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Random thoughts and images from the photo archive:

Having spent most of my lifetime immersed in photography of one kind or other I have decided to go through the archive of images and give them a life outside the negative folders and boxes.

The galleries follow me from the start of my photography and cover the following periods: 1970s: My Cowley school images from St.Helens, 1980s: Photo College in Nottingham then London, 1990s: London then moving to Sheringham, 2000s: Before the transition to digital

Sawley, Derbyshire


Cows gather for milking on a farm next to All Saints Church, Yashica 124G 1981/82. Field trip for Trent Polytechnic photo students.

The Argument

 

Circa 1977. Two adjacent frames from a roll of 120 film.

I was sitting between mum and dad. I dont think they noticed me taking the pictures. Later in life its easier to see how arguments between people can focus the energies to the exclusion of all.

I was 16 at the time and still can recall taking the photographs, using the camera as a way of distancing myself perhaps but years later the images help give me a better understanding of what was happening then.

Not common to see pictures from a real argument, I photographed the hurt feelings of the listener as the other person shouted. Life it seems is not straightforward.

 

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.

Hand and Lightning T70L 243989-1

One of my stock images from the mid 1980’s.

I photographed my hand using my Pentax K1000 and its standard 50mm f2 lens. I held my fingers around a bare 15w light bulb that had a black piece of cardboard on top of the bulb so it would not flare into the lens. The lightning is a strike over Lewisham photographed at another time from the kitchen window shot on b+w negative film.

I made a high contrast lith positive of the lightning and put a blue gel over it. I then used the colour enlarger at the Tony Stone darkrooms to first expose the hand onto a 10″x8″ sheet of transparency film then exposed the lightning.

At the time I thought of it as illustrating “Creative Spark” the sudden creative process that creates ideas out of nowhere. I cannot say I planned to “think” this image into existence but this image was in my mind before I created the components.

Conceptual stock photography like this was not too common at the time and I felt it in my bones that it would sell well. It went on to be my best selling image generating enough income for me to move from rented accommodation.

It took on a life of its own. my concept of creative spark was not shared, it was used to represent power. It was even used  by the SNP in Scotland to promote the independence vote in 2014, I guess the idea was to have the power in Scottish hands rather than London.

I cannot control how my images were used but it struck me at one point that I was responsible for putting image like this out into society, lots of money but I wonder about how it may have been misused.

I did get permission from Tony to use the darkroom after hours and I paid for the film and processing of the film used.
Tony and his agents will have earned more money from the image than me but it was a fair split between us. I withdrew the image from Getty in 2017 after the split was weighed heavily in their favour.

Conceptual images like this can be created by anyone now for free using AI programs, good job I dont rely on picture sales any more!

Adam

A bag of raddishes, ideal for snacking on. Nottingham 1980-81. Adam was a fellow photo student at Trent Polytechnic.

A student of art 1980

Bernard in the kitchen at the first year student accomodation in Bayham street. I took the religious iconography as ironic but now I wonder.

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