The brown leaves of Autumn show themselves on the trees. The season is changing and with that change comes fungi. Walking in the woods with Bess, our Chocolate Labrador, is something I do all year. I like the peace and quiet. I like to watch the seasons change. Sometimes, I just like to sit on a tree stump and listen. Coming from a city, I appreciate the lack of noise. The best time of year, in my opinion, is early Autumn. The sun still holds some warmth and its light remains strong, creating dappled patterns on the freshly carpeted floor of the woods.
Generally I make it a principle not to talk about cameras. However, today I want to make an exception. Over the many years I’ve been taking pictures I’ve used many cameras, both film and digital. And yes, I’ve spent, some might say wasted, a lot of money in satisfying my interest, again, some might say, obsession, with cameras. The problem I have is that I genuinely like cameras. Not just the use of them but the whole thing, aesthetics, mechanics, even the smell, of cameras. This obsession led me down many roads. I switched to digital fairly early – I even bought (arguably) the first digital camera, the game changing but dreadful Casio QV-10 which I still have in my collection. I moved into high end Nikon digital gear*. I loved its immediacy.
During this lockdown I seem to have lost my impetus and indeed my ability to see pictures. I’ve taken few images and those I have are best described as “Mehhh”. I suppose I’m out of practice. I really must get out more and “push more scenery past my pupils”. PDBartonAugust 2020
Post section headings Gearism A simple fact What to take pictures of Visual awareness Darkroom printing Who is it for? Move away from Generalism It takes time Back to that review Recently I was asked to review a set of images by a photographer here in Lincoln. First of all, I should make it clear, though I was happy to oblige, this is not something I generally do because I don’t consider myself an expert. I’ve just taken a lot of pictures in my life, some of which I’ve liked and some have been liked by others. Perhaps that’s enough to give me the tools to comment? I don’t know. What I do know, is that taking tens of thousands of pictures provides some opinion forming perspective. “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson Reviewing the photographers images I could see strong similarities with my own trajectory through photography. My own labours and experiences reflected in her work. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a little and perhaps start …
Images from Coventry cathedral 2007
Despite being locked down for months, in fact, probably because of it, I have tried to get out and about in the privacy of local woodland. Yes I see people but Bess, the Labrador, and I give them plenty of room. Over the past few months somebody enters the woods and builds structures with fallen pieces of timber. I’ve never seen the builder. It’s very mysterious. Never finished, never covered with tarpaulin or canvas, these structures seem more about art than do about shelter – well they do to me anyhow. PDBarton 2020
As you may be aware, in the second world war Lincolnshire was home to many airfields. So much so, a specialist RAF hospital was set up near Lincoln in the sleepy village of Nocton. The village had already housed a similar set up during the first world war which had taken over the ancient Manor House and grounds. The Hospital was expanded during WW2 so as to provide medical support for the many RAF and USAF airmen stationed across the County. Post war, the hospital was again expanded to provide a more general medical support for the growing number of RAF families in Lincolnshire and beyond when, amongst other changes, the maternity unit was constructed. My wife’s family were RAF and indeed my mother in law was treated there and one of my brothers in law was born there 60-odd years past.
In a conversation I was having with fellow photographer John Meehan over on ‘WhatsApp’ he quoted the phrase “Soot and whitewash” to describe prints using an economy of tones in mono printing. The conversation started after I published the image shown above of Saltley Gas Works in Birmingham taken back in the late 60’s – early 70’s. Very reduced tonal scale, very grainy and even scratched. I said it was redolent of the times. John’s phrase came from a book called “Young Meteors” by Martin Harrison in which he discusses photographers and their styles in the years 1957-1965. The tonal compression style of McCullin, Bulmer et al is dramatic. The images jump off the page. I wrote in my previous piece on WhatsApp how Saltley, where I was born and lived for a few years, has left a strong impression on me, reflected in this Gas Works shot. For me *“Soot and Whitewash” has 2 meanings: The first, clearly, is the graphical reduction of tones in a black and white print; The second meaning reflecting …
This image was made underneath the arches of the 16thC Stonebow in the centre of ancient Lincoln, in the East Midlands of England. Before Covid it became the natural haunt of an ever-changing group of Jehovahs witnesses; capturing – or hoping to at least – the attention of the thousands who pass by on their way from downhill Lincoln, the commercial part of the city, to uphill Lincoln, where the Cathedral and Lincoln Castle stand, the tourist part of the city. Thousands of tourists and local shoppers pass through here everyday. Once upon a long time ago, amazingly, motor buses did the same, long since stopped. This day, a homeless man and his dog sat under the historic shelter too. In the time I stood there, several minutes, the pious Jehovah’s Witnesses, with their scrubbed shiny faces and their clarion – and yet ironic – message of “Find Family Happiness” paid him no attention; cast him ne’er a glance; certainly they didn’t offer him or his dog any comfort. There seemed something utterly at odds …
In late 2017-early 2018, The Collection – a modern extension to Lincoln’s Usher Gallery – held a small exhibition of the photographs of Harry Burton. Who? You may ask. The Story of Harry Burton. Without doubt Burton, himself an Egyptologist, was considered the finest photographer of antiquities of his day. It was natural, therefore, for him to be chosen by Carter as the photographer who would document the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings near to Thebes – modern day Luxor. Harry Burton – on the left of the picture above – is shown with Howard Carter at the dig site in the Valley of the Kings. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Who was Burton? Where did he come from?