A Viewfinder Darkly

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Carl Lyttle – Hasselblad Master

November 17 2007

by Phil Northeast

Hasselblad Master Photographer  Carl Lyttle began with Irish punk bands in the late 1970’s and  now specializes in advertising photography for automotive campaigns.

Skating rink

Hasselblad Master Photograper's skating picture ©Carl Lyttle

Inspired by Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn’s images from the world of popular music Lyttle plunged into the emerging Irish punk scene. Lyttle’s early subjects included the bands Stiff Little Fingers and The Undertones.

Lyttle started shooting concerts when he was only 15 with his first camera, a Hanimex Mini 110. Lyttle’s fate was sealed when his father bought him a Pentax for his 17th birthday and then he says he really caught the bug.

Importance of Training

Despite the nature of rebellion against mainstream practices underlying punk music, Lyttle chose a conventional path in his career as a professional photographer.

This began with a three-year apprenticeship in Ireland’s studio based in Belfast. Then Lyttle moved to England for a three-year photography course at Bournemouth & Poole College of Art and Design.

After graduating, Lyttle began his specialization in advertising photography, with a two-year stint assisting the late and respected advertising photographer Christopher Joyce.

After years of assisting other photographers or following the dictates of course designers Lyttle took a two year sabbatical, travelling the world and taking pictures that would form the basis for his first professional portfolio.

In the light of his own experience, Lyttle advises young people entering the industry that an education in photography is essential in order to fully develop their skills. In addition, he feels that training as an assistant to a top photographer is an important step for fledgling photographers, before attempting to venture out on their own.

Current Work

Lyttle’s work is now primarily automotive and he has provided images for Nissan, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet, Renault, Audi, Mercedes, Chrysler, Mars and Land Rover – other global campaigns include British American Tobacco, BT, O2, Orange, Microsoft and Vittel.

This is photography on a grand scale and owes more to a Hollywood movie on location than the approach of an everyday photographer.

Lyttle enjoys the responsibility of a large project and the flow of adrenalin it produces. Lyttle cites the Chrysler Stratus shoot in New York, “It was a huge set up. We closed Wall Street for a day, had gigantic special effects and an enormous crew. It was nerve-wracking knowing that it was up to me to produce the images, but I was very happy with the end results, which made it all worthwhile.”

Equipment Choice

Lyttle uses only digital cameras, “I love the slickness and depth of file provided by digital, as well as the ability to very quickly ensure you have a shot. However, I will always remember the traditional magic associated with looking at a piece of film on a light box,” said Lyttle.

Today Lyttle uses two digital Hasselblad H3DII-39s and he says that first and foremost he demands optical quality and, from a digital viewpoint, a high pixel, high resolution capture back.

“I originally chose Hasselblad because they have the best lenses on the market. For workflow, the quality of the equipment is, in my opinion, unrivalled in the industry.”

As a professional photographer, working mostly on location around the world, Lyttle values the reliability of his Hasselblad cameras. With the scale of Lyttle’s location shoots, camera reliability is essential.

“Hasselblad provides quality, security and reliability. The cameras are well built, durable and wonderfully consistent over a long period of time.”

Career Reflections

“During my career I have been lucky enough to work with many fantastic agencies and people around the world. I have also seen more of the globe than I could ever have wished for when I started out on my own 14 years ago.”

“I love undertaking big car productions and find that jobs which allow the freedom of a road trip to shoot just what I see, feed my soul as a photographer.”


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