Assignment 2: Collecting- Possible direction…

I wrote in an earlier post about Fay Godwin being a photographer who I’ve been aware of for a good few years, citing as a particular inspiration her work to accompany the poems of Ted Hughes in “Remains of Elmet”.  In a similar vein, George Tice’s work is something I often return to. His book “Stone Walls, Grey Skies: A Vision of Yorkshire” has been on my bookshelf since the early 1990’s, having been lucky enough to have seen his work at the National Media Centre in Bradford. (Back when it was called the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television….)

Chesapeake Mill, Wickham. John Callaway [2016]: f5.6: 1/800s: 16mm focal length: ISO 200

Both collections have probably seeped into my subconscious over the years. Black and white images have a timeless quality to them, preserving the moment in the raw without distraction of colour. I’m not sure that it is possible to ‘see in black and white’, but I do find myself composing photographs with  a view to them being in monochrome.

The Nelson Monument, Portsmouth. John Callaway [2016]. f7.1: 1/800s: 16mm focal length: !SO 200

Nelson Monument, Portsmouth. John Callaway [2016]. f7.1: 1/800s: 16mm focal length: ISO 200

Early days yet, and this may not be the direction that I ultimately take, but I do have a job which affords me travel to substantial parts of the county of Hampshire. Travel which takes me through landscapes which bear the scars and evidence of human activity.


Bishops Waltham Social Club. John Callaway [2016]. f5: 1/125s: 22mm focal length: ISO 200

At the very least, the broad heading of ‘views’ implies the need to travel and get out and about.

Mindful of the need to reflect a single coherent idea, and that ‘the ….fragments which are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details although they need not be like one another ‘ [Walter Benjamin: Quoted in EYV p52], my first sortie out with the camera gave me these three images (amongst others).

I’m not quite sure what the unifying theme is yet, but there’s enough ( I think) for me to continue down this avenue for a while longer.

Footnote: One of the elements of feedback from my tutor for assignment 1 was to select landscape or portrait format, and not a combination of the two. I’ve therefore  decided on the following ‘rules’ in shaping this assignment.

1: Black & White

2: Landscape

3: Final image to be 10 x 8 in dimension. Partly because it mirrors the preferred format of Tice and Godwin, but also because it means I have to think more about composition. I don’t have a camera which allows 5×4 or 10×8 images, and there’s something to be said for framing an image with the knowledge that I have to apply a crop in order to follow my ‘rules’

Fay Godwin

I first came across the work of Fay Godwin through her collaboration with the poet Ted Hughes, in a work entitled ‘Remains of Elmet‘ [Faber & Faber 1979].

“The Calder valley…was the last ditch of Elmet, the last British Celtic kingdom to fall to the Angles. For centuries it was considered a more or less uninhabitable wilderness, a notorious refuge for criminals, a hide-out for refugees. Then in the early 1800s it became the cradle for the Industrial Revolution in textiles….” [Ted Hughes. Preface to ‘Remains Of Elmet’]


At the time, it was Hughes poetry that drew me to the book. His words offering a bleak imagery which described the impact of industrialisation on the landscape.

“…Farms came, stony masticators
Of generations that ate each other
To nothing inside them.

The sunk mill-towns were cemeteries
Digesting utterly
All with whom they swelled…”

“Remains Of Elmet” Ted Hughes

Godwin’s photographs appeared as political statements, writ large. Landscapes that despite their beauty were raw, scarred and imperfect. Black and white imagery seemed to enhance the remoteness and isolation of the image whilst the depth of field seemed to support the view that “deep focus gives the eye autonomy to roam over the picture space so that the viewer is…given the opportunity to edit the scene…(and) to select the aspects of it to which he will attend” [Andre Bazin: Cited EYV p48]

Not that Godwin should be pigeon holed as a black and white landscape photographer, as this excerpt from an online interview with her in UK Landscape shows:

Q. The book “Glassworks & Secret Lives” (Your colour work) had to be self-published! why was that?

A. Because in the dreary British way I had been ‘pigeonholed’ as a black and white photographer, and at my age it was not permissible to move on.

Q. Is your dedication to Landscapes a way to resist against modernity?

A. What a thought! I passionately love modern architecture, design, modern ways of looking at landscape etc. What I loathe is the multi-national conglomerates who must take responsibility for the degradation and pollution of so much of our landscape with their factory farming and greed.

Yet after some 35 years since I first encountered her work, I’d like to think that she still has an influence…

Umkomaas, Kwa-Zulu Natal. John Callaway [2016]

Umkomaas, Kwa-Zulu Natal. John Callaway [2016]