You won’t find anyone who embodies the spirit of Dunedin more than Alan Haig. Dunedin born and bred, Alan has been a major contributor to the local music scene for decades, having played in iconic Dunedin Sound bands such as The Chills and, more recently, David Kilgour and The Heavy Eights. He has now turned his considerable talents to photography. We asked Alan a few questions about his latest endeavour.
What prompted you to move your focus from music to photography?
I have been a musician for the last 30 years starting in the early eighties which is now known for the ‘Dunedin Sound’. I contribute my original ideas to assist the others to get a musical piece finished. I always have a picture in my mind while performing musically. This combination makes me who I am. These days I have been giving live music a break but am experimenting with sounds at home. It now gives me the time to focus on my photography hobby. I do like the idea of combining my still imagery with my own musical soundtracks, a long term goal.
The vibrant Port Chalmers and Portobello communities
Low tide in Portobello
How long have you been working as a photographer professionally?
It would be nice to become a professional photographer but at this stage it remains as a hobby. With the help of Sam Clarkson of Clarkson Design, I set up my photography website initially to get my images out for public viewing and feedback. I’m keen to establish myself professionally and welcome any enquiries about commissions.
Hoopers Inlet, Otago Peninsula
What is your preferred subject matter?
I love landscapes and as I gain more experience new ideas evolve.
Black & White images are a favourite and enforce the basic rules of actual film photography. Colour does have a lot of distractions but does have its place. Street/Urban is another area which I enjoy. All these descriptions tend to cross over in subject material so I just go with what the image means and categorise it accordingly.
The Sound Shell, Dunedin Botanic Garden
The Quad, University of Otago
Are there any New Zealand or overseas photographers who influence your work?
I look at what other photographers are doing from the likes of Facebook and various photo websites. There are some great ones out there. Locals such as Ian Bilson, Alistair Reid and Chris Reid are long-term friends and mentors and I admire their work. I subscribe to the British magazine Black & White Photography which is full of inspirational articles and examples of fine images. Lee Frost and Tim Clinch, both professional, produce some great work which I aspire to and they write excellent articles in this magazine.
A historical building in Dunedin’s First Church grounds
The ‘Nigel Bruce’ Steam Train at the Dunedin Railway Station
You use a wide variety of techniques in your photographs. Are these techniques easy to achieve?
I experiment with different darkroom techniques digitally these days. It’s amazing how one single image can be manipulated in many different ways. Thankfully I have had some experience in the ‘real darkroom’ and shooting with film to have a reasonable amount of knowledge to apply to post production.
I print my images using Ilford ink jet papers. It’s personally satisfying having the final control in producing the idea. Printing digitally requires some dedication but is worth it at the end.
I can imagine the huge number of great photos taken by others that are locked up in a hard drive to be viewed only a few times and forgotten.
Ilford has just produced a dedicated Black & White ink jet paper called Mono Silk, which is stunning. I have started using this and it is producing some excellent results.
Steam train activity at the Dunedin Railway Station
The vacant Gresham Hotel