From an upstairs window in Tim Fisher’s art gallery there are one of those dramatic views of mountains that Cumbrians sometimes take for granted.

It looks straight across Keswick towards Cat Bells, Causey Pike and other north-western fells.

Tim finds himself up there taking photos most days. His staff downstairs know where he’ll be.

His fiancée lives in Germany and is used to phone calls being interrupted abruptly when the light or clouds lend themselves to a picture.

Some women are golf widows or football widows. She may end up a photograph widow.

All these photos – and the unique way he has rendered them, blending them with paintings to produce something new – have won him second prize in the landscape category of this year’s International Photography Awards in New York.

An art gallery in the city will be exhibiting some of his paintings later this month.

Yet the Cumbrian mountains are far from the only breathtaking landscapes he has photographed.

Others have been in Antarctica, the Gobi Desert, North Korea, North and South America, Australia and of course the length and breadth of Britain.

Like many artists, Tim feels his work is a compulsion, a need that needs satisfying.

Asked if he imagines continuing with photography for the rest of his life, he responds: “I have no choice.”

But what’s also soon clear is that he has long had another compulsion: incredibly itchy feet that have taken him across the globe.

Yet Tim never dreamed of being a photographer when he was in his teens. He was inspired to join the army after seeing it on TV.

Tim was born 55 years ago in Helmsley in North Yorkshire, so was about to leave school in 1982 when the Falklands War broke out.

“I always used to watch it,” he explains. “I had just been doing my A-levels and had been thinking of studying geography or geology, But I took the Queen’s shilling pretty much when I left school and I went to Sandhurst when I was 18.”

He stayed in the forces for five years, with spells in West Germany but more time back in Britain, but never had to do a tour of duty in Northern Ireland like most soldiers of the time, and never saw any conflict.

It was there that he acquired a taste for photography.

“I used to get every odd job that was going, like organising the battalion sports day. I started writing articles and taking photos for the newsletters.”

When he came out – and after a couple of years backpacking in south-east Asia – he decided to try making a living from it, and signed up for a photography course at the London College of Printing.

Work for the news and features pages of many of the national papers soon followed, though it could sometimes be a bit demoralising.

“I would get sent all over taking photos, and then they would run them the size of a postage stamp.

“It paid the rent, but I was looking for something better.”

That came with wedding photography – but not the usual, formulaic kind of wedding photography we’re used to.

“I did them in a documentary, reportage style.

“With some weddings you go down to a lake for an hour and a half and do a lot of soft-focus stuff. I had no interest in that.”

Work was plentiful and there were appearances at some of the big national wedding shows.

By then based in north London he found himself in demand for Greek and Jewish weddings in particular. Word of mouth within those close-knit communities built up the business.

“People wanted what we were offering. I got passed around. Every year or two you would be doing a couple who had been guests at a previous wedding.

“There were also bat mitzvahs and bar mitzvahs, or corporate work like pictures for their restaurants.”

It was well paid but he recalls: “I was knackered all the time.

“With Jewish and Greek weddings you have to be there at about 8.30am and you wouldn’t leave until 1am.

“You needed a high level of fitness. I couldn’t do it now.”

Besides, he adds: “I got a bit bored with it. I was replicating what I had done before – I could do it blindfold.

“I needed to reinvent himself.”

So, renting out his house in north London and armed with a camera, he went travelling.

He headed for South America, reached the southernmost tip of the continent – and then decided to head even further south, boarding a ship heading for Antarctica. “I was taking pictures in return for my passage.”

The western side of the Antarctic is less inhospitable than the east. It is mostly populated by penguins and scientists, with no permanent human residents, but he points out: “There’s a bit of grass. Some people go for the mountaineering or ski-ing.

“It has the southernmost post office on the planet.”

And he adds: “It is genuinely awe-inspiring.

“I’d never experienced anything like it. The pictures don’t begin to describe the scenery.

“Some people coming back to the boat had obviously been moved to tears.”

But Tim’s feet were still itchy. After a trip home he headed off again with bike and camera to cross the Gobi Desert.

“It’s really quite green,” he noticed. “There’s actually very little of it that’s pure sand.”

While in Mongolia he was able to visit other Asian countries, including North Korea, which was a shock, and as odd as it sounds.

“I saw old ladies on their knees, cutting the grass with scissors.”

Tim had to head back to Britain when his father became ill. The timing was fortuitous. He flew home from Kiev on the very day that a ferocious civil war broke out in Ukraine – and considers himself lucky to have left the day he did.

“If I hadn’t I might be sitting here with two legs missing,” he reflects.

“Or I mightn’t be sitting here at all.”

And having retained his legs, he was able to get back in the saddle and explore Britain. “I went for a bike ride,” he says. It took him from Land’s End to John o’Groats, from coast to coast and to many places in between.

He had decided to move to Scotland to put down roots but explains: “I stopped in the Lake District to do some bike rides and take some photos – and I never made it across the border.”

Tim took over the Northern Lights gallery in St John’s Street in Keswick 17 months ago.

It is busy with customers in the middle of a weekday. It showcases and sells the work mostly of local artists – but is not really an exhibition space for Tim’s photos. “We have a responsibility to artists who are trying to make a living from it,” he says. “I take that very, very seriously.”

And he works closely with some of the landscape painters. With their permission, he overlays his photos with paintings of the same views – to blend the two media together and create something new and unusual.

Straightforward landscape photos of the Lake District hold little interest for him. “I’d see a facsimile of a facsimile of a facsimile. I wanted to see how I could make landscapes my own, how I could do it in a slightly different way.

“I converted them to black and white, gave them a slight sepia tone and overlaid a photo with a painting. And I thought: ‘That looks interesting.’”

Tim’s prize-winning work will be on show at the Aviva Art Fair in Manchester next weekend and at the Edinburgh Art Fair from Friday, November 22 to Monday, November 25.





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