David Walker – Spectators

Today I published a book by David Walker called Spectators. As part of his proposal, David sent me some notes explaining the work. There are more posts planned for next year which present more of David’s work; work that wouldn’t fit in terms of a Café Royal publications but is still very relevant in terms of UK Social Documentary.

I began making photographs in 1983. I’d been working as an Art Director in Advertising since I left school at 15, and at the ripe old age of 35 I began to look and appreciate the work of Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Eugene Smith, Gary Winogrand, and Tony Ray-Jones.

I was working then as one half of a freelance concept team with a writer, which afforded me a little time to persue something that I desperately needed to do (photography). I purchased a Pentax LX some lenses and began to take photographs.

One of my great interests when I was younger was Speedway Racing, I needed something to get excited about so I visited Belle Vue to see what I could find. I discovered two madly dedicated fans, and found that after their permission they were so infatuated with the sport that they forgot about me poking my camera just inches away from their animated faces. ‘SPECTATORS’ was born right there.

I enjoyed an amazing amount of success for my first project by being shortlisted at the Photographers Gallery and had shows at Oldham Art Gallery, the then prestigious Turnpike Gallery, and a part show ‘City life’ at the Cornerhouse making the front cover of the Cornerhouse magazine.

There are interesting stories surrounding every image in the book. Here are four that relate to the images below.

Wimbledon:
I managed to acquire a ticket for the semi final between Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg from my wife’s boss.The character I photographed because he came from a wealthy background would be termed as eccentric, if he was from a lower class background would be labeled MAD. I was seriously restricted in my movement so I waited patiently for this character to react to the play, when Boris won a set he stood up and gestured to a friend with the thumbs up sign.

Football:
With this image, I managed to obtain a ticket from Newcastle so that I could be in the Newcastle PEN. It was Hades in there,”I was in danger of my life”. However I managed to complete several strong images before someone stood beside me, and said in his best Geordie accent “I think you’d better go now”. The image shown here (which was shown in the Centenary of the Football League Book under the slogan “We hate humans”) was taken before the game even started.

The World Cup Snooker Final:
I decided to put my own slant on this by photographing the final between the unknown finalist Joe Johnson and Steve Davies in a Working Mens Club in Failsworth. The tension can clearly be seen on the faces of the Pool players as they watched the final frame of the tournament on the tele in the corner of the room.

Ice Hockey:
This was a very difficult shoot. I shot in several different areas before I realised that when the players were taking ‘A time out’
that they themselves became Spectators of their own sport.

Spectators by David Walker
27.11.14
36 pages
14cm x 20cm
b/w digital
Edition of 150

£7.00 available from Café Royal Books

All images © David Walker. Publication © Café Royal Books.

The Photobook: A History

I was lucky enough to take part in the first Bristol Photobook Weekend last June. Hosted by Rudi Thoemmes from RRB photobooks and Martin Parr.
This film The Photobook: A History was made the following day, and repeats some of what was discussed at Bristol. It refers mainly via the series of books of the same name, written by Parr and Badger, to the new history of photobooks that is being created but that as yet is under documented. It’s well worth the 83 minutes it’ll take you to watch it!

At some point I might expand on each volume of this book but there is a lot of that online already. I found it interesting to hear the nine elements Gerry Badger initially refers to, as a basis for volume three, each of which could be a basis for further research. Propaganda; protest; desire; society; place; conflict; memory and identity. The ninth is the medium itself, which to my mind enters into the ‘artist’s book’.

Martin Parr photographer and photobook collector, Gerry Badger critic photographer and architect, and Hannah Watson Director of Trolley Books, in conversation with Simon Baker Curator of photography and international art at Tate.http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Talking Picture no. 2: The Shop on Greame Street – Daniel Meadows

I could listen to this all day, and look at the added 1970s educational TV type physics clips! Excellent. Another ‘Talking Picture’ from Daniel Meadows.
Meadows made this work in 1972, as a student, creating an important record of a community. Today, with estates such as Heygate (population over 3000) being demolished, and Robin Hood Gardens soon to be; the idea of recording a soon to be dispersed community is perhaps as relevant as it ever has been. The pattern today seems to be: Inexpensive rent, artists move in, café’s start to open, wine bars and galleries start to open, clubs start to open, developers move in, artists find somewhere else…And so on.

no. 2: The Shop on Greame Street” is the fourth release in a series of 40 weekly releases.
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George Plemper – Thamesmead

George Plemper  worked in a then new Thamesmead; parts were still being constructed. A major Modernist development, a new society, new community, a problem solver perhaps. I’m interested in Brutalist and modernist architecture (and estates). How it can create and serve a community, how it functions generally and the unapologetic nature of the buildings and materials used in their construction.
George and I have released two books so far with two more coming in the new year, all archive work. The publication details follow this text from George, in response to me asking quite broadly, why he took these pictures.

“The camera and my love of photography came into my life uninvited” always comes to mind. By this I think that what I mean is that I was never that interested in photography and I bought a camera as a tool, in a vain attempt to rescue my failing teaching career. Of course, this quest was an abject failure but on a more positive note people liked my pictures and this encouraged me to do more.

A few years later I found myself in a Riverside School classroom with a camera in my hand. This time I was using photography as a teaching aid to reinforce my pupils’ sense of self and self-esteem.

One day around 1976 I was walking in St Martin’s Place, London and across the road I saw a poster of Paul Strand’s “Young Boy at Gondeville”; it stopped my world. Despite the distance I was stunned by the seemingly telepathic impact of the image and I never looked at a photograph in the same way again.  As my fascination with photography grew, the work of the early documentary photographers (Julia Margaret) Cameron, (Lewis) Hine, (August) Sander, and (Eugène) Atget took me to their own place in time. I have come to understand that the power of a photograph is not defined by technique, form or line and neither is a photograph a memory trace.

In my existence memories are ephemeral and insubstantial and a photograph is always physical and substantial.  The photograph provides an intuitive description of photographer’s experience of the world as it manifests to them. If we learn to look deeply, we can see through the photographer’s eyes, see what they saw, feel their presence in the world. This is what led me to take these pictures. They are a small testament to my existence on Earth.  Although it is true that I took the photographs, I do not want to be burdened with the label “photographer”.

Plemper’s photographs aren’t nostalgic. They are very much a record of time and a place – a new place. A new kind of place, untested and unknown. This series puts Plemper in the role of community photographer and documentarian. What is also apparent is that today these photographs would not be taken, and certainly not broadcast or published. A mix of paranoia, safety and hype would sterilise the work, perhaps making room only for generic, over-priced and badly lit mottled back-drop school photographs in which the child stares blankly over the photographer’s shoulder into the eyes of the ‘entertainer’ employed to make the child face forward.

This particular series, published recently by Café Royal Books in ‘Thamesmead and Abbey Wood 1977 – 1982’ is almost devoid of people. Topographic photographs , like Baltz and Adams, not the Bechas. However, the inclusion of the boys on the bridge disrupt and perhaps soften the architectural images of construction.

George Plemper’s Café Royal Books publications can be found here:
Sunderland and South Shields in the 1980s
Thamesmead and Abbey Wood 1977 – 1982

Thamesmead Riverside School 1976 – 1978 One will be released next week, 27.11.14, and part two early 2015.

All images © George Plemper.

Talking Picture no. 6: June Street, Salford – Daniel Meadows

Further to last week’s post, Daniel Meadows has released the next movie, ‘Talking Picture no. 6: June Street, Salford’.
In 1973, photography student Daniel Meadows with fellow student, Martin Parr, documented the residents  of June Street, prior to its demolition. The everyday life of families and the amazing patterns that occupy their homes.

no. 6: June Street, Salford” is the third release in the series.
daniel-meadows-talking-pictures

Daniel Meadows: 40 Years, 40 Weeks, 40 Movies

It’s forty years this month since Daniel Meadows completed his epic ten-thousand mile journey around England in his ‘Free Photographic Omnibus‘; the bus in which he lived during 1973-1974. It was also his darkroom and gallery.
Meadows is releasing a series of short movies, one every week for the next forty weeks.  Each movie focusses on a different story from his archive (which has just been acquired by the Library of Birmingham) and helps us to understand the incredible breadth of his work.

I will post reminders as these movies become available, but please subscribe to Daniel’s Facebook and Vimeo streams too.

no. 8: Mrs Emare” is the first release.
no. 8: Mrs Emare

no. 4: Bonfire Night (Angela again)” is the second.
no. 4: Bonfire Night (Angela again)

Tony Bock’s Social Landscapes in Britain

So far, I have published two books by Tony Bock, each focussing on a part of his Social Landscapes series shot during the 1970s. This week I am ‘releasing’ the third book in the series, Social Landscapes East London in the 1970s.
I first came across Tony’s work on the excellent Spitalfields Life. What attracted me to his work was the apparent honesty of the images. They look like they are shot by a tourist, although they don’t look like tourist photographs. I mean they have the innocence and playfulness of photographs taken by someone who doesn’t live in the place they are shooting, but a compositional and narrative structure which, in places, is reminiscent of shots from Tony Ray Jones‘s ‘a day off’, or Homer Sykes‘s ‘Once a Year’. The focus is human behaviour; the crowds and in some cases the emptiness or lack of crowd, the solitude of the photographer and topography of the area. Mostly he goes unnoticed, documenting moments which have become a record of change.

I asked Tony what led him to take these photographs.

When I was given a 35mm camera for my twenty-first birthday, I knew then I wanted to be a photographer.

But in 1972, after being asked to leave the Photo Arts course at Ryerson Polytechnic in Toronto, I found myself living in Yorkshire. Immediately, I was intrigued by this new and visually rich place, the beauty and character of the landscape, both rural and urban, and its people. And mostly I was fascinated by the overlapping of the past with the present.

A year later I moved to East London, working for several newspapers covering the area from Whitechapel to Essex. Another compelling place, and a great time to be there.

My family came from this part of London, my mother was born in Bow, and grew up in Dagenham. My Grandad, a docker, had worked in the Royal Docks for many years.

Then in 1978, I was offered work at The Toronto Star, the largest paper in Canada.  The racism and pollution in the East End were getting me down and when Maggie Thatcher was elected – well – that was enough to send me back home.

I worked at The Star for over thirty years, a great place to be a photojournalist. It was (and still is) a paper with a long history of great journalism, with editors that cared about photography. It had the budget to undertake long term projects, deal with social issues and send its staff around the world.

Today, I work on personal projects and contribute to Photosensitive, a group of photographers concerned with social change. But mostly, my wife Lyn and I spend much of our time restoring an old village railway station about eighty miles from Toronto. It was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1904, but now sits in the woods, it hasn’t seen a train in over fifty years.

station_670

I try to tell a story with my photographs. They are not just arty arrangements of subject matter in the 2×3 rectangle, but there should be relationships that develop between the elements. And when the images are edited into a sequence, they should be making a narrative. The world is a visual place to be, and photographers use a non-verbal vocabulary to describe their experience.

Tony Bock, 2014

Tony Bock’s Café Royal Books publications can be found here:
Social Landscapes London in the 1970s
Social Landscapes Britain in the 1970s
Social Landscapes East London in the 1970s

All images © Tony Bock. Publications © Café Royal Books.