ‘are you a pedo?’ I’m working, I’m photographing this new pub with a new car park. ‘You look like a pedo to me.’ That’s not very funny.”
These days, Paul and his photographic society tend to stay out of the cities and towns with the occasional visit when all the shops are closed and the people have all gone home to try and capture a nice shot of the evening lighting against the buildings.
Paul believes that his photographic hobby won’t be coming to an end any time soon. He believes it’s a skill that you keep for life.
“That’s what I like about photography: there is never an end. You could be 80 years old and still be world-class.”