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.


The learning process

Euan Duff the course leader at the Photo Department at Trent Polytechnic knew I enjoyed documentary photography so give me the opportunity in my second year to work with a graphics student who had a project on schooling in Nottingham.

One of the schools I photographed was a small private primary. Entering the classroom was like going back in time to my state school in St.Helens, perhaps the floors were less dusty here but it flooded me with memories of listening to stories and the strict and not so strict teachers.

On the desk is a packet of sweets or munchies, not too sure if they are confiscated from a child or used to reward good behavior. Young minds informed.

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.

Getting into Polytechnic with only one A level

I was keen to study Photography after school and Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham offered a three year course in visual communications photography and film.

I turned up for an interview there with a very small portfolio of images, I was still at school and in retrospect should have done a foundation course at the local art collage before even trying there.

Euan Duff the course leader at Trent was a little hum and ha’ry about things till I showed him these slides and how I talked about documenting ordinary things around me. This was exactly the button to push with Euan (I found out afterwards) as he had undergone a journey of documenting the everyday since the 1950s.

A game of monopoly at Cowley sixth form centre became my chance to advance to Trent. When I told the Polytechnic I had only achieved one A level instead of the two required to join the course I was told to “Come anyway” a “get out of jail card” for me,, sometimes the dice are lucky.