Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mark Seymour FSWPP

Once again I find myself in an extremely happy situation writing a blog about one of my incredibly successful mentees.

 This time it is to celebrate and also congratulate Mark Seymour who has become the first photographer in the UK to receive a fellowship in Documentary Wedding Photography. Fellowship is a very arduous process, but just looking at the work here, you have to agree it is both well deserved and worthwhile.

Wedding photography being the hardest discipline  to achieve this status in.

Mark has worked tirelessly to achieve his goal, on the way  many setbacks throughout the journey, mainly as a result of listening to advice that was possibly not in his best interests, or by photographers that were not fully understanding this particular genre of wedding photography and his work.

 When Mark gained his Associateship around five years ago, he expressed to being somewhat disappointed not to have been upgraded to his Fellowship. That particular day I was serving as chairman of the panel and suggested that he should persevere and apply at a later stage, just as his work evolved and became more refined.

 Had he been successful on that occasion, I wonder if Mark would have pushed himself to produce this, therefore, I believe it was the best thing that could have  happened to him and his continuing growth as the superb photographer that he has become  today.

 He suggested that if ever he decided to seek fellowship he would come to me asking  my help to mentor in assisting him to achieve that aim, however, we drifted apart somewhat, seeing each other occasionally, messaging on Facebook and occasional telephone calls.

 Eighteen months ago, Mark called me to say he was applying to the MPA for his Fellowship the following day, I was a little taken aback and slightly disappointed that he had not asked me to guide

I wished him well and he kindly offered to send a link through to me showing his layout and selection, as soon as I observed it, I had severe reservations about his selection and formed the opinion he may well not be successful, sadly that turned out to be the case.

 Like anyone that is passionate about their work, Mark was naturally somewhat saddened by the result, he telephoned me on the return journey from the train after the assessment to inform me that he had been unsuccessful, he said , just as many do at the time.  " I will not submit again ". It was pretty evident from the tone in his voice for anyone that listened just how disappointed he was.

Fast forward one year, following telephone conversations Mark visited me here in Bradford Peverell, we discussed his work and revisited it,  over a period of weeks we had finally assembled a very strong submission. Some of which is published here.

Mark is in my opinion one of the very best in documentary photography, along with Jeff Ascough.
He is highly sought after in the Jewish community and he is the first person most will turn to when a marriage is in the family
His use of light, composition and narrative is exemplary, impact and moments caught without intrusion.

Taking a back seat and capturing a true emotive moment, right lens, right place.

This truly is an amazing capture, if ever there was a decisive moment, surely this has to be just that.

Once again, choice of lens, viewpoint all there . And anticipating the peak action.

Final celebratory first dance, full of action and expression on the bride.

I think you will all agree that this brief insight into what Mark achieves on a wedding day is truly inspirational. There are many that consider themselves to be true wedding documentary photographers, none approach anywhere near this.

So, what next ?

Mark then showed me some of his work that he had documented during the demise of his father who was suffering from dementia. Mark had recorded the complete period from when his father was diagnosed, right up until the very end.

I suggested that he should consider submitting this as well, although Mark was unsure as to whether he had enough to make a complete set at Fellowship, once again, we revisited the hard drive and pieced together the whole story, very moving and poignant. This shows just how dedicated Mark is to documenting life and indeed sadly in the case of his father, his resulting passing.



Unfamiliar surroundings.

Dedication from his wife.


The end is nigh.

Powerful in the extreme, emotional , definitely deserving of the title of " Best Fellowship Application  SWPP Convention, January 2016.

Words from Mark.

I’ve been a professional photographer for over twenty years and in that time not only have I established a very successful wedding photography business, I have really carved out my own distinctive style of photographing and editing.

My photographic style is embedded in the genre of documentary photojouralisim, also described as reportage, photorealism and photoessay.

Documentary photography as its’ finest engages the audience in someone else’s story, their experiences, life. They evoke an emotional response in the viewer, making you smile, laugh, cry and even shock.

My photographs whether they are wedding, my personal projects on street, are totally unorchestrated, natural, and a truthful representation of the subject. I capture candid moments that together will tell the subjects unique story with all the emotions and will provide a lifetime of memories.

I like to use a lot of beautiful contrasting black and white when I edit, as this enhances the intensity and depth of the image, often likened to the work of fine artists in the renaissance period using a technique called chiaroscuro. For me documentary photography is most effective when processed in black and white. Mayfair fine art dealer William Lansbury recently came across my work and quoted “If Caravaggio had a camera these are the type of images he would take”.

Great documentary photography requires all the elements of photography in its highest artistic form, including good composition and beautiful lighting. In addition there is a crucial component that elevates a documentary photograph to one that truly captures a moment in time, telling the story of the people within the image with all its emotion, and as a photographer it is about having the experience to know where to position yourself so that you can capture that illusive moment within a single frame.

Over my career I have won many awards, had my photographs published, even the National Portrait Gallery in London holds my portrait of Jimmy Choo in the national archives. My website has the many testimonials I am proud to share from my many wonderful couples. But gaining a fellowship was a very important milestone to achieve in my career. For me documentary photography, particularly in wedding photography, is highly skilled and requires a photographer to work at a level beyond the formal posed traditional wedding photographer. Within the photography community there was a lot of debate as to whether a documentary panel could reach fellowship status. To have my peers judge my work at fellowship level was an incredible reward for all my hard work but also I hoped that it would set the standard and inspire other documentary photographers to develop their style.

The wedding panel reflected my work in the Jewish community, which is one of the areas of photography I am probably most well known for. There is such a contrast when shooting a Jewish wedding, between the black suits and hats of the rabbis, deep in serious conversation at the synagogue, through to the party atmosphere and energetic dancing of the wedding reception. I want my couples to enjoy their day, engage with their friends and family and leave me to capture the unique story of their day with all its emotional moments, naturally.

The dementia panel has a deeply emotional connection for me as the twenty images have been selected from my personal project, documenting the decline in my father’s health following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. John Easterby, former Head of Magnum UK, contacted me saying ‘These are the best and most poignant images I have ever seen on this subject’. I had not expected the worldwide media attention that the images would then receive after the Alzheimer’s society heard about the images, and Ronnie’s story would go viral, helping to show others what this is like in real life. The images have led to interviews on Sky News and articles worldwide from Japan to The Mail online and the BBC.

I have to be honest and say the process of getting my panel ready was more of a challenge than I expected. I have such a personal connection with my images, but I had to look at them again to critique them at another level to be able to select twenty images that together gave a complete story, but were also a statement of my technical ability and my creativity, as well as reflecting by passion and unique style.

Having a mentor was key in this process; being able to have another critical eye to challenge my decisions and make me evaluate every choice made me raise my own bar. It enabled me to think and question my panel until I knew I had a set of images that were going to represent what I wanted to say about me as a photographer.

My double fellowship is an immense achievement and I am so proud. Being able to share, work with and inspire other photographers is a really important part of my career now, and I love the time I now dedicate to my documentary training courses. But I am still learning and looking to be inspired with each new project and situation.

  1. kevin wilson photography | wedding photographer | dorset