Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Taking Coal To Leeds


I must have taken this photograph over half a century ago, but I can still recall leaning over the bridge to take a photograph of this coal barge unloading its cargo in Leeds. The accuracy of my memory does not stretch to recalling which bridge it was, but I can get around that by simply captioning it, "Leeds". Try as I might, I can't quite make out the name of the barge, but quite clearly it was owned by LICS (Leeds Industrial Co-operative Society). The LICS was founded in 1847 by a group of workers in a flax-spinning mill, who raised funds from amongst themselves to produce flour to sell cheaply to their members. From such beginnings it grew to become Britain's largest co-operative society whose activities included food and non-food retailing, and, as we can see, the supply and delivery of coal.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Hebble Secrets


After all these years I can't quite pin down exactly where I took this photograph of the Hebble Brook in Halifax from. Obviously it was down by the, then, Rowntree Mackintosh factory, but I'm not entirely sure whether I was looking north or south. Dating it, is another problem. I have been taking photographs of Halifax for the best part of sixty years, and dating particular shots is always a problem. Once I had crossed the great digital divide twenty years ago, life with all its geotags and time-stamps was easy; but strips of old negatives are much more cautious about sharing their heritage. It post-dates Mackintosh's and pre-dates Nestles, so it belongs to the seventies or early eighties. No doubt, the Hebble Brook will know, but it is even more miserly with information.

The original monochrome image is better than anything I can do by messy around with it, but that didn't stop me having a try.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Harry And Annie


Another photograph from the family archives - this one features my fathers' sister, Annie, with her husband Harry Moore. Precisely dating such photographs is always a challenge, but I would guess that this was taken around the time of their marriage in 1933. By then, Harry would have abandoned his career as a member of a touring entertainment concert party, and settled down to a life working in an office in Bradford. And marriage meant that Annie could leave the local mill and become a full-time housewife. The photograph lacks some of the sophistication visible in photos of the couple taken later in the 1930s. Even if I can't precisely date it, I can perhaps place it on a tentative time-line of their photographic history.

Thursday, March 17, 2022



Another imagined landscapes. Our walk through the woods this morning and we were still on the cusp of spring. I keep a spare set of summer foliage in that jar by the door, so I put it to good use.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

4/1000P : FAKE VIEWS


This photograph was taken ten years ago, back in the days when travel was easy. The sky didn’t really look like this - I’ve added it from a selection I keep in a jar by the door. #fakeviews

Monday, March 14, 2022

3/1000P : Bottoms


I’m not sure what I intended the focal point of this photograph, taken forty years ago, to be. It probably was the unseen event that was monopolising all their attention, but, in retrospect, it has become the spectral seagull in the sky and the curious reflection in the crash helmet.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

2/1000P : Lilies

A vase of lilies stands next to my TV. With a slight rotation of my head, I can move from war to peace.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

1/1000P : Authenticity?

UNKNOWN WOMAN WITH A LARGE HAT : Whyte & Sons Studio, Union Street, Glasgow.

Authenticity is a strange concept when it comes to photography. Even the best photographic image is far from authentic. Repairing old photographs does not destroy their authenticity, it merely shifts it onto another plain. So bring on the filters and get out the colours - that smile is as authentic - and as unauthentic - now, as it was when it first appeared on that old studio card at the beginning of the last century.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Sepia Saturday And The Nursing Home For Old And Tired Photographs


Our Sepia Saturday theme image this weeks features the rather grand frontage of the Grosvenor Hotel in London. My contribution also features a hotel, albeit somewhat less grand - the Marine Hotel in Barmouth.

In my room I have a very large box which is filled with old photographs. These are not "family photographs" (there is another box for those), nor are they photographs I took decades ago (there's another box for those, as well); they are photographs of unknown origin. These have either been given to me - I have carefully developed a reputation for being oddly eccentric in my love of tattered old photographs - or have been purchased for next to nothing in second-hand shops and the like. In a sense, my room has become a kind of nursing home for old and tired photographs, a place where they can come to rest and be rejuvenated with the careful application of love and a flat-bed scanner.

My photograph of the Marine Hotel in Barmouth comes from the "Unknown and Unloved" box. It appears that the building is still standing, but is no longer a hotel - it has been converted into a series of apartments. This is a pity, it would have made a good Nursing Home for old and tired photographs.


Thursday, March 03, 2022

Around The World In Eighty Words : 14. WINTER

Last year I embarked on a silly project - to go around the world with just eighty word changes to my what3word geolocation code. It is the kind of thing you do when you are lucky enough to have nothing better to do. I am accompanied by my faithful, but argumentative, dog, Lucy, and with her choice of word number 13 - WHISKER - we found ourselves in ///washing.whisker.shirt, otherwise known as a rice field near Fuyang in China. It was my choice for word number 14, and my decision to exchange "shirt" for "winter" was perhaps an unfortunate one in retrospect, as we finished up at ///washing.whisker.winter (aka the middle of the desert in Qatar). And so the story continues....

"There's a lot of sand", said Lucy. To an innocent bystander, it might have seemed like a passing comment, but I could clearly recognise that it came served with tablespoon or two of righteous accusation. It was me, after all, that had chosen word number 14, and I was expecting "winter" to deliver pretty snow-capped mountains, ski chalets, and Gluhwein. Alas, all I got was sand, sand and more sand: but that is the wonderful illogicality of positioning yourself with random words.

We had ended up in the northern province of the Emirate of Qatar. Somewhere to the south-east was the capital city of Doha, with its futuristic skyline of international financial institutions, posh hotels,  museums and galleries. Between where Lucy and I were standing and this ultra-modern metropolis was a little too much sand, and we were reluctant to end up ///sand.zones.gone (which, incidentally, is in South Hackensack, New Jersey), so we headed north to Madinat Ash Shamal, which was slightly closer.

It was all very pleasant - it had a McDonalds where we got our dinner and a Sea Shell cafe where we got a glass of orange juice - but it had none of the bright lights of Doha.

"Just think, in a few months time, this tiny country is going to be full of football fans coming to watch the 2022 World Cup", I said to Lucy as she hoovered up the last of the chicken nuggets.

"Time to move on", said Lucy (OK, she didn't actually say it, but when you are on a fictitious trip around the world using random words you are allowed a little creative licence). She had never been a big fan of football, preferring tennis and Crown Green Bowling.

"I chose "winter", so choice number 15 is yours", I said. "Spring" is what I think she replied, but I can't be certain. Nevertheless, ///spring.whisker.winter is where we are off to. See you there.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Negative Vibes In Elland


When the modern world is getting you down, you can always climb aboard your chemical-powered time machine and revisit former times. The chemicals in question include dimezone, phenidone, sodium hydroxide, and sodium thiosulfate - otherwise known as photographic developers and fixers! - and you don't even need to reopen the bottles. Just take an old strip of negatives, exposed and developed four decades ago, and insert it into the magic scanning machine.

It would be nice if the time-machine transported us back to some halcyon days of sun-filled meadows and grain-filled larders, but it has always been of a fickle nature, and so it takes us to the West Yorkshire town of Elland in the early 1980s. It was still a town of terraced houses and  and tired chapels, a town of browns and greys. Before too long, one has an overwhelming desire to add colour where colour wasn't.

The most memorable shot on this short strip of negatives was of a mill, with a prominent "For Sale" notice on it. If nothing else, it reminds us that the old days were not always the good old days, and that you should avoid viewing history through digital filters.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Fowl Deeds In Bean Land


The gateway to my investigation of the convoluted world of the Fowlers and the Beanlands was a picture postcard of Skipton Castle Gateway, which was part of my Great Uncle's collection. The picture is pleasant enough and is typical of those hand-coloured photographs of the first decade of the twentieth century. As with so many postcards, it is the reverse of the card where all the interesting questions are posed.

The card contains a message, but no address or postmark. In itself, this is not too unusual, the postcard collectors of 120 years ago were interested in the pictures, and would often enclose postcards within letters. The message reads as follows:-

I wish you could spare a foto of yourself, I should very much like one as I have none of my fathers relations. Yours, F Fowler, 26 Westmorland Street, Middletown.

Yorkshire folk have a bit of a reputation for being "tight", although I like to think that they were a bit ahead of the curve in disliking waste. If my family are anything to go by, this extends to an almost evangelistic desire to recycle names. Not only do they insist that every generation has an Albert or an Eliza, they are also more than happy to recycle a surname as a Christian name. My great uncle, the postcard collector, was a case in point: he was Fowler Beanland, Fowler being the maiden name of his grandmother (Eliza Fowler). This knowledge helped me to work out the connections within the postcard message: the sender was obviously a second cousin from the Fowler side of the family. And it didn't take me long to identify the cousin in question - Fred Fowler, who, in 1911, was living at 26 Westmorland Street, in Skipton.

All that remained was to work out how Fred Fowler and Fowler Beanland connected up, so I started sketching family trees. And that is when things started getting complicated. Soon it became clear that not only had the Beanland family pinched the Fowler surname to use as a Christian name, the Fowlers had done the same thing to the Beanlands!

It was getting late, and, I have to confess, I had fortified my researches with a glass or two of malt. The Beanlands and the Fowlers were circulating around my brain, riding on a convoluted genealogical carousel. The Beanlands chased the Fowlers and then the Fowlers chased the Beanlands. Why couldn't my ancestors splash out, choose a new name, be adventurous for a change? Why did they have to leave these dreadful puzzles for future generations to try to work out? (Note to my son: If at some stage you decide on a third child, try naming him/her Glenmorangie Burnett)

Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...