James Ball aka Docubyte is a Photographer and Art Director based in London with a fascination for engineering and technology. ‘Guide to Computing’ is James’ homage to the computing machines of days gone by (actually not all that long ago). Working with London production studio INK, James has taken some of the finest examples of early computers and restored them to their former glory with some painstaking but exquisite digital post-production.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you first became interested in photography.
I’m a photographer, art director and retoucher living in London. I’ve been shooting ever since an older school friend made me think photography was cool.
From where do you draw your inspiration and how does that influence your style?
I feel like I’ve been all over the place. I started in editorial and looked to the likes of Martin Parr or Nick Waplington after I graduated but I spent a lot of time in architectural and advertising post-production studios and this has played a part in where I think my style lies now. I’ve refined it, I’ve straightened it out, it’s very retouch-heavy and I’m not shy about that.
…and this has played a part in where I think my style lies now. I’ve refined it, I’ve straightened it out, it’s very retouch-heavy and I’m not shy about that.
What do you do to keep challenging yourself creatively?
I keep abreast of contemporary visual languages – places like Behance are an excellent place to do that and that’s my job; but lately, I’m not sure I’ve been exactly what you’d call challenging myself; I rather tend to just absolutely indulge myself in whatever itch I need to scratch and, as I’m comfortable with retouching and lighting now, I feel a bit more control than I used to when I shot more editorial stuff. Having said that, I’m really up for doing some more portraiture work – and that will certainly be challenging as it’s far more nuanced.
How do you come up with the concept for a project like ‘Guide to Computing’ or your series on the British space industry ‘Britain in Space’; are these personal projects shot on spec or commissioned specifically?
I’m visually fascinated by engineering, and I’m amazed at the things we’re able to produce. This fascination drives me to photograph these things and places; be it incredible vintage computers or the latest rocket technology. I’ll approach people, companies and museums with specific non-commercial intentions, and some commissions come this way too, but essentially I’m just looking for access. I want to see other people’s worlds. I sit on a computer most days – and, while I love what I do, sometimes I get the fleeting urge to be rocket engineer.
I want to see other people’s worlds. I sit on a computer most days – and, while I love what I do, sometimes I get the fleeting urge to be rocket engineer.
Tell us a bit about the series that we are featuring here, ‘Guide to Computing’; how did this series come about?
It’s only really now, in the era of high-tech pocketable technology, that the significance of early computers is being so fondly realised. I love knobs, dials and buttons and wanted to celebrate that visually. I’d planned to build my own fantastical machine to photograph, with a load of junky oscilloscope parts on eBay – though in researching these parts, I realised the thing I was going to build actually existed in real life.
What new projects are you working on currently?
Well, the British Space Industry stuff is ongoing – I realise I never actually want to finish that as a project. I’ve got further machines in the retouch pipeline for ‘Guide to Computing’ as I’d like to work that up into a book project, and there are these portraits…
See more of James’ work at:
All images copyright James Ball – Docubyte/INK.