Wilko Johnson

I had the great pleasure of meeting Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson earlier today for a brief photo session.

It’s the first time I’ve used the Fuji X-Pro for work shots and had to apologise for my fumbling.

Wilko was impressed by the X-Pro’s shutter silence. “You can’t even hear it,” he said.

In 2012, Wilko was diagnosed with what was thought to be terminal pancreatic cancer.

In October, he told the audience at the Q Awards he’d been cured.

Long Exposures, Places

Industrial mono, Salford

My work with the BBC last week took me to Salford, not a million miles from my home town, Halifax.

Media City, home to the BBC, ITV and others involved in the media production industry, has risen from the decayed remains of the old docks.

There’s something of the Nairobi Jockey Club about Media City.

The jockey club is a little bit of colonial white turf, with its white picket fence, beyond which is black Kenya. The picket fence – captured by Magnum photographer Stuart Franklin – is more than a barrier between inside and out, its a barrier between two separate worlds, two different times.

Broadway is Salford’s white picket fence, dividing the granite, glass and concrete of media land and the red-brick realism of earthy old Salford.

I thought the old folk of Salford would hold Media City in disdain. But at least one – a guy called Derek who likes rugby league – says that’s not quite the case.

Salford didn’t like the snootiness some in the BBC showed at the move up north. But it does seem that for a good number of people, Media City – and the hotel industry that has sprung up around it – has brought decent wages and job opportunities which, in turn, has led to an increase in home ownership and a sense of security and stature to old Salford.

“Do you and your mates drink at Media City then?” I asked Derek.

He smiles. “F**k no, lad.”

Some way to go then, until Salford loses its white picket fence.

Here’s my take on Media City:

Lowry Museum, Salford Lowry Museum, Salford Media City Salford Quays Bridge Bridge


Graffiti in Ljubljana, Slovenia

I love urban art, whether it be the sanctioned squiggles of the road contractors or clever (preferably witty) subversiveness in the form of graffiti. Travelling a few months ago to Slovenia, I was struck by the graffiti donned by the walls of its capital city Ljubljana.

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High contrast and a 10-stop filter at Skinningrove Beach

My dad got me hooked on photography.

He had a Nikon FE and a Nikon FM when I was about six and he turned the bedroom next to mine into a dark room.

The darkroom was a place of magic that I’d show friends quietly when I thought nobody was looking. An Aladdin’s cave, a Santa’s Grotto, only far, far cooler because it was in our house and lit with a glowing orange bulb. Developing my first picture at the age of six or seven left an indelible impression on me and probably explains in part why I refuse to leave film along, even now.

So, my father is fundamental to my photographic world.

And shooting for an afternoon at a location very special to him was a rare treat.

The place was Skinningrove, where my father spent many of his happiest moments as a young lad. The best thing, I hear, was tumbling down the sides through the marram grass onto the sugary sands with a girl you liked.

The day we went the wind was bowing so hard the sand felt like thousands of projectile needles.

Setting up on the loose sand with the tripod was not an option because the sand would have been a camera killer. Instead, we moved down towards the water, where the ripples in the softer sand caught our eye.

The sands here are very pale and, on a summer’s day, the sky is vast and dark blue. There’s also a rugged wild beauty to the place which in turns contrasts with the rugged industrial setting of the ironstone workings here.

So a place of contrasts. I wanted to bring out this sense of contrast and ruggedness in my pictures.

I don’t think my father had seen a 10-stop (I use 100 x 100 Formatt Hi-tech, which I’ve found to be excellent when properly sealed to the holder), so he was fairly surprised by the results. Also slapped on was a red filter as I knew I wanted a contrasty and dark monochrome image where the textures did the talking.

The most important thing for me is that my father likes the images. He says they’ve ‘got’ the feel of the place, which for me is praise indeed.Skinningrove Beach

On the way back to the car, I noticed this tractor and the sheds in the distance.

A splash of colour on a monochromic outing.
Skinningrove Tractor