The bloke shielding his hands, a Jehovah’s Witness, told me I needed permission. I told him I didn’t. I don’t mind it when someone covers their face, it’s their prerogative and it makes for a more interesting image rather than them just smiling like some buffoon. He then asked me why I was taking his photograph so I said to him “Because I’m documenting my home town, you do that [ pointing to his literature ] and I do this [pointing to my camera]”. “Why don’t you take a brochure? ” he asked me, “do you ever think about your future?”. By this time he was beginning to irritate me ! “oh aye from time to time” I replied. “Have you got any children, are you married ?” he asked. Why is it they always think you’ve got to have children? I said to him, and I think it was because he was beginning to piss me off because I wouldn’t normally engage so much, ” I like you people, you’re usually very nice but I wish you’d go and help little old ladies paint their houses or something like that instead of tramping the streets knocking on folks doors”. He stood up, “Don’t you want to live forever, do you want to live forever with your wife ? ” he asked me. They ask a lot of questions before diving in and they take advantage of people’s politeness but I wasn’t having any of it, “I already am going to live forever with my wife” I told him, which for some reason he didn’t particularly like the answer to, maybe because it wasn’t what he wanted to hear as it stopped him moving on to his next point about why I should become a Witness. He then kinda did a little shimmy with his feet, laughed mockingly and said to his mate “oh did you hear that ? he says he is going to live forever with his wife !”. I turned to him, raised my hand as though I was going to pat him on the shoulder and looked him in the eye, “don’t get cocky with me pal” and walked off.
The National humiliation that is Brexit continues. Theresa May keeps trotting off to Europe in the hope of pulling some rabbit out of a hat in the form of a bodged deal that no one will understand or know how to execute. How anyone expected her to go into a room with 27 other people all against her and come out with some kind of deal that helps the country out of this mess is phenomenally staggering. Nobody in the business world would attempt such madness and yet it’s expected of the Prime Minister whose got no leadership skills whatsoever other than to behave like some ageing Headmistress whose out of step and running out of time. Brexit wouldn’t be so bad if we had a competent Government but most of them couldn’t run a bath. You wouldn’t trust them to tell you the time if you were in the same room looking at the same clock. Meanwhile the Labour Party opposition finds itself walking a tightrope between its supporters who voted to Leave and those who voted Remain. The sad thing is that none of this is their doing but yet people keep looking to Jeremy Corbyn to provide some sort of meaningful answers. If any criticism can be levelled at the Labour Party it’s that maybe they’ve not been as united and forthright as they should have been. As one Labour MP suggested the party should be telling their constituents that they’ve been shamelessly lied to, not bellyaching that they’re finding their loyalties divided. Some times a constituents MP needs to lead from the front not gently waft warm fluffy sentiments from the back.
Nobody seems to know, not even the Establishment, exactly what will happen when we finally leave. There’s been talk of troops on the street, stockpiling of insulin and other medicines, shortages of food and this that and the other.
Exactly what this will mean for the already underfunded Arts Sector and photography is anybody’s guess. There won’t be any EU Funded Grants coming this way that’s for sure. As a photographer it will all be quite interesting and worth documenting. That’s the best we can do because in a few years time when this sorry mess is regarded as a momentous turning point in the history of Britain we will very much rely on a pictorial documentation.
It’s been a busy and tense past couple of weeks. Photography alas does not earn me a living so like a lot of my fellow creatives I have to work from time to time. I’ve been walking past this scene most days. The other day I took my camera. I’m trying to get a few more landscapes in my work to add to my burgeoning Chesterfield home town project.
New link added in the British Photographers section is that of Tish Murtha, a truly wonderful and gifted photographer sadly no longer with us. The site is run and managed by her daughter Ella. The work is outstanding.
Hot exhibition at the moment is Don McCullin at Tate Modern. Yes indeed Tate Britain presents a comprehensive retrospective of the legendary British photographer Don McCullin ( it says on their website). Tate Modern after all these years finally seem to be acknowledging that photography is an art form. Well done to them, better late than never. What’s more is the exhibiton is free ! Free I tell you.
Two Photographers added to the list of British Photographers on the Links. Sadly no longer with us I encourage you to take a look at their work.
James Ravilious –
Black and white photography of rural life and landscape from the 1970’s to 1990’s – mainly taken in the west of England, but also in France, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and the English Lake District. Also rural life and landscape of the west of England in colour transparencies. Best known for his seventeen year project for the Beaford Photographic Archive.
Shirley Baker –
Shirley Baker (1932 – 2014) was one of Britain’s most compelling yet underexposed social documentary photographers. Her street photography of the working-class inner-city areas, taken from 1960 until 1981, would come to define her humanist vision. Shirley’s curiosity and engagement with the everyday world around her resulted in many different strands of work, many of which are yet to be exhibited, each of which confirms her acute observation, visual humour as well as compassion for the lives of ordinary people as distinctive in its exploration of post-war British culture.
Let’s hear it for the Martin Parr Foundation. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting Videos from the Foundation. You can of course go onto You Tube and view them yourself.
I don’t go out with the intention of photographing the homeless, the down trodden, the misfortunate, dispossessed, the alcoholic or drug dependents. Poverty tourism doesn’t particularly appeal to me even though there’s always a story to tell. There are plenty of photographers out there who do that kind of work and probably better then would. I am interested though in photographing my hometown ( glory ) warts and all in as many facets as I can. In so doing I hope that my hometown represents the wider England somewhat, a microcosm of the country if you like. The homeless man above was with a group of men, one of whom asked me what I was photographing, “are you taking pics of the Spire he asked me?” We talked for a few moments. He was homeless because he’d split up from his wife and it was either him out the house or his wife and child. There is a shelter in the town it seems but it’s capacity is 15 people and as he slept there last night it wasn’t his turn tonight. We can deduce then that there are more many more than 15 people homeless in Chesterfield. He was friendly and erudite and so I made some images.
I’ve had one of those daft altercations. I was on the Thursday market and there was three elderly men in a huddle. I noticed one of them had a bag of knives he was showing his mates. I raised my camera and one of them noticed me, asked “what tha doin?”
Me : “tha looks like tha up to no good !”
Him : “if I were up to no good I’d stick one on thee” he replied.
Me: “that’s not a very nice thing to say”
He started to getting a bit aggressive so I told him I was only joking and to calm down but he was having none of it and of course he started to question why I was taking photographs. I told him while it wasn’t illegal to take photographs in a public place, carrying offensive weapons most certainly was. He then started to tell me this little story, “well let me tell thee something” he said. “There was a chap over here from Germany and he was down there” he pointed down the street to the shops “and Security Guards told him for takin photos on his phone and made him delete em and do ya know why ? Because they said he might be a paedophile!”. During this conversation he told me his son was a policeman.
Me: “I don’t give a shit what the Security Guards did, taking photographs in a public place is not illegal and what’s more those Security had no right to demand that person delete his images. If you knew as much about carrying knives, offensive weapons, as you seem to know about photography in a public place then you might actually know something. Now what really makes me angry is when people like you start talking to me about paedophiles when I’ve got a camera around my neck.”
Update – A week later: Back in town I got into conversation with three Community Support Police Officers and told them of the incident last week and the bag of knives. ‘I should have reported it’ they told me.