Photographer Celebrates 40 Years of Business

It is 40 years ago this summer that Richard Pinches embarked on a lifelong photographic journey.

Richard has had a few lucky breaks along the way but his ambition has also been a driving force in his career. Richard is Henley born and bred and on leaving Gillotts School he went to King James’ College in Henley (now Henley College). He had enrolled to do Chemistry, Biology and Art A levels but he was told that he needed to even up his course with another art subject, so he was given the options of taking up CSE needlework, pottery or photography.

Well for Richard this was what they call a no brainer although he had no knowledge of photography, he know he didn’t want to do the other two disciplines! So in the summer of 1981 he went down to George Bushell’s Henley Photographic (where Cafe Rouge is) in Hart Street to buy his first SLR camera, a Cosina PM1 for £49.95.
So before the college course Richard experimented with his camera, having no knowledge of the system at all, and being completely naive about the process he completely fogged his first film so the prints came back all blank! On starting college under the tutorship of Roger Pugh he became proficient and when the Maths and Chemistry A Levels became a bit too much after one term, he was allowed to swop this to upgrade his CSE photography to A level.

This was the point when Richard got the bug and even the Biology took a second place to the art and photography, which he was enjoying so much. He then chose photography as his chosen vacation and went on to Berkshire College of Arts and Design in Reading to do a Diploma in commercial photography. On finishing the Diploma he got a job in a commercial studio very quickly as an assistant. This studio near Reading was Paul Howard’s studio who was a master of lighting and told Richard how to light products, food, beverages and cars. Richard said, “Paul insisted I do one portfolio shot every month to increase my skills. However, I saw my future here was limited with Paul and I didn’t want to be an assistant any more. So I applied to other larger local studios. Using the photography portfolio I created in the past year, he got the job as a studio photographer with Giles Smith photography, near Stokenchurch and Giles’ farm studio. This was a big jump being only a year out of college and I did struggle at first to learn the new discipline of shooting with clients watching me work, such as Johnson and Johnson, Honda, Little Chef, but I quickly flourished and in January 1988 I decided to go it alone.”

Luckily for Richard, his parents owned Meadows Farm on the Marlow Road and he was able to convert one of the barns into a photographic studio. This expanded and has been his business premises ever since. Richard explained, “The studio was designed for car photography and hence I picked up clients like Rolls Royce, BMW, Mini,Lotus, Nissan, Hyundai, plus other clients such as 3M, Xerox, Sony, Panasonic, Dell to name a few, as well as working with Kate Middleton before she got married. I didn’t know who she was until his ex-wife saw her in the studio and told him who she was dating! Miss Middleton was amused at her hitherto incognito presence in the studio!” The studio was in fact so busy that it ended up comprising of three photographers, several assistants, admin and even a full time set builder.

However come the recession of 2010 combined with the digital revolution the clients dwindled considerably and staffing was reduced. The digital revolution did have an upside which was it was easier to shoot videos, so this became a new skill set that Richard learned and eventually he got work on a film sets along with his ongoing photography projects. He eventually converted one of his drive-in studios into a soundproofed green screen video stage which is very popular, especially in these current times when people aren’t allowed to travel so far they can mimic being anywhere with the green screen technique.

With COVID lockdown of 2020, most of Richard bookings disappeared giving him lots of spare time to re-engage with his analogue roots and he started playing with film and chemicals again in a temporary darkroom he put together in his studio. He comments, “The passion was reignited, just like 40 years ago.” This lead him to explore furthering his artistic sensibilities and he went on a one year Master’s degree course in fine art photography at the university of Hertfordshire in Hatfield. Keen to move away from the digital photography that he uses every day in his commercial world, he started using analogue photography techniques in a combination of monochromatic and chromatic styles. This included an antique photographic process dating from 1852, called wet plate collodion. Richard comments, “This is very slow process working on tin and glass plates are certainly very opposite from generic digital photography.” The work is all based on barbed wire as a metaphor for conflict, which reflects Richard’s keen interest in the history of wars.

Richard has also developed some unusual techniques to add extra layers of interest into the images by partly destroying images with gunpowder, and shotgun pellets. But even more interestingly Richard has been burying colour film in soil. Richard explains, “This might sound mad but it actually produces some stunning results where the soil microbes eat the photographic gelatin layers revealing extremely interesting artefacts in the emulsion.”
“These results are the most spectacular to look at as the colour layers are eaten at different rates producing colourful imagery that looks out of this world and using macro techniques to see the detail these closely mimicking cosmic nebulas.”

Richard is holding an exhibition at the Old Fire Station in February next year to celebrate his 40 years and will be exhibiting his fine art photography as well as a retrospective early work compared to his modern commercial work.