Colin Prior: A state of imagination

Torridonian sandstone and Lewisan gneiss, Bay of Stoer, Clachtoll, Scotland

Colin Prior is one of the headline speakers of The Photography Show 2022, which takes place from 17 to 20 September at Birmingham’s NEC. We caught up with him ahead of his Super Stage session, A state of imagination.

Outdoor Photography You are a firm proponent of the magic of still photography. What makes it such a powerful medium?
Colin Prior Simply its ability to be memorable. Powerful still images are stored in our memory and can be recalled quickly – it’s the way the human brain stores images – in single moments. There is also a close parity with drawing and painting in that we are distilling images from the three-dimensional world around us and interpreting the results in two-dimensions, on paper.

OP Your career spans more than four decades. How has your photography evolved in that time?
CP Technology has changed everything and democratised photography and consequently its currency has been totally devalued. On the other hand, the quality of images now achievable with the latest high-resolution mirrorless camera would have simply been unimaginable four decades ago, and in this respect we are quite spoilt. Despite these advances, however, it remains as challenging to shoot a truly memorable image.

OP Many people will associate you with your panoramic landscapes, and especially mountain vistas, but you have an eye for more intimate views too…
CP The panoramic format possessed a visual aesthetic that captured my imagination, but after 25 years I felt the need to move on and hunt different game. There are many ways in which the natural world can be interpreted, and I was keen to take my work in a new direction and to incorporate conventional formats and to explore intimate aspects of the landscape.

OP What do you consider to be the most important components of a great landscape photo?
CP There are many aspects that converge to make a great landscape photograph. Without doubt, composition plays the single most important role, however what I feel is far more important than a single great photograph is a body of work that is linked by an identifiable personal style. This is the result of a photographer’s passion for a particular subject which is essential if you want to stand out – we can all take that lucky shot, but replicating it time and time again takes vision and talent.

OP At the Photography Show you will be discussing three of your recent book projects, with a taste of what’s to come in your next title. Tell us a bit about it….
CP My most recent books, Fragile and The Karakoram – Ice Mountains of Pakistan, were published in 2020 and 2021 respectively and are both the culmination of decades of work which I’ll be sharing during my presentation. I’ll also show some of the latest images which are destined for a future book, entitled At the Edge – Scotland’s Atlantic Coastline, which is a work in progress. I look forward to seeing you there.

Win tickets!
We have five tickets to give away for Colin Prior’s Super Stage presentation on Saturday 17 September, courtesy of The Photography Show 2022. For your chance to win one, simply enter your name and email address below. The closing date for entry is 14 August and the winners will be chosen at random on 15 August and contacted shortly afterwards.

Colin Prior: A state of imagination

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Click here to see all the highlights of The Photography Show 2022.

Fragile: Suilven, Glencanisp, Assynt | Merlin’s egg.
Uli Biaho Tower, Great Trango and Baltoro Cathedrals, Baltoro Muztagh, Karakoram mountains, Pakistan.
K2 and Godwin Austen Glacier from Vigne Glacier, Baltoro Muztagh, Karakoram mountains, Pakistan.

Basalt columns, Isle of Staffa.
Colin Prior with Karim and Hussain, Concordia, Baltoro Muztagh, Karakoram mountains, Pakistan. Photo © Han Lu