Sunday, July 30, 2023

Desktop Calendar : 28-30 July 2023


We took a walk around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on Wednesday and I spotted this delightful scene. You never know when you visit the park whether things are exhibits or merely chance objects - which is part of the enjoyment of a day out there. I spent some time trying to spot how they had managed to create a lifelike grazing highland cow, before realising that it was a grazing highland cow!

We went shopping to Bradford yesterday, but spent most of the time looking at buildings rather than looking in shop windows. If you sneak out of the back door of the Broadway Shopping Centre you will find the Liberal MP William Edward Forster (1818-1886) addressing the absent crowds in front of the old Post Office building. Best known as a social reformer for his role in getting both the 1870 Education Act and the 1872 Ballot Act onto the statute book, he later blotted his radical copybook by his opposition to Irish Home Rule. He now waves at people as they leave the back door of Marks and Spencers.

Grimsby Fish Docks forty years ago. I can still remember the boxes full of fish heads, the ice, the taste of sea salt, the vans and trailers: all set against one of the most extraordinary buildings in the north of England, the Grade 1 listed Grimsby Dock Tower.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Gladys Beanland - The Prequel

Old family photographs are a little like film prequels. Take, for example, this photograph of three young girls enjoying a day out at the seaside in the late 1920s. Two of the subjects are characters we are familiar with due to their starring role in that well-known epic "My Life". The one on the left is my mother, Gladys Beanland (you may know here better as Gladys Burnett, the name she used in the story of me). She is the same person who pushed my pram, cooked me my favourite food, darned my school blazer and smiled on my wedding photographs. In the centre is Amy Beanland, her sister, who somewhat confusingly changed her name at least four times during her long screen life. She is, however, the same character as the one who made me tea, sent me a ten shilling postal order each birthday, and looked on me wisely when she was in her late nineties.

I know these two from the part they played in my life, and until such photographs are found – until the prequel is released – it is so difficult to imagine their back story. They were young, they had futures that were alive with possibilities, they had thoughts and feelings that were completely independent to me. The third person in the photograph is unknown to me, to the best of my knowledge, she never appeared in any of the later, more familiar, stories. In itself, the photograph is fascinating. That fascination, however, is all the more because of what came after. Old family photographs are, indeed, a little like film prequels.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Under The Clock


An early colour photograph of mine (note the pre-decimal currency) and one where the exposure left a lot to be desired. What it lacks in technique it makes up a little for in atmosphere and in the light from the windows of that cathedral of commerce that was the Borough Market.

Daily Calendar : 25-27 July 2023


I have no idea who took this photograph. Usually it was me taking photographs of my brother, or him taking photographs of me, and thus pictures of us together are rare. It was taken in the late 1960s: Roger was living on a barge and about to sail it to Europe, making a living by selling a strange combination of sea urchins and pictorial maps. I was on my way to university, but I had joined him for a day on the market stall. It all seems so very long ago.

The hairdresser is coming today. By chance I was scanning some old negatives yesterday for a friend and I came across this photograph of an Egyptian hairdresser which was taken during World War II. Short back and sides Sir?

Established in 1856, the Brighouse District Industrial Society was the local co-operative society. At its height, it had some 26 branches in the area and a wide range of activities including grocery shops, greengrocers, cabinet makers, motor car showrooms, a coal yard and a slaughterhouse, The illustration is from an early twentieth century membership card.

Steps To The Station, Halifax 1982

Steps To The Station, 1982 : The last scan from this strip of negatives of Halifax from 40 years ago. The steps still exist but the lamp-post and the top wall have gone – and what remains isn’t quite as soot-black as it was back then. Steps in the right direction, perhaps.

The Line Out, Halifax 1982

I assume that this is the railway line out of Halifax heading towards the tunnel under Beacon Hill although I can’t quite work out where I took it from. Could that possibly be where Discovery Road is now? 40 years on, I suspect the scene will be very different now.

Blackledge, Halifax 1982

A snow covered and tree-less Beacon Hill provides the background to this photograph of mine from the early 1980s of Blackledge, Halifax. A parked car provides a date-stamp as resonant as any digital imprint. Pennine arts and crafts, indeed.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Daily Calendar : 19-24 July 2023


All I did was to ask AI to design a typeface featuring colourful wild flowers. This is what it came up with.

Our artificial intelligence week not only continues, but gets sillier. "AI, re-imagine me as a Norse God" Personally, I think I look rather fetching!

The last of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) series. This is using something called "generative fill" to add to an existing image (in this case, of Upper Edge, Elland) I later asked AI if this was an image of the past or the future - it declined to answer!

It's my brothers birthday today. We are separated by about 4,200 miles but I will be raising a glass in his honour later today. Happy Birthday dear boy.

Farming The Wind, High Flatts, Near Huddersfield

My grandmother, Harriet Ellen Burnett, at the door of her house in Arctic Parade, Great Horton, Bradford. The photograph was probably taken around 1940. The doors and windows of the terraced house seem enormous compared to my grandmother, but her presence is nevertheless indomitable.

Daily Calendar : 13-18 July 2023


For want of something better to do, I started work on a new book today. It will be called "1001 Images To Scan Before I Die". Given the fact that I am averaging about one scan a day, and given my age, it has to be said that this is a somewhat ambitious project. This picture is a detail from the first scan in the book - to see the full picture you will just have to hope that I survive the next three years!

At the age of 21 I left my native West Yorkshire and finished up at University in North Staffordshire. I immediately had an affinity with the urban landscape of the Potteries. The stone might have changed to brick, but these were the same factory chimneys and terraced houses of I had grown up with. Home from home.

A tiny plant seed magnified a good few hundred times and then messed about with to create a pattern that is pleasing. Looking at the final image, all sorts of things can be found within it.

Family of five, sat on the steps. They are from a group of family photographs, although I have no idea on which branch of the family tree they sit. Four of the five look as miserable as sin is supposed to be, the fifth looks like she might just know that isn't the case!

Having seen the weather forecast, I asked AI to create an image of a "miserable Monday morning with rain and cold winds". The first thing it did was to tell me that one of the words I had used violated their user guidelines and it had been removed (they didn't tell me which word). Then they came up with this image and its notable reluctance to spell out the word "Monday". Happy Monay everyone.

It's Artificial Intelligence Week here on my Daily Calendar. I took this photo of Anchor Bridge in Brighouse this afternoon and then left AI to get to work on it, producing some nice shades, lines and patterns.

Daily Calendar : 7-12 July 2023


I took this photograph in Belgium a few years ago when I was doing a thing on "photographic oxymorons". Not even the intervention of a spiritual deity could bring about a transformation to the chilly waters of the English Channel.

Stones that have soaked up their fill of hard work, paths that are squeezed like luxuries between fields, valleys that hide a world of roads, railways, rivers and canals, and a mill chimney tower that proudly proclaims - This Is Halifax.

Walking In The Rain, Cleethorpes 1985: You can't really do rain in colour - it's a grey thing. Monochrome umbrellas and monochrome plastic rain hoods. Black and white reflections from wet paving stones.

I've no idea who this lady is. All I know is that 130 years or so ago she went into the Liverpool studio of Messrs Brown, Barnes and Bell in Lord Street, Liverpool to have her likeness captured. I'm the current keeper of that likeness - having bought it for 50 pence on E-Bay - and I am sharing it with the world.

This is a scan of a rather poor quality print of mine from way back when. Way back when the World Wide Web was constructed from telegraph poles and telephone wires.

The negative that this is taken from was not just old and scratched but had also been attacked by some kind of image-eating fungus. So I daubed on every Photoshop filter I could find. The extraordinary thing is that my parents shine through the years - and the filters - and I am taken straight back to when I took the photograph over sixty years ago.

Daily Calendar : 1-6 July 2023


This is possibly a photograph of my Great Uncle, Albert Burnett and his wife Rose Ellen. It was part of a collection of old photos that came to me via their daughter and her step-daughter. I have no hard evidence it is them - but I rather like to think it is.

A Foggy Day In Sheffield, 1983. The original was a monochrome negative of mine from the early 1980s, at the time we were living in Sheffield. It was short on detail but long on atmosphere. The colour was added last night.

Shad Thames, London : A photograph from my London days, back in the 1970s. The main focus of the photograph was the Anchor Brewhouse (at the time, the Courage Brewery), but some attention-seeking bridge photo-bombed the composition.

I have currently 92,225 images in my Lightroom Catalogue. That may sound like a lot, but it is only just over an average of three photographs a day throughout my lifetime. I used a random number generator to pick one for today's calendar and it came up with this 2007 photograph taken in Lanzarote (Image No. 87,774).

Had a visit from my good mate, jazz bassist and composer Ben Crosland yesterday. We talked of old times and new plans and he shared with me some of the recently recorded tracks from his upcoming project. By half chance, I came across this photo I took of Ben playing at the Marsden Jazz Festival twenty years ago. Where does time go?

A random choice from my vintage postcard collection provides me with a subject - the socialist writer and campaigner, Robert Blatchford. He was immensely influential in the early days of the British Labour Party and was one of the co-founders of the Clarion Newspaper. Sadly, in his later life he "turned" and described himself as a "Tory Democrat" Like me he spent the formative years of his youth living in Halifax. I, however, have not yet "turned"!

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

A Royal Visit To Halifax, 1863

In August 1863, the Prince of Wales - the future King Edward VII - visited Halifax to perform the opening ceremony of the newly built Town Hall. It had been hoped that his mother, Queen Victoria, would perform the opening ceremony but she was still in deep mourning following the death of her husband two years earlier. The visit was featured in an article in the Illustrated London News published on the 15th August 1863, from which the following illustrations are taken.

The first illustration shows the Prince leaving Halifax Station. The entrance in those days was on a level with Eureka's car park. It made a spectacular scene with Beacon Hill in the background.

The reason for the Prince of Wales visit to Halifax in 1863 was to officially open the new Town Hall. 22 year old Prince Edward performed the opening ceremony. The joy of the day was muted by both the rain, and by the absence of his new pregnant wife, Alexandra.

"The Prince went out on the balcony in front of the Town Hall and in a loud, clear, ringing voice proclaimed the hall opened. The sun burst forth transiently as the Prince came out and the declaration was received with tremendous cheering"

The fourth illustration of the 1863 visit by the Prince of Wales to Halifax shows the gathering of over 16,000 Sunday School children at the Piece Hall. The scene is almost reminiscent of this summers programme of concerts - could that be George Ezra on the stage?The accompanying article describes the Piece Hall thus: "The Piece Hall itself is a very appropriate place for such a gathering .... a somewhat rude, but on the whole effective, imitation of a Venetian piazza". The cheek of it!!!

They certainly made a bit of a fuss: ornamental pedestals, caps and plumes, flags of the nations, not to mention bronze flower-girls with baskets on their heads. Through all the bling you can make out Princess Street with the Town Hall at the end.

"To the address, His Royal Highness replied expressing his satisfaction at the successful skill and industry which characterised the inhabitants of the town of Halifax and his gratification at their having crowned their prosperity by the erection of such a building as the Town Hall"

Daffodil On The Water

When I was young, back in the early 1950s, our family’s annual seaside holiday would alternate between Bridlington on the east coast and New...