Living history


I photographed the prospectus for Newark Colledge in I think 1981 / 1982 as part of my photo course. I visited each department in turn but I remember best the visit to  the violin making department.

The students were from all over the world and I remember the calm but focused atmosphere. It turns out that the people I photographed then have gone on to be significant figures in their field.

Hans Johannsson had left a year or two earlier but I was asked by Brian FitzGibbon the director of a short documentary if I would supply some images taken in the early 80s, I was happy to do so. Its well woth a watch as the director has made a sensitive and well rounded overview of Hans’s journey.

I love the fact that Hans whilst respecting the past thinks above and beyond what has been to what could be an is still prepared to experiment.

Towards Cromer Pier

I had been woken up by our cat Tiger Lilly and could not get back to sleep so I went for a walk in the dark December night with a light rain falling.

The tide was low so I walked from Sheringham to East Runton on the beach, I had a torch built into my hat but when the going was smooth I turned it off and found myself in the greyness.

I could hear the waves to my left but only see a thin line of lighter grey of them crashing. I wasn’t so much walking through a landscape as walking through a tone scape.

When I turned the corner from West Runton I could see the pier at Cromer, bright in the night. It was 5:37am

iPhone not film. If I did have a film camera with me I would have also needed a tripod.

3 A2 Photographic prints rather than screen images

I will be in St.Helens my home town this Friday (14/07/2023)  to see the exhibition “Creative Roots” at the World of Glass Museum. I was kindly asked to submit some of my documentary photography work and it joins others across all media and arts that represent the creative output of native St.Helens people. Looks to be worth a visit. I will post the material from the exhibit once it closes on the 9th September 2023. Entrance is free.

Update: 08/11/2023

My A2 prints from the exhibition are back, nicely wrapped and undamaged. Many thanks to Kathryn Raven and her team at The World of Glass Museum for the opportunity to show them.
If you would like to read captions and the bio I sent to the exhibition then click here for a pdf: Stephen Johnson – Creative Roots

Guided by the universe

I dont show all my images here, some have meaning only for a small group of people.

Last week I was looking through some old pictures from my time at Cowley School in St.Helens and came across this picture of two fellow pupils enjoying a tea break in the sixth form centre. Not the best picture in the world but I was struck by the beautiful smile of the girl on the left. Her name is Jean Evans. Jean also went to my primary school.

I posted the picture onto the Old Cowleans facebook page for other to see and within an hour had a reply from someone who had the same day heard from Jeans husband of her death.

The news made me sad of course. The coincidence was striking. It had been a busy day and I should have been on a screen break, instead I looked through my old images and this one stood out and I wanted to share it.

I have not talked to or seen Jean for 43 years but in my mind I could have taken this picture yesterday.

Thank you for your lovely smile Jean.

Know your place!

An agricultural show in Somerset Mid 1990s. Canon EOS1 35mm camera, 50mm lens. Fujichrome Velvia film 50ASA.

As a small child growing up in the 1960s I saw around me echo’s of the old ways of doing things, a deference to Class, State and Church.

Part of the excitement of watching Monty Python on a black and white tv in the early 1970s was to see those corrupted institutions mocked for the thin charade they were.

A new Nationalism (National Conservatism) wishes us to return to a more hierarchical, passive and subservient mode based on a fictional “golden age” centered some time in the 1950s in which politicians are not questioned and everyone “knows their place”. This is dangerous thinking.

Swear an oath to a King? perhaps best not to.


Mum deep in thought

Inside a caravan in Wales, late 1970s family holiday. Secrets and the past, alone in her thoughts.

A St.Helens boy in the Antarctic

The penguins were lovely, the landscape changed constantly as the ice moved.

Seeing the light and colours of this place first hand was a real insight.  Sometimes a reddish colour could be seen in distant snow, only a small cast but one I have previously thought was a camera artefact.

Sony A7c  with 85mm lens, digital not film. Many thanks to Sue Flood for the opportunity.