Photographs that inspire me – A series

Chris Killip

From Chris Killip’s body of work and book In Flagrante I’ve always been fond of this image. I have the poster showing this image from Killips’ Serpentine Gallery exhibition. Martin Parr has a large print of this in his office. There’s elements in it which remind me of my own childhood. The duffle coat, the sock and sandals. I looked a lot like that little boy. The man reminds me of a character Ken Baggaley  who used to live just down the road from us at Salisbury Crescent. I’m sure he’d often wear a jacket like that and a shirt buttoned at the top just like that. He used to work at a local engineering firm where my Dad worked and if he saw you he’d shout across the road at you, “hey up how tha goin on?” no matter who you were with. This image was taken up in the North East of England.

Convention ? Conventional ? Not If I can help it !

Last weekend me and the wife went to a party. A very special party which by most standards let me tell you was quite something. It was a Golden Wedding Anniversary and Staff Party combined given for about 1700 people. So special was this party that the Company responsible for the catering was so proud of their achievement in producing a three course sit down meal for said number of guests that they produced a marketing video to show on You Tube. Just watching this video brings a lump to my throat in remembering the evening………… and I was just a guest !

Me and the Mrs with matching trousers !

The invite to this party which arrived several weeks ago placed no dress restriction on the guests other than with it being a Golden Wedding Anniversary suggested a hint of Gold and to ‘look fabulous’, the interpretation of which was open. After much deliberation the wife and I decided we’d dress smart and casual for a warm summer evening. Now I’m not normally someone who likes to stand out from the crowd but then again I’m not a suit and tie, dickie bow and cumberbund man either. Frankly I’d rather dress up as Coco the clown than wear those things ( some might say I did do? ). It’s just not me and it’s not the Mrs either. So in taking up the Gold theme I got myself some yellow chinos which I knew I’d wear again and pushed the boat out with some cheap and cheerful Gold LED trainers off Ebay. The shirt I’ve had about two years and being vaguely goldish fitted the bill perfectly. So the get up didn’t really cost me much at all.

However arriving at the doo I immediately began to regret my fashion enterprise. I kinda stuck out like a sore thumb and I have to say I could feel some odd looks from both men and women. Not from people that knew me but from strangers. Strangers who’d stuck to some unwritten convention and were in the main wearing suits, jackets, Dickie bows and cumberbunds etc. I even got a couple of comments, one of which suggested I’d dressed down and the other from a man who queried whether I’d come as the clown, ‘did I do turns?’ he queried. How rude ! By the time we got into the massive and sumptuously decorated marquee ( a posh tent ) I was feeling slightly nervous and anxiety had kicked in the point where I was wondering where my appetite had disappeared to. It took a glass of wine to settle down and begin to enjoy myself and dismiss any negative vibes that I might be feeling. As it was I got more positive comments than negative but sometimes if you’re not a wholly confident person you always focus on the negatives instead of the positives don’t you ?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this little episode this week. It’s no use saying I didn’t give a shit about what others thought or how I looked because clearly I did otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it now would I ? and It wouldn’t have played on my mind ?

The thing is, I don’t do convention or the conventional. I positively strive against it and the older I get the less conventional I’m determined and want to become and this applies to my photography. Simply put I don’t want my photography to be like everyone else’s. I don’t want to have to play by the rules of others If I don’t have to, written or unwritten. Nobody pushed the boundaries by being conventional and the same applies to photography. It was an important reminder to me.

Drinking in the morning sun

I’m not quite sure why I like this shot but I do. Maybe it’s the lighting, the blue sky or the two figures sat down at each edge which give the composition balance ? The two boys stood on the rocks or the white dog in the middle which stands out from the scene and almost looks sculptural in its pose ? It’s my kind of landscape image. On a clear night from that vantage point you can see the glow of the city lights of Manchester in front of you and Sheffield to the right. I’m lucky to live within a ten minute drive of this escarpment in the Peak District National Park. I’m lucky and I know it. I’ve been thinking about luck just recently. Feeling lucky is a state of mind and believe you me I’m a lucky man.

Make Art not War !


I’ve managed to get out with the camera today.  A little place out of town has had its Annual Armed Forces Day. I took the dog. It’s like a summer fete but here with the emphasis on celebrating our Armed Forces. I thought I might get a “Make Love Not War – See driver for Details” car sticker but not a chance of it. I went a couple of years back so I pretty much knew the kind of shots I was going to get and was looking for. Still I’m always open for the unexpected and basically whatever catches my eye. In my notebook list of things to look out for I have t-shirts. I’m drawn to the odd t-shirts that people wear and slowly building up a bit of a collection of t-shirt photos. I asked this young lady and her parents If I could take a picture, stressing I wanted the t-shirt and not the girl’s face. I wanted to protect her identity. I wanted a generic t-shirt shot but I love the way the girl’s smile is repeated in the curve of the writing “I’ve got” and the top line of the square. Yeah I’m rather pleased with this image.

Three British Photographers You May Never Have heard of

Over the next few months I’m going to strive to bring you some photographers you may never have heard of. I’m going to start with three British photographers who are particular favourites of mine with no apologies for the black and white examples shown here. I’m not going to give you a biography of each one because a) I’m lazy like that and b) there’s plenty of information on the Web for you to research yourselves. Homer Sykes and Ian Beesley have recently had work published with the wonderful Café Royal Books while Vanley Burke can be found on his own website. Enjoy !

Homer Sykes

Ian Beesley

Vanley Burke