All posts filed under: photography

Soot and Distemper

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 …

Proverbs 21:13

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 …

Harry Burton. The man who shot Tutankhamun.

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?

The meaning behind ‘The Greenhouse’

Recently, I was musing on the relevance of images to each of us and how that changes from person to person. People see an image and it means different things to each person. The image  effects them. To some that effect is deep and meaningful, visceral even, and to others it’s trite and meaningless. I can’t account for that except it’s perhaps what allows us to “edit” the millions of images we see, into piles – important/trivial, like/dislike – and I have to say, in the main, that’s how my own editing works. Binary. On / off – like / dislike. Phil Cosker, a dear friend of mine, a photographer, writer and all round Renaissance Man, produced a set of images nearly 40 years ago. Recently he displayed them – printed very large – in a number of churchyards around Lincolnshire. Even more recently he has included them on his web site <<<HERE>>> under the title “Landscapes”. I was assisting Phil with his web site at the time and as I was uploading the images, …

Book Review: An Inner Silence.

Book review Title: An Inner Silence: The Portraits of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Authors:  Forward by Agnes Sire. Introduction by Jean-Luc-Nancy. Publisher: Thames and Hudson. 181A High Holborn. London WC1V 7QX. ISBN: 0-500-54317-8. The book draws images from the  permanent holdings of the Collection of the Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson. The book generously features 97 tritone reproductions of Cartier-Bresson’s works. “The true portrait, (is) one in which the subject represented is not caught in any action, and does not even show any expression that might detract from the person themselves…” …writes Agnes Sire the curator. That clear phrase captures the essence of Cartier-Bresson’s portraiture. There is a naturalness to the images together with a deceptive ease. The images are not contrived, neither does the sitter fill the frame. No, the subjects are generally in their own apartments, galleries, studios etc, which become part of the image; frames them if you like, and so becomes as much of the portrait as the sitter. I don’t know if the sitters were posed and directed. I suspect not. They may well …

Looking backwards

As the Covid-19 lockdown bites, the ability to get out of the house has been curtailed. Consequently, images from an unfettered past are seen from a new perspective. A couple of years ago I worked on a project photographing along the length of the Greenwich Meridian as it passes through Lincolnshire. I started just north of the Humber estuary. Though not strictly in Lincolnshire, the Meridian first hits land in this coastal part of Yorkshire before entering into Lincolnshire. Using a series of 42 images I describe the passage of this notional line across 75 miles of its journey. I took many more than the 42 images I’ll eventually use. I was helped considerably by Phil Cosker who spent time with me editing down the images to the curated 42 I shall be showing. But where to show them? With the Corona virus raging across the country galleries are closed. So what to do? A while back I produced an on-line gallery of sort, now removed, which was an attempt at showing the work virtually. At …

The Haxey Hood. 2020.

This game, now nearly 700 years old, is held on the 6th of January* each year. Thousands gather in the early afternoon to see the “Fool Smoked” , hear his speech and to watch or partake in the game. The group then moves to a nearby field where the game is to be played. The games start with the Children’s Hood Games where, over a period of time, 12 soft canvas hoods are throw into the crowd. The enjoyment this gives the kids is written over their smiles and heard in their laughter. The adults cheer them on laughing and whooping. Yes it’s violent but there is no anger.  Each throw in of the canvas Hood is performed by the Lord of the game or other notables as well as the Boggins (Marshalls). These children’s games are supervised by one of the fitter and faster amongst the group of Boggins. The kids are a bit quick. This year I didn’t stop for the adult games so I’ve include a  shot from years past. Notable this …

Christmas, Lincoln 2019

  This weekend, it’s the Christmas Market in Lincoln. I rarely go into the city at this time but yesterday I did. It’s the usual mayhem – and this was just on a Saturday morning, I’m told it’s much more crowded when it’s dark- with thousands of people puffing and panting their way from the lower ground at the bottom of the city, up Steep Hill – and it is – to the Cathedral Quarter at the top of the city. I walked down the hill against the flow. The crowd was that dense it was difficult to pass. The castle and the asylum grounds were open and were filled with the usual Christmas market stuff, tat and tacky gifts, mulled wine with a side order of fast food. I’ll give you that the surroundings are very special with the 1000 year old cathedral as a backdrop. And yes, at night I’m sure it provides a very special experience but, it all seems like a senseless waste of money. I was talking to a Big …