In her hugely influential 1977 book On Photography, Susan Sontag wrote: "The painter constructs, the photographer discloses", inspiring the title of this, our first exhibition of fine art photography.
The argument about whether photography can be considered as art is as old as the medium itself. In early 2014 it reached fever pitch when a photograph by the Australian Peter Lik set a new world record after a private collector purchased one of his photos for $6.5 million.
Jonathan Jones, wrote in the Guardian on the sale of Lik's work, "Photography is not an art. It is a technology. We have no excuse to ignore this obvious fact in the age of digital cameras, when the most beguiling high-definition images and effects are available to millions. My iPad can take panoramic views that are gorgeous to look at. Does that make me an artist? No, it just makes my tablet one hell of a device."
But this is to miss the point completely. Anyone can take a bad photograph, just as anyone can paint a bad painting. It takes dedication, skill and creativity to capture an image that truly discloses something about its subject. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Photography Department in New York does not include anyone's iPad snaps in its exhibitions, just as there are tens of thousands of amateur painters whose work never makes the Tate. The photographs by Sir Don McCullin of the Vietnam War stand side by side with the paintings by CRW Nevinson of World War I in disclosing the horrors of war.
In his respected work, Ways of Seeing, the art critic John Berger comments that: "unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does."
In Peter Aitchison, we have a very fine exponent of this art form.
Peter came to fine art photography through a long and troubled route. His work was seen by millions nearly every day in the 1990s and early 2000s. As official studio photographer for both The Big Breakfast and the first series of Big Brother, Peter locked eyes through his lens with stars including Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Britney Spears and Samuel L Jackson.
Eventually, Peter decided to move North in search of a less hectic life, but misfortune struck. Redundancy and the effects of cancer meant that Peter lost virtually everything - including his house and beloved camera equipment. Peter rebuilt his life and his fortunes gradually, travelled extensively and reconnected with photography - this time as a calling, not an occupation.
As Peter has said: "Despite having worked over 30 years in the industry, I felt like I was discovering photography for the first time ... Sometimes, when I see a picture opportunity I get butterflies in my stomach, like a first date. When this happens it is a very special picture to me. It doesn't happen often but when it does I have to just stand and look at the scene before I take the picture."
We are delighted to be showcasing some of Peter's very special photographs.