All posts tagged: Saltley

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 …

Our rosy coloured past. Hmmm.

This picture is of a house in front of one of the gas holders at Saltley Gasworks in Nechells, Birmingham. The image was taken in the late 60’s. I was born just a couple hundred metres from here, within sight, or more accurately within ‘Smell’ of the gasworks. My dad worked there after he came back from fighting with the Desert Rats, Montgomery’s 8th army, in second world war. What’s more, those gas holders were nearly the death of him. He fell off one and survived, but that’s another story. This image is a picture of my youth. Although my parents moved to the newly built council estates out in the suburbs, many of my relatives lived in or around this area. I would return often as a child. What this image made me think about was just how much of a product I am of the social and political thrust occurring after the 2nd world war. I am the product of the time and of the policies of Labour, the  political party in power …