SH Bean is a conceptual artist. He is also University College Cork‘s cameraman. He runs three courses at UCC’s Centre for Adult Continuing Education; Digital Photography part 1 & 2 and once they are completed a 12 week Master class in Photographic and Film Lighting. The courses usually start around the end of September.

Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Yes four things come to mind: One, the lens is everything, find a great lens and you will have it for the rest of your life. Some of the greatest photographers only worked with one lens.

Two, find a printer with an excellent reputation, work closely with him/her. I work with Tony O’Brien of and no one else.

Three, develop a interest in Art History. Photography is an Art Form, situated within the History of Art. Understanding where it comes from and the various epochs is critical in the development of your skills as a Photographer and Filmmaker.

Four, finally Photography is about light and having an understanding about light, its properties, how to modulate it, and how it may be used to develop emotional responses is an integral part of the photographic process.

What do you offer in your courses in UCC? What skills are important?
Although there are some technical elements to the courses, which are divided into lectures and workshops, I hope students participating will learn to develop a ‘Photographic eye’, and through the course understand, in the words of Henry David Thoreau that ‘It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. ‘

Many music fans laud vinyl over the CD or MP3 as formats. Are there any comparisons to be made with analog and digital in photography?
Yes there are of course technical differences some positive and some negative. Film Grain and Dynamic Range are two where I feel analog has the advantage over digital. These can to some extent be emulated by software. However the development of the 2/3rds sensor was a huge step backwards and one made for purely for financial expediency. If all digital cameras would shoot 16bit that would be a start, but most don’t, so in my view analog still has the advantage and will do for some time. However when it comes to lens design the latest developments by Carl Zeiss have produced some lenses of outstanding quality.

Is it difficult to capture an image in a “busy” setting? How much concentration is required? Are there elements of multitasking or is it a matter of snapping and luck?

Great photos are carefully crafted not taken, being in the right place at the right time and ‘discovering appearances’ has nothing to do with luck. It requires experience and knowledge and this comes with practice. Typical characteristics of a Photographer who is serious about this Art Form are obsessiveness and a certain amount of insularity. I am reminded of the advice Andrie Tarkovsky’s gives to young film makers: “It’s not hard to learn how to glue the film, how to work a camera,” Tarkovsky says. “But the advice I can give to beginners is not to separate their work, their movie, their film, from the life they live. Not to make a difference between the movie and their own life.”

Have you done any interesting projects as a cameraman?
Yes. Just finished filming on location in Canada and the USA. It’s part an oral history project on George Boole, the first Professor of Mathematics here in UCC. The highlight of which was 5 days at NASA in Cape Canaveral, interviewing astronauts and the head of Kennedy Space Center. I’m also working with some colleagues on a short film tribute to the surrealist French film maker and Philosopher Guy Debord. I currently have a back catalogue of 12 films and three exhibitions.

LinkedIn: Stephen Bean. Avant-Garde Photographer


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All images copyright Stephen Bean.