Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Something great about the internet

For all it's faults the internet has the ability to provide pleasant surprises. I mentioned a  post or two back that when I was at college (it was a polytechnic in my days, an school of art in John Lennon's) photography wasn't taken too seriously. The Open Eye Gallery had not long been open and was something of a novelty. Since getting back in to photography I've been checking it's website out for news. Not much has been happening to interest me (Martin Parr visiting the new site being about it), but this evening I clicked on the facebook link and checked out some of the FB gallery pictures.  I was amazed and delighted when I instantly recognised a smiling face from all those years ago which I then clicked through to find on Flickr.

Not only does this go to show how great the internet can be, but also demonstrated the power of photographs. There's no need for the taste of a Proustian madeleine to take you back in time in a moment. A photograph can do it too. Su always seemed to be happy, even when suffering from a cold like I am at the moment. She was unendingly generous and like a second mother to generations of 'starving' art students. Seeing that she is still around and still smiling really perked me up.

Unexpected events like this occur in cyberspace. I'd downloaded the first two episodes of British Masters yesterday (an idiosyncratic take on British painting in the 20th century) and during the section in episode  two about William Coldstream a couple of photos by Humphrey Spender (who I wasn't aware of) were shown briefly. A little searching soon revealed an archive from the Worktown project shot about Bolton in the late 1930s. What struck me most about them was how little Britain had changed between the start of WWII and the early sixties when I was growing up. Fashions were slightly different, but not much, and the Blackpool of the archive looked like the Blackpool I remember. Take away the cars and the clothes and the illuminations were just the same!

I don't know if all the photos from the project are digitised, but there appears to have been little editing done if not. Wonky verticals and horizontals abound. However this does give an idea of how Spender worked. Just the same as most do - working towards a good shot after seeing potential. Not all the shots are photographically interesting - that, perhaps, wasn't the concept of the project, but some are. Spender's nervousness about shooting, which is revealed in the biographical notes, is apparent in a number of the people pictures. A difficult site to find the gems on, though, as the design is cramped and clunky, but worth wading through.

PS A click from the Open Eye Flickr page revealed Paul Trevor's 1975 photos.

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