Monday, 31 January 2011

Watching A Cigarette Emerge In A Dish Of Developing Solution

Another week, another strip of old negatives. Stealing a quick overview of the images by holding the strip up to the light, there seems to be few connections between the pictures other than they must have been taken around the same time. But the joy of scanning comes when the scanned image appears and you can search down through the detail : it is the closest feeling I know to the delights of watching a print emerge in a dish of developing solution. Emerging today - from 42 years of slumber - are The Good Lady Wife (4 years before she became the Good Lady Wife), my mother and my father. The setting is undoubtedly Trafalgar Square in London - that is the National Gallery in the background - and the visit was made when the GLW was doing her Latin degree in London (long before she decided to become a doctor). In such pictures it is always the detail which is interesting : in this case it is the cigarette in my fathers' hand. I had almost forgotten that he used to smoke during this period of his life.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Audience For Band Grows By 500% In A Click Of A Shutter

I have been trying to find out whether the bandstand in Peoples' Park still exists and whether it is the same one that I photographed in the 1960s. Nobody seems to know. Therefore I need to pay a visit next week. This is a scan of the final negative from the strip of six, the audience is a little bigger : but not much.

Friday, 28 January 2011

And The Band Played Whilst The Mill Burnt

The final two negatives on the strip of negatives which date back some 40 or 50 years are of a bandstand in a park. The great beauty of 35mm negatives were that they were stored in strips of six rather than individual negatives and therefore you can deduce things from the company they keep, so to speak. The bandstand I recognise, it is the one in People's Park Halifax. And therefore I must have walked by the mill fire on my way to or from the park. But there again it could have been another day, another walk, another country. Ah well, back to the drawing board.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

When iPads Covered Sore Eyes

Back in those days we didn't have the home entertainment options that they have these days. Televisions were small and grainy and and their content was small-minded and grey. Computers were prehistoric and an iPad was something for covering sore eyes. So, when the local mill caught fire, people would flock outside to sample the free entertainment. The kids would gather around the fire to keep warm and even Auntie Doris was pushed outside so she wouldn't miss all the fun.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Arms And The Man

Next negative on, and there is the lad again and the question of whether he is really arm-less can be solved. What childhood experience, what schoolroom admonishment caused him forever more to run around with his hands clasped tightly behind his back. And before anyone else suggests it, can I say it surely wasn't playing with matches. Was it?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Freeze-Dried Social Commentary

Same fire, same strip of film, same freeze-dried social commentary. So many people yesterday said that it wasn't the historical accuracy of the picture that surprised them but the fact that it took them back to an age that seems so long past - but an age in which they (and I) were alive. And these lads will still be alive, in their fifties now, still comparatively young. Time is strange isn't it?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Social History Frozen In Time

Someone once wrote about an image being worth a thousand words. How wrong they were : it is worth far more than that. As I scan my old negatives I seem to spend longer and longer staring into them, seeing new details, reveling in new discoveries, decades after the photograph was first taken. This week I am featuring images from just one random strip of six negatives. The majority of them focus on a mill fire. I have no record of when or where it was, I would guess Halifax in the mid 1960s. But what life there is, what history burnt into the emulsion. My eye is immediately drawn to the group of people on the left of the shot : social history frozen in time.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Perfection Has Its Drawbacks

The problem with digital photography is that everything is near-perfect. Point, shoot, record with mirror-like accuracy. What you see is what you will get. Gone are the days when you would hover over some evil smelling developing solution and watch a grainy, scratchy, under-developed print emerge. Well fear not, those nice people who develop iPhone Apps have come up with a solution : the Hipstamatic Camera. You get to choose your lens from a selection of cheap and fairly nasty ones, your film from a stock that appears to have spent too long hanging around on the shelf at the chemist's shop and even the plastic case the whole thing is housed in. The results are wonderfully mediocre and so far away from perfection that they would need an atlas to find it. But the whole thing is strangely addictive and has become a worldwide craze (even the Guardian has started featuring a regular Hipstamatic Gallery). My first effort is shown above and shows my desk shortly after downloading the App. As I get more experience with this crazy application over the coming weeks I will try to feature more shots, all of which will be a long way short of perfection. (Technical Note : The above photograph was taken using a Jimmy lens (on its maximum setting) and Kodot XGrizzled film)

Friday, 21 January 2011

Blue, Brown And Grey.

An almost monochrome shot but not quite. The grey-brown of the stone crosses echoes the grey-brown of the winter trees. But, for the last few days here in Britain, the sky is blue. Bright, pulsating blue.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

From The Outside Looking In

Back to my walk yesterday. In the shadow of Wainhouse Tower (Yes I will get around to telling the full story of that particular landmark) stands a building which is full of memories to me. Built as an orphanage and funded by the local textile dynasty, the Crossleys, it later became the Crossley and Porter School. I went there, and so did my son. I still get nervous when I get too close to it, so the picture is taken from behind the boundary wall.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A Promenade By An Ornamental Tower

A slightly different walk for Amy and I this morning, as we cut through the frosty morning air in the Savile Park area of Halifax. My photograph was taken from Albert Promenade, a residential road that skims the tops of the Calder Valley. The tower is the delightful Wainhouse Tower which was originally designed as a dye-works chimney. There is quite a story to it, which deserves telling in full, so I will return to it on my News from Nowhere Blog in the near future.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tunneling Under Conwy

Tunneling through the negative archives brings up this photograph of Conwy (Conway) in Wales. Conwy used to be a notorious traffic blackspot as the busy A55 road wound its way through its narrow streets. The cars moved so slowly it was perfectly possible to jump out of the car, take a photograph and jump back in again which is, I suspect, what I did with this shot back in the 1960s (I wasn't the driver I should stress). But tunneling has its advantages : twenty years ago an immersed tube tunnel was sunk across the estuary of the River Conwy and the traffic jams are no more.

Monday, 17 January 2011

A Yummy Building

I was in Sheffield on Saturday skipping from bookshop to bookshop and dodging the showers. Chance took me up Devonshire Street where this entrance caught my attention. The building used to be the showrooms of the ornamental brick and tile manufacturers John Armitage and Son, whose fire-clay works was behind the building. Mr Armitage obviously tried to get as many of his products incorporated into the facade of the building - which dates back to 1888 - as possible. What John Armitage would think of the current use of his grand showrooms we can only imagine. But the building lives on, along with his name.

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Train Has Been Delayed Because Of Paper Leaves On The Line

I am supposed to be filing papers today (actually I am supposed to be finding my tax return but to find it I have to file paper). There are few things more boring than filing papers (other than completing your tax return) and therefore I take half an hour off to play with a photograph I found as I was sorting through boxes of papers. I took it in the mid 1990s during a visit to EuroDisney. It is not a brilliant photograph .... but it wasted a bit of time.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Did Elland Town Hall Sink Along With The Titanic?

This is a photograph of Elland Town Hall I took the other day. For the fascinating story behind it you will need to read the post on my News From Nowhere Blog. As you are working your way over there, ponder on the question :  "Did Jack Poingdestre Get Shipwrecked On The Elland Canal?"

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

It Never Snows Like It Used To

Another old photograph from my scanning schedule (scan one strip of negatives a day until you die). This one must date back to the 1970s or early 1980s. A few years ago the presence of snow on an old photograph would have been enough for us to make some comment like "it never snows like it used to". But the last year has disproved that one.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Britannia In A Beery Sandwich

Back to the Britannia of Elland Bridge. She graces the splendid facade (are those Doric or Corinthian columns?) of what once was the Huddersfield and Halifax Bank and is currently the premises of a web and graphic design firm. But the delight of the scene that greets anyone lucky enough to drive across Elland Bridge is the way that this relatively modern building (it dates from the end of the nineteenth century) is sandwiched between two less pretentious - but much older - inns : the Malt Shovel and The Bridge. A Beery Sandwich if ever there was one.

Monday, 10 January 2011

A Grainy Old Hole In The Ground

A dull and grainy old negative showing little more than a hole in the ground. But, on examination, this old photograph I must have taken forty-odd years ago, is full of surprises. On the left of the picture you can just make out the "Cock Of The North" brewery of John Whitakers & Sons (sadly closed in 1968) whilst high up on the hillside is the Claremont works of the machine tool company Crawford Swift. And the hole in the ground? That was the early excavations for the new Halifax bypass which was eventually completed in the early 1970s

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Britannia Still Rules The Roofs, But Am I Getting Smaller?

Last week I included an old photograph of Britannia sat amongst the roof-tops of Elland and I promised to check to see if she is still there. The answer is yes she is (minus some mill chimneys, plus some trees). However, try as I may, I could not seem to find the same angle to take the photograph from. The only conceivable answer is that I have shrunk considerably over the last thirty or so years. At this rate, I will vanish altogether by 2030.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Fiddling With Elland Wesleyan Church

I took this picture yesterday and, yes, I have fiddled with it a bit. But fiddling is aloud, indeed fiddling is to be encouraged. In this case I fiddled with Elland Wesleyan Church, a magnificent edifice which was built in 1892 but stopped functioning as a chapel in 1974. It was recently included within Elland Conservation Area so hopefully the fine building will be available for people to fiddle with for years to come.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Nothing But Shapes And Surfaces

I love the way in which the bright winter sun (during its' rare visits) can bleach out the colour from an image and leave a series of shapes and surfaces. This was taken in Huddersfield last week : before 12th night as the decorations were still up.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Neither Cute Baby Nor Doting Parent

When I attempt to gather together all the photographs I gave taken over the last fifty-odd years and try to seek some kind of chronological pattern, the 1990s seems to be at odds with the other decades. It was a time when I took far fewer photographs and, of the ones I took, most were just of family and friends. Not sure whether this was because this was the decade when the Lad was growing up and I was otherwise engaged, or this was the last decade before digital photography became a real possibility and the plodding mechanics of colour processing had squeezed all the enthusiasm out of me. This picture of paddle boats in - I think - Brixham harbour was one of the few photographs of the period that didn't feature cute baby or doting parent.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Shampooing And Singeing A Speciality

The photograph dates back to the 1980s and I took it, I think, in Elland, West Yorkshire (I am sure someone will tell me if I get the location wrong). The shop looks as if it is "on the turn" : undergoing that transition from old-style specialist hairdresser and tobacconist into a depressing cheap trinket emporium. For a shop that combined hair styling with cigars sales, I rather like the slogan "shampooing and singeing a speciality"

Monday, 3 January 2011

All Mixed Up On The Roof

This is a picture I took during the 1970s and shows the roof-line of Briggate in Elland. The rather striking figure of Britannia sits on top of what was originally the Elland branch of the Huddersfield and Halifax Bank, These rather superior looking bank premises were erected in 1895 and are flanked by two older, but less glamorous, pubs : the Malt Shovel and the Bridge Inn. But at roof level all the bits get nicely mixed up.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Rats With Ostentatious Tails

I don't normally do wildlife photos : I have neither the skill, the patience nor the equipment, and so many of my on-line friends (and a Happy New Year to you Abe) are so good at it that my efforts pale into insignificance besides theirs. However this little chap (or perhaps, chappess) captured my camera's heart. I know they are nothing more than rats with ostentatious tails, I know that they ate all the native British varieties and then danced on their graves, I know they are garden pests ....but.  But this fellow (or fellowess) is welcome on my balcony any time.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

With Alfred Hitchcock in Brighouse Market

Brighouse Market, 1960s
Let's start the new year with a bit of a mystery. This photograph is taken from a negative strip I scanned this morning and is from a series of photographs I took of Brighouse and its open air market back in the early 1960s. But looking carefully at the young chap towards the right of the group of market shoppers, I have the distinct impression that it might be me. But if it is, who took the photograph? I am sure that I was responsible for the rest of the shots on this particular strip of film, but did I have a sturdy tripod and time delay or an accommodating assistant? However it was done it appears that like Alfred Hitchcock, I have made a guest appearance in one of my own films.

FOUND 1 : Walking With Confidence

  FOUND 1 : The joy of found photographs is that, whilst they provide a visual superstructure, you are free to construct your own backstory ...