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: 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.


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.

Glasgow in the 1970s – Hugh Hood

I began my Glasgow project in the early 70’s when I was twenty. I had just left Glasgow College of Printing after studying commercial photography, and found work in a large advertising studio in Glasgow. This was mostly using 4×5 studio cameras to make transparencies for advertising campaigns in magazines or company brochures for whisky distilleries.
Anyone who lived in Glasgow at that time lived through the extraordinary changes to the city with its urban regeneration scheme. This was the post-war clearances: technological redundancy, de-population and rampant decay. Journeying across the city, vacant and derelict building are to be found from the very centre to the far flung impoverished areas. A new M8 motorway would cut a large trench through the heart of the city and completely blighted areas like Cowcaddens and St Georges Cross that left scenes of desolation. As a photographer I felt I should try and record this post-industrial Glasgow just as the socially concerned photographer Thomas Annan, had done in the 19th century when he recorded the pre-industrial back streets of Glasgow.

About this time I came across a magazine called Creative Camera which was dedicated to what was called Fine Art and documentary photography. The photographs were very different from the usual images seen in photography magazines at the time in the sense they were not about technical information like exposure and lenses etc. Two photographers published in the magazine that really gave me the creative impulse to begin my street photography, were Lee Friedlander and Tony Ray-Jones. Both these photographers had long-term projects, such as Friedlander’s vision of America and Tony Ray-Jones’s images of English traditional customs that were vanishing from the modern world.

So I started ‘Look at Glasgow’ as my project in 1974 and set out to photograph the people and the urban landscape as a street photographer in the vein of the French photographer Atget, images of shop fronts, workers and tenements before they were lost in the urban renewal.  It was a bit random to begin with as I would wander around different areas of the city with my camera in the hope of finding interesting street photographs.  Eventually I knew I needed to introduce more aspects to the project, so I expanded it into the few heavy industries that still existed like the ship building on the Clyde and was given access photographed in their workshops and yards.  The main areas of Glasgow I would concentrate on photographing were, Woodside, Anderston and Govan by the river. Most of my photography was done at weekends and on holidays as I had a full-time job as a studio photographer.

After about 4 years of photographing at weekends, in 1978 I gathered my prints and took them to a gallery in Glasgow to see if they would be interested in having an exhibition of my work. Documentary street photography was not something they were familiar with and felt there was no audience for it, so the planned exhibition never happen.

I moved to London in 1980 to start a film course at the Polytechnic of Central London and left all my prints and negatives with my family up in Glasgow and to be honest completely forgot about them as I started a new career in London.   But in 2006 my brother mentioned he had found  a box in his house that had my old negatives from my time in Glasgow and wondered if I wanted to keep them.  Eventually I went back to Glasgow to collect the box negatives and take them back to London to sort through. At this time I was also recovering from a knee operation and could not work for 6 weeks, so decided to buy a film scanner as I had no access to darkroom to print the negatives.  After a long tedious time scanning my negatives, I was not sure what to do next with them so I created a blog and started uploading the images to the internet. I also contacted the Mitchell Reference Library Glasgow, to see if they were interested in having copies of the digital files.

It was always my intention from the start of the project to have an exhibition of this work, but little did I realise it would take 34 years before it would finally be achieved. Sometime in 2013 Allan Brown began a search in The Mitchell Library for images he needed for his soon to be published book on Glasgow humour, and by chance he found some dusty photocopies on a shelf of my photographs. From this point on the images took on a life of their own with four exhibitions in Glasgow, including Street Level Photoworks and Four Café Royal Books publications.

Hugh Hood, November 2014.

Hugh Hood in conversation with Allan Brown at Street Level Photoworks Gallery, Glasgow 2013. Film courtesy of Street Level Photoworks.

Hugh Hood’s Café Royal Books publications can be found here:
Glasgow, The River Underground
Glasgow Streets, published 2013
Glasgow Streets the New Era, published 2013
Glasgow 1974 – 1978, published 2014

All images ©Hugh Hood

Café Royal Books: Notes

Café Royal Books is 10 next year. At present I publish a book each week, generally focussing on ‘change’ in the UK and mostly collaborating with artists / photographers and their archives. I get at least one submission every day and I actively search for new (to me) work .
I want this stream to become an archive, list of projects and reference tool including links, lists of networks and existing archives and photographers; both published and unpublished, generally keeping within the theme of change in the UK. I hope the information presented here will also provide a context for the books I publish, with broader supporting material.

For the past five years I’ve arranged a project as part of Café Royal, which uses ‘the book’ in various ways. 2010 Preston Artists’ Book Fair; 2011 Temporary Library; 2012 International Drawing Project; 2013, 2013 Project; 2014 Index. This stream is a longer term project, beginning late 2014. Details of previous projects are here.

This project is initially being developed with help from the Contemporary Arts Development Group at the University of Central Lancashire.