Essence of the North

What is the “Essence of the North?”
Curlew
That is what is being asked by The Northerner Blog in the Guardian today. They are asking for contributors to post an image that captures the essence of the North.

Whose North? There is always the chocolate box image of Dales and Moors, unbroken wilderness, apart from James Herriot careening across them in his old car. Hills and lakes, unspoilt beaches and little stone villages shimmering in the sunset.

Alleys

There is the Christian North, the North of Cathedrals, Saints and Holy Islands. Pilgrimages across the land, fleeing from Viking pillagers, writing works of illuminated art and deciding the way forward for the catholic church.

Or there is the smashed North, the North of Thatcher’s cruelty and industrial decline. A once proud heritage of steel and chemical works, pit villages, ship building and union activity. The Jarrow marchers and Quaker sensibilities. The first locomotives and the crucible of Britain’s industrial revolution.

Book of Kells

The North I know is an area where people live in great diversity and try to get on with their lives, but has time to commission some of the best public art in the country and has made a feature of regeneration through art projects such as The Sage, The Baltic, Temenos, Hepworth Gallery and The Angel of the North. This large scale development mixes well with the industrial heritage of the area and sits well, all of the above is the North I know and to try and distill an essence is not really needed, just celebrate it all, in images, words and imagination.

originally published 9/7/12


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Light Matters

Vicki Goldberg. Aperture. (248p) ISBN 9781597111652

Light Matters

Light Matters

A collection of essays exploring some of the usual ‘canon’ of photographers of the twentieth century, with a definitely western bias, if not a US one.

This is definitely an end of the Twentieth Century™ survey, before the explosion of 21st Century reappraisals and widening of the acknowledged ‘greats’.

But for all that the collection of essays cover some important photographers to the early history of the art, and some of the broader subjects that photography encompasses. In doing so Vicki Goldberg gives a great introduction to these area with a brilliantly sardonic and knowing wink.

Most of the articles for individual photographers were in response to exhibitions of their work, and explored the artist through this lens. I especially enjoyed the article about Martin Parr which explored the way that he approaches the intrusions of his ‘in your face’ photography style and that he acknowledges the possibly exploitative nature of this practice.

The final essays that explore themes in photography were really interesting especially the last which looks at the entwining of the modern age, ready access to images, and the hiding of personal death away from the public as gruesome death had become performative through different medias such as films, TV, and newspapers.

Overall a great read but definitely of its time.


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The Photographer’s Playbook

Jason Fulford, Gregory Halpern. Aperture. (440p) ISBN 9781597112475
The Photographer's Playbook

The Photographer’s Playbook

Another book that had been languishing on my TBR shelves of shame for at least 3 years, I bought it at the Tate on a pre-covid trip to London.

I finally decided as part of my return to photography and art that it would be a fun read…

It was, but in a completely different way than I was initially thinking, it was almost as though I was back at university the amount of notes and tabs that I’ve put into the book to return to later, it also gave so many ideas for further reading, and kindled that feeling of excitement that I first had when I started out taking photographs.

This is a catalogue of ideas, assignments, and exercises that range from the practical to the zen from some of the worlds leading photography educators and thinkers.

Some of them are to make you think about the mechanics of the process, some more about the philosophy of image making and your place in it.

I loved all of them, though some made my brain itch.

This initial read through was just that, an initial exploration of the thoughts that were being shared by the contributors. This playbook need constantly revisiting and each exercise needs time, but the book is worth all the more for it. I can see this book becoming a core companion to my future photography practice.

The best thing? I’ll have to buy a new notebook to companion my work from here.


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Think Like a Street Photographer

Matt Stuart. Orion Publishing. (128p) ISBN 9781786277282

Think Like a Street Photographer

Think Like a Street Photographer

This was one of the books that I got on a visit to the Baltic in Gateshead a little while back.

I thought I would get this as I loved Matt Stuarts photo that was on the front of the book Street Photography Now, the one of the marching pigeon, and the cover photo of this book was fun!

A fun little book broken down into short but informative chapters on various aspects of street photography and how Matt approaches them.

The best bit about the book is that he gives you no ‘rules’ just some tips on how he works and what works for him and lets you run with the ideas.

From ‘Think Lucky, Be Lucky’ where he talks about a positive attitude in looking for photographs all the way to ‘The Last Word’ talking about striving and pushing yourself, this is full of really helpful thoughts that I’m going to try and fold into my own practice.

The whole is supported so well with great examples of his own work, highlighting what he is trying to explain in a visual manner.

A lovely little book that can be carried in your bag and referenced when having a cup of coffee and thinking about what and where next when out and about with your camera.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.