Simon Sweetman

Tiny figures inhabit the small world created by photographer Simon Sweetman

by Eric Beardsworth

Tiny figures inhabit the small world created by photographer Simon Sweetman. A little old man sits on a bench with a forest of broccoli behind him. Determined mini-mountaineers scale a hill of pine cones. Alpine skiers emerge down a white slope of sugar from a tin. A tiny golfer tees off from a scouring pad.

Simon, from Burnley, is an amateur photographer with a professional approach to his work, and we have featured examples of his work in Northern Life.

He will photograph anything interesting, but his favourites boil down to three areas: landscapes, street scenes with people, and those miniatures featured here.

“It really only started about four years ago,” says 50-year-old Simon, who has been a postman in Burnley since leaving Habergham High School.

“I always had a slight interest in photography but I really got into it when I bought my first DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera four years ago.

“Then I joined Burnley Camera Club three years ago and I’ve been absolutely hooked on photography ever since. I don’t have any distinct style or genre, I just take whatever catches my eye.”

Simon’s witty miniatures were inspired by the work of Japanese photographer Tatsuya Tanaka, who juxtaposes small model figures with everyday objects to create amusing or thought-provoking tableaux.

Simon said: “I saw his pictures and thought ‘Yes I shall have a go at that’. I’ll have a bit of an idea, then see if I can get any small figures to go with that idea. The best place to look for them is on Ebay, and they’re usually German made.

“There’s been quite a lot of interest in the small figure pictures. People have contacted me and asked if they could buy a print, so there could be some potential there.”

Apart from the miniatures, Simon loves taking pictures in the street, spotting interesting architecture and snapping people going about their everyday business. Landscapes also take his interest, and his camera is always with him on holidays or away days.

Simon and his wife Claire, who have a daughter Hannah, 20, celebrate their silver wedding anniversary in August, and recently treated themselves to a cruise to the Norwegian fjords. “The cruise was part of our anniversary celebrations. The scenery in Norway is absolutely spectacular, incredible, and I took loads of shots.”

Most of Simon’s work is in colour, but he’s also enthusiastic about monochrome. “It depends on the situation, and whether a photo will look better in black and white than colour. I do like a black and white photo. A photo in colour may be flat and uninteresting, then you take it in black and white and it brings out whole new life to it.”

Although he’s an enthusiastic amateur, Simon has photographed weddings and business conferences for friends and colleagues, and he aims to turn his hand to sports photographs next, possibly starting with the action-packed game of rugby in Lancashire.

In the soccer world, though, he’s part of an oppressed minority in Burnley…he supports the Clarets’ mortal enemies Blackburn Rovers! “I’m actually a season ticket holder at Rovers. Surprisingly there are quite a few of us, but we’re keeping our heads down at the moment. Hopefully the good times will return.”

You can see more of Simon’s outstanding camera work on his website