How a photographer is taking pictures around the globe without leaving his Yorkshire home

It was while FaceTiming his eight-year-old daughter at the start of lockdown that Leeds photographer Tim Dunk got an idea that would change the way he worked forever.

“I was on FaceTime to Nelly when she started messing about. I asked her what she was doing and she said she was pressing a button which took a photograph of her on FaceTime. I didn’t think much about it until much later and even now I am bowled over by what has happened since.”

With the world Zooming and FaceTiming as the only way of connecting, Tim, whose work as wedding photographer had stopped overnight, thought doing photoshoots with his friends via their iPhones would be a nice thing to do. “People were really keen on the idea, many said it gave them a reason to dress up and even in some cases get dressed. I thought it was just a nice way to link up with friends and a fun thing to do – it just grew from there, it just took off,” says Tim, a self taught photographer who used to work behind the scenes at Opera North until he picked up a camera, an unwanted gift for his partner, and looked back.

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He downloaded an app called Shutter App which allowed him to take control of the persons camera and therefore take the shot he waned. "It is all about light for me and so I get people to give me a 360 degree view of their home until I find the light I like and then i get them to get a tin of baked bean and a hair bobble and attach their phone to it and then I take the shot – everyone had a hair bobble and a tin of beans during lock down – you wouldn’t believe the results.

Tim DunkTim Dunk
Tim Dunk

"I've shot in lounges and wardrobes and poly tunnels, allotments and staircases. Props were pulled from shelves and cupboards, or cat beds and cribs. I've shot people living within shouting distance, and stayed up way past my bedtime shooting people on the other side of the world. The shoots were fast and fun, locked into a short time frame and a similar visual language. They involved couples, individuals, children and pets. All of us in the same situations. All of us shut away.

“At any time this would have been fun - as a creative exercise and way of finding a new way of making portraits; but in this bizarre time we find ourselves, outside of our normal experience or comprehension, it made total sense that we made pictures in a new way too. The fact that it sparked such enthusiasm in people, resonated with them at a time where we are distanced from each other, from the world, is just lovely as a human being. These images feel like tiny threads from one home to the next, waiting to be pulled again.”

Unlike a normal photoshoot where people go along to a studio, all these shoots were in people’s own homes and so they were much more relaxed and as a result the photographs were better. Tim quickly saw the potential, and even since the end of lockdown he has given up wedding photography and instead concentrate on remote photoshoots.

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"It means I can take photographs of people around the world, in their own homes or offices, without leaving Leeds. It save money and the cost to the environment.” He has found that companies are also keen to employ his skills with staff scattered the country and even different countries.” He then got the idea of taking a remote photograph of one person in each of the 50 states in America in their own home all in one day.

Alma – MichiganAlma – Michigan
Alma – Michigan

"Over the last three years I have got to grips with the technique and the technology having taken hundreds and hundreds of photographs this way. I wanted to push myself and I just wanted to see how far it could go and to demonstrate its potential,” says Tim, who ironically has never set foot in America.

He put a call out over social media in a bid to recruit 50 people from 50 different US states to take part in his world first experiment.

"In a photography world where the conversation is dominated by the fear of AI imagery making photography (and photographers) redundant, this was an attempt to demonstrate the thing the robots can’t replicate – human to human connection,” explains Tim. “Every participant was a friend of a friend, or a friend of a friend of a friend. In a gloriously frantic 13 hour period, I connected with these people, spent three to 10 minutes with them, and recorded our connection with a photograph. As someone who’s never set foot on American soil, I’m completely in awe of the fact I was able to spend time with someone in every single state in a day, and I’m so very grateful to all the wonderful people who gave me a few minutes of their Sunday.” The project wasn’t without problems, is fact when the day came Tim was still short of people in four states. “With half an hour left I started to think that New Hampshire was a mythical place and I wasn’t going to be bale to complete it but then with 20 minutes left Zachary got in touch and I was able to complete it.” The result is 50 (well 53 as there were three doubles) intimate photographs taken in their own homes or gardens by Tim thousands of miles away in Leeds. Despite the distance Tim has managed to capture the personality of each individual, something he attributes to them being so relaxed with the familiarity of their setting and the Apple technology that is core to his process. “There is a real mix of people. I wish I’d had more time with each person, and time to make notes on them all, but it was real seat-of-the-pants stuff just trying to get every state booked in while also remotely photographing 53 people. I’m not in a hurry to do anything similar again (the logistics side of things was more than a little stressful), but it was a great way to demonstrate the power and possibilities of remote photography.”

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As well as corporate work, Tim does a lot of maternity shoots and has recently did a shoot with a Icelandic pop band – two of the band members were in Iceland and the third was in LA – Tim, of course, was in Leeds. He also has a regular client in New York who he photogaphs every year on her birthday.

"People do ask me about the resolution but iPhone cameras are so amazing these days that I have even had my photographs blown up on bill boards.”