“…for me a photograph has the power to transmit an otherwise transitory mood and emotion” – Phil Sharp
Phil Sharp is a London-based photographer, whose unique, artistic approach results in stunning images that truly reflect the essence of the subject.
A self-proclaimed film enthusiast, Sharp turned to still images after enrolling in a short film course on the advice of a friend. While film was his first love, he found that opportunities in the industry were scarce and turned to photography as a more realistic way of making a living.
Sharp’s interest in people drew him to portraiture, and his images demonstrate remarkable artistry and creativity. He blends elements of classic portraiture with his own personal techniques, shooting in both color and black and white; from close-up to capture subtle details, as well as from further away.
His portraiture is punctuated by subtle details drawn from everyday life. Seemingly small and mundane elements from the street acquire a deep and absorbing quality when viewed through his lens, adding tension to his portraits, whilst also accentuating their emotional depth, lending them a profound sense of realism.
His images showcase an exceptional appreciation of light and form, as well as a sensitivity, patience, and perceptivity that allows him to capture the essence of those he photographs.
According to Sharp, time is the key element in his work. He avoids putting clear time constraints on the process and instead allows his sitters the freedom to express themselves. Sharp’s portraits often capture his subjects in moments of introspection, as if lost in thought or reflection,
“It’s imperative to not set a hard time limit on the process. Otherwise, it’s really just about empathy. understand that the nature of a photoshoot is inherently breaking the social contract and that’s fine. I allow my sitters to perform, I think good art achieves truth via performance.”
He shoots mainly on a Fujifilm GFX100s with a Zeiss Otus 55mm lens, though he also uses Fujinon 110mm, 70mm and 63mm and experiments with Leica, Minolta, and even toy lenses. He works predominantly in natural light, which he uses to perfection, adding authenticity to his images that, while imbued with a fine-art sensibility and a painting-like quality, never feel overly staged.
“Every so often, I make a photograph that has the right feeling,” he says. “It’s relatively simple at this point to make a photograph that is technically competent, but for me, a photograph has the power to transmit an otherwise transitory mood and emotion. Maybe photography can change the way one feels after all.”
Sharp draws influence from various sources, including other artists and photographers, but says that music plays the most significant role in his work. The feeling that a particular piece of music provides can drive an entire creative direction, he says, and recognizes similarities between jazz and photography in “setting up a framework and allowing oneself to create at the speed of thought.”
Sharp’s distinct artistic approach has engendered some truly unique images that stand as some of the most compelling examples of contemporary portraiture. They demonstrate both the profound potential of the genre and that photography is a medium that, when done well, can truly immortalise a moment in time.
All images © Phil Sharp