“Everything left the image apart from the person’s face in front of me”: Craig Bernard on his close-up style

The Welsh photographer presents his photographs in pairs, stemming from a passion for photobooks.

11 March 2020


Despite achieving a unique style within his work, photographer Craig Bernard isn’t overly fussed by this aspect of his images.

“I don’t really think about this because taking pictures (technically) is easy, it’s just a few switches on your camera, joining them up to how you want to see something,” he explains.

Craig’s style employs close-ups, managing to isolate subjects using a focused flash. It not only creates a clear contrast between the subject and the background, but it also freezes and exacerbates facial expressions in people. “It’s a way of looking at someone or something. I started experimenting with close-ups five years ago whilst I was working on a project at Speakers’ corner (which I’m still shooting),” he recalls. “I really wanted to get the speakers mid-speech and isolated, I started using a narrower lens until everything left the image apart from the person’s face in front of me. After testing different equipment I’ve almost settled on how I make them today.”

This approach does result in different images, ultimately ones that look more like they have been created in a studio than on the street – which is where Craig takes most of his photographs. “I’ve always experimented and continue to do so, I suppose my use of flash is a bit unconventional, which stems from just being curious about how something will come out.”

Craig, who is a chef by trade, is originally from Cardiff but lives in London. He was inspired to pick up a camera by a love of literature and stories, combined with a love for photobooks. He eventually decided it was a career that he wanted to pursue, and moved home to study it full time – an experience which despite being informative was not one he remembers fondly. “I didn’t enjoy it one bit for multiple reasons,” he says. “A particular one being that the whole experience was highly overrated.”


Craig Bernard

Despite this, he has not lost his love for the medium, and is pursuing a range of personal projects, many of which are centred around protest. “I’ve always been quite politically aware,” he explains. “This probably stems from my parents’ involvement in anti-racist campaigns before I was born. I’m also from Cardiff, where race riots took place in 1919 (before my time) and family members passed on the story.”

There are also more contemporary reasons why Craig is drawn to protest and politics as his subject matter, and many of his images include people like Katie Hopkins, Brexit protesters and champions of free speech at Speakers’ Corner. “In Britain, there is hard/far-right politics, Brexit, a changing climate, and also the more nuanced stuff I shoot around freedom of speech. I just got more into trying to understand where we are at, and the connections between these movements through photography.”

Craig’s signature style of shooting is accompanied by a preferred method of displaying his images, which has its roots in print. “Again this comes back to books, which is my preferred way of looking at photography,” he says. “I also really enjoy editing and sequencing too. I’m not that interested in single images, but pictures that are in groups and pairings. They can make up a broader narrative of whatever a photographer is looking at or trying to say.”

With a style that has taken years to perfect, as well as a unique approach to how he presents his images, Craig is now focusing his efforts on completing his current projects. “I’m enjoying what I’m doing at the moment,” he says. “And it’s not quite finished yet!”

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Craig Bernard

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About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.


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