John Dooley and Hilary Wallis, collectively known as Wallis McGrath, joined forces in 2010 and now collaborate on many projects.
John, born in the United Kingdom, was a freelance photojournalist based in Los Angeles where he covered breaking news including the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 2008 US presidential election and the Writers Guild of America strike. In 2012, he returned to London to manage and tutor Leica Akademie Mayfair. John has been a regular writer and contributor to Black + White Photography magazine where he wrote his own monthly column, “Viewfinder,” on the subject of metaphorical and literal photographic journeys. His photographic musings led to further written features for Digital Photographer magazine and The Telegraph Online and caught the attention of Adobe where he is currently an Adobe Partner and member of the Adobe Influencer Program.
Hilary, from the United States, is a veteran of both solo and group exhibitions with her artwork shown throughout the US, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. She has worked as a photographer, videographer, book designer and project consultant for Plan, CARE, the International Rescue Committee, InterAction, Americans for Informed Democracy, the National Conference for Community and Justice, ThinkImpact, the Buffelshoek Trust, the Global Campaign for Education, the Inter-American Development Bank and other NGOs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Togo and Uganda. Hilary has been a documentary photographer covering human interest stories in Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Guatemala and Haiti. In 2007 Hilary founded the educational organization Artfully AWARE, which was a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, the United Nations Economic and Social Council and the United Nations Global Compact.
Below, John and Hilary discuss their road trip through Southern Europe as they made their way to Provence, which is their current home base.
Q: When did you first become interested in photography?
John (JD): My father owned a Canon Pellix camera, which piqued my curiosity early on. As a somewhat shy teenager, photography boosted my confidence by introducing me to situations, which required me to interact with my subjects. That eventually led me to approach the picture editor at The Telegraph for advice and ultimately a job offer.
Hilary (HW): I spent several years as a professional painter in Amsterdam and Berlin, so my interest in photography was a natural progression. When I shoot, I am constantly thinking of how I can take the artistry and awareness of color as a painter and introduce these elements into my photography. I have always used my camera in place of a diary on my travels.
Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?
JD: The Leica name and the seductively discreet M camera had always intrigued me. My photographic idols also all used an M – Robert Frank, Joel Meyerowitz, Josef Koudelka and Alex Webb. To be able to photograph unnoticed with a combination of a compact rangefinder and exquisite lenses was too much temptation for me, and it was only a matter of time before I had a Leica M in my own hands!
HW: I spent a lot of time in photography stores when growing up and was fascinated by cameras in general. But, above all, I idolized Leica.
Q: What camera equipment do you primarily use?
JD: For the majority of my street and travel photography I use the Leica M with a 35 mm Summicron lens. I have also been shooting with the very capable Leica T.
HW: I recently completed a documentary photography assignment in Haiti with the Leica T, and also used the T with the 18-56 mm lens and the handy EVF to document our European travels.
Q: How would you describe your photography?
JD: My photography encompasses many genres including photojournalism, street, architecture and travel. My background as assistant news photo editor at the Daily Telegraph and photojournalist in the USA naturally lends itself to a documentary style, but street photography is invaluable for sharpening the visual reflexes.
HW: Documentary and travel with an emphasis on people and cultures.
Q: Can you provide some background information on these images?
JD: The images were all shot on a Leica T with 18-56 mm lens on our road trip in Southern Europe, which began in summer 2014 to our present base in Provence. From the Spanish Pyrenees, to the Sicilian countryside, to the Italian Dolomites, to the bucolic environs of Provence, the images reflect our encounters with the landscape and cultures. The Spanish Pyrenees offers extensive swathes of wilderness and remarkably few visitors for a land of such natural beauty. We explored the Sicilian countryside and towns in the heat of summer and the images reflect the intensity of the region. Umbria was a haven of tranquility with fascinating culture. Dolomites is a relatively unexplored European mountain range in Northern Italy, uniquely attractive. Provence, our current home, is possessed with wonderful light, atmospheric landscapes, and hilltop village gems.
Q: How would you characterize the images in this portfolio?
JD: A slice of travel and life while roaming the corridors of Southern Europe for the past nine months. A tale of visual encounters – an imaginative travelogue discovering cultures while crossing borders.
Q: Did you have a goal set out for these images? If so, do you feel you achieved it?
HW: We set out to record our journey with the intention of revealing another side to the destinations we visited and spent time in. We wanted to present an alternative and intriguing series of images from Southern Europe, which, although varied in content, could be viewed as a unique commentary on life and the landscape of the countries we visited – France, Spain and Italy.
Q: You’re involved with the Leica Akademie Mayfair. Can you tell us something about your experience with the Leica Akademie and any experience you’ve had with teaching photography to others? Have such experiences helped you to grow or to expand your horizons?
JD: I was the Akademie Tutor in Mayfair and have hosted numerous Leica workshops, including the recent Leica in London workshop with Robin Sinha. Working with fellow photographers has proved to be an insightful and rewarding experience – the subjectivity of photography is a constant source of intrigue to me.
HW: I have taught people in Togo, Uganda, South Africa and DR Congo how to use cameras to document projects. Now we are teaming up with Leica and Robin Sinha, the current Akademie tutor at Leica Camera UK, to run carefully crafted and inspiring international photography workshops to destinations as diverse as the American Wild West, Provence, Ecuador, Iceland, the Amazon and Madagascar. We want to change the way photographers see the world through the eyes of their Leica.
Q: There’s an upcoming Leica on Location in Provence. What can participants expect during this workshop?
JD: Participants will tackle photography assignments set by Leica tutors in evocative Avignon and the renowned vineyards of Gigondas and the Côtes du Rhône.
Provence is blessed with unique light and landscape and we will be sharing the experience with fellow photographers. We have been fortunate to spend the last few months staying in Provence and have gotten to know the area intimately. We are very excited to be sharing our Provencal discoveries with fellow Leica photographers. Workshop participants will be encouraged to indulge all of their senses in the enchanting surroundings of Provence. From a market day street photography assignment, to landscape and travel photography shoots, expert tuition, tips, advice, and image and portfolio reviews are all included. An exclusive residence and wine estate will be our sublime home away from home as we explore the area. It is a photography workshop with a difference – a creative and culinary journey, complete with flowing wine and bonhomie!
Q: What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?
JD: I am constantly seeking an alternative viewpoint. I hunt for a different angle or unique perspective and derive great satisfaction from the act of capturing a unique moment. I feel it is important and beneficial to the learning process that photographers have something to say in their work and build a body of work that reflects this.
HW: For me, photography is about recording the moment for posterity. It is a record of time and history passing.
Thank you for your time, John and Hilary.
– Leica Internet Team
Connect with John and Hilary on their website. Learn more about Leica on Location – A Photographic Experience in Provence.