My Interview with John Potter, Yorkshire Photographer of the Landscape

I interviewed John Potter a number of years ago and the following is the text of the article that was published in The Countryman (UK).

There is one thing that all photographers of the landscape seem to have in common — passion. A passion not only for photography but an abiding passion for the countryside that they are picturing.

And, John Potter from York is no exception. “I love the countryside and am passionate about landscape photography, so to have the opportunity to combine the two is enormously satisfying, and far more important than earning great riches!”

I had found John through his website and having been very impressed with what I saw I immediately contacted him to arrange an interview. And, I wasn’t the first to have been impressed with his work.

“A major break happened for me about two years ago when, in the autumn of 2003, Barry Milton of Myriad Books Ltd called me after seeing my web site. He asked if I had many pictures of Yorkshire Dales villages. I sent him some sample pictures and within a couple of weeks I had signed my first contract with Myriad. My deadline for supplying approx 120 pictures and all the captions for Yorkshire Dales Villages (ISBN 1904736114) was November 2004. I planned to draw 50% of the pictures from shots that I already had and shoot the remainder during the next 12 months.”

That was the sort of break that landscape photographers dream about but for John it was not all plain sailing as he was a teacher with all the commitments that that entails. However, he achieved his target and his first book was published.

I learned that John had been a teacher for over twenty years and I wondered how long he had been involved in photography.

“I made my first black and white print in 1983. I joined York Camera Club that year and was soon entering competitions and sending my work to magazines. During the mid-90s I produced a series of darkroom articles for Practical Photography magazine and then went on to teach O Level Photography in the evenings for a number of years in a local Adult Education Centre.

“Up until the late 90s freelance photography was my hobby and it provided me with the perfect antidote to the stress and pressure of teaching Design Technology and ICT in a local Church of England School. It also provided me with a small but gradually increasing second income, and I began to realise that if I adopted a more businesslike approach, and actively marketed my photography more, there might be a chance to switch careers.

“I have just completed two further books for Myriad which are due for publication in May — Yorkshire Dales Panoramas and The Yorkshire Coast and North York Moors. Whilst working on these during 2004 I quickly realised that my days in teaching soon might have to draw to a close. Balancing my workload from school whilst shooting many more images, and writing copy for the books became very difficult, so I decided to resign, and my contract closed at the end of August 2005. I still teach a little, but it’s now photography and Photoshop to adults, for two local Adult Education Centres.”

John grew up in Tadcaster, a small brewery town on the River Wharfe in North Yorkshire which is where he came to love the Yorkshire countryside. “From those early days I have loved living and working within easy reach of the magnificent countryside that is on my doorstep here in the north of England.”

All new businesses require a deal of hard work and John’s is no exception. “I am working very hard to develop several strands to my new business, one of which is to run Landscape Photography Workshops in the region. Now that I have freed up time to develop my business, I plan to market my images far more widely. I already supply images to several calendar and greetings card companies and have images with a picture library.”

“With all the beautiful spots that you have been able to photograph it must be very difficult to pick a favourite,” I suggested.

“I have so many! Locally I love to walk along the Cleveland Way, at Sutton Bank near Thirsk. It’s only about forty minutes from home and I have been up there four or five times this autumn. The Yorkshire Dales in spring are glorious, and mid-winter with the North York Moors in snow is always a thrilling experience. I have a soft spot for The Western Isles which I try to visit each year, and of course The Lake District in autumn takes some beating.

“After 20 yrs freelancing I have built up a good working knowledge of many fantastic locations that often yield good pictures, given that the right weather and lighting conditions come together. Open skies, ever changing dramatic weather systems, magic light and beautiful landscapes are in abundance at these and many more locations in Northern Britain.”

I asked what it is that attracts John to actually release the shutter and make a photograph.
“Pressing the shutter and knowing that you have just recorded a beautiful scene in glorious light is an immensely satisfying experience, and I guess the most appealing thing about recording images is experiencing the moment when everything comes together; the weather, the quality of the light, the framing, composition and viewpoint all have to be in harmony if the image is going to be a memorable one.”

That John Potter is making memorable images is confirmed by the fact that he has been commissioned to do three more books for Myriad
“I have had a fantastic time working on the first three books here in my home county of Yorkshire, and hope to have many more published. My next deadline for Myriad is to have three books completed by November 2006 — a book of villages, one of landscapes and another of panoramic landscapes in East Anglia. Exploring what is a new region for me photographically speaking, is challenging and very satisfying.”

If there is anything more satisfying to a landscape photographer than making the picture, it is having work published so that others can share the passion for the countryside. That some of John’s work has recently been accepted for production as posters ensures that he will now reach an even wider market for his memorable pictures.

For more of John Potter’s images and details about his books and courses, see his website

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