My photography blog

I give talks and lectures, mostly to photography clubs (I'm a N&EMPF and PAGB lecturer). This blog reflects some of the issues we discuss.

Thanks to Retford & District...

22 Nov 2016

Well, thanks to Retford and District Photographic Society, who gave me a warm welcome at their club yesterday evening. I arrived having negotiated storm, flood and tempest. My talk was “To L and Back”, about my photographic journey to licentiateship of the RPS, and a little of what I’ve been doing since. At the start, I asked who was a member of the RPS. One person put his hand up. Turned out he’d been an FRPS forever. No-one else at the meeting was either an RPS member or indeed had any PAGB, FIAP or BPE distinctions…
I did get the distinct feeling that the talk was a bit of an uphill struggle, so I lightened it up a bit and didn’t do the RPS thing too heavily. In the end, I got a very nice email from the competition secretary, thanking me for a very interesting talk.
But I do wonder what relevance either the RPS or PAGB have to most photographic societies. There are some clubs that are very competition-oriented, but very few photographers I’ve met on my travels have been PAGB-oriented, and even fewer have been RPS members. The converse is also true. Many RPS members won’t have anything to do with camera clubs. I think both sides are missing out.

Voyage back to the RPS: prelude.

18 Nov 2016

Two things on the current agenda. One: a new camera. That, and its ramifications, are for next time. For now, I’m about to revive my association with the Royal Photographic Society. Obtaining my Licentiateship in 2009 was one of my proudest photographic achievements. Subsequent attempts to obtain my Associateship were less so, both for me and the RPS. In brief, my Associateship panel was enthusiastically accepted by the Contemporary Assessment panel, but firmly rejected by the Distinctions Board. Why? That’s for another time as well, but it set my photography back several years.
I’m also a member of the Contemporary Group. I don’t go with pictorial photography. I don’t go with so-called creative photography. I don’t go with nature photography. But I do go with photography that has a meaning beyond itself. So I have hopes that the next meeting of the North East Contemporary Group, to be held in Wakefield tomorrow, will help continue to revive my enthusiasm. I’m going to take along the Shooting Round Corners book, and see what they make of it. I’m hoping for a warm reception. I’ll let you know next time. In the meantime, I’m listening to John Fahey’s The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death. Brilliant stuff which, to my horror, I find dates from 1965...

Photo blog 7 November - Photo books

07 Nov 2016

Who does photo books? They're easy once you know how. You can either make them yourself by hand, which is long and complicated, but gets you exactly the result you want, or you can use one of the many photo book websites.

I've just completed a series of photo book workshops at the Hepworth in Wakefield. As an aside, if you've never been, you really should. It's got its own brown tourist sign system on the south side of Wakefield, and is only ten minutes walk from Wakefield Kirkgate rail station. And it's free to get in, you just have to pay to park. They had a Martin Parr exhibition earlier this year, and are currently coming to the end of an exhibition on English painter Sir Stanley Spencer RA.

The photo book workshops were planned as a response to the Spencer exhibition, and titled "the Extraordinary Ordinary". My book is titled "Shooting Round Corners: urban triptychs". Many of Spencer's works reflect ordinary life in Cookham, the village where he lived. These have a resonance for me, since I too lived there in the sixties. I remember seeing him just once, as he was pushing his pram up the High Street. A number of Spencer's works take the form of triptychs; and follow religious themes, typified in Spencer's "The Resurrection With the Raising of Jarius' Daughter" (1947). They are of ordinary people in ordinary situations.

I don't pretend that the images in my book are an interpretation of this theme; they are more my own response, as well as a response to exploring the urban streets of Wakefield and Chesterfield (where I live) as part of the workshops. First I was intrigued by the idea that, in the same image (displayed as a triptych), the people on one side may be completely unaware of the people round the corner on the other side. On the other hand, each part of the triptych works as an image in its own right. Second, we generally take urban spaces for granted because they are ordinary. But they are special, and therefore extraordinary.

Three of the triptychs are included here.

Triptych 1

Triptych 2

Triptych 3

Photo blog 25 October 2016 - books

02 Nov 2016

The problem with going into arty bookshops is that you end up buying arty books. So: book of the week: The World Atlas of Street Photography; Jackie Higgins; Thames & Hudson; London; 2014; ISBN 978-0-500-54436-5. A world tour of emerging and established contemporary street photographers. Favourite photographer so far; Richard Wentworth, see As William Eggleston said: "I am at war with the obvious".

Why am I doing this?

19 Oct 2016

I’ve decided to start writing a weekly photography blog, exploring some of the issues we discuss during my visits to camera clubs around the Midlands. I’m on the N&EMPF and PAGB lecture circuits, and give regular talks to camera clubs.

I have three talks. The first and most popular is Aspects of Contemporary Photography. I find that few camera club members know much about the history of photography, neither can they name more than half a dozen or so contemporary photographers. This talk tries to remedy this, and to encourage people to think of their photography in the wider context of photography as an art, rather than just in terms of putting stuff in for competitions.

The second talk is Phone Boxes and Other Projects. A lot of my work is project based, creating a narrative rather than concentrating on the single image. I include in this photo books and audio-visual presentations.

My third talk is To L and Back – my personal journey through the world of photography, culminating in my gaining my Licentiateship of the Royal Photographic Society. I sometimes wonder why this is the least popular talk. Do camera clubs see the RPS as relevant to what they do?
I do get a bit of earache for being critical of camera clubs. I only do this because I feel that, often, they can restrict and inhibit creativity. On the other hand, they are a great forum for exchanging ideas, comparing work and building up confidence. There’s room for a bit of debate here. What do you think?