Later this month, it will be 10 years since i was asked by the Somerset Rural Life museum to put on my first solo exhibition.
At the time, i was working as a press photographer for many of the local and regional papers in the somerset area.
I had started to develop a style of image inspired by the work of the late James Ravilious and had been asked to complete a project of images of the Mendip Hills which he’d started before his death. it was therefore pretty amazing to be exhibiting in the same space where i had first seen his pictures a few years earlier.
To be honest, i didn’t have a clue what i was doing, having learnt “on the tools” rather than the now standard degree route. the people who taught me were an eclectic mix of old school press and ex forces photographers to whom the idea of an exhibition of photographs was a bit of an alien concept. to them, photographs were either private things or transient grab shots to illustrate a story with little future value past the date on which they were published to illustrate a story.
Looking at the museums programe for the year, i realised that the exhibition following mine was by another of my photographic heroes, Chris Chapman, the great photographer of Dartmoor life. Chris was very helpful, advising me on optimum sizes for prints, framing and display methods and also the prices at which people bought photographs. he was keen to explain that not only should I not price images to high to be prohibitive, but that i should also price them high enough to make them have worth and be an aspirational product. his advice was extremely useful and ensured the exhibition was a huge success, and all bar a couple of images (that i didnt even really like) sold out on the first night.
Anyhow, the reason for this post is, going through some old stuff the other day, i found the copies of the visitors book from this show and it reminded me of one of the most amazing / surreal moments of my photographic life. The exhibition preview night was on the Friday, which was a night of total chaos and me turning into a bit of a “luvvie”. the next day i went back to Glastonbury to tidy things up and to see how it all went. As i was walking through the museum, a small group walked towards me, hellos and good mornings were exchanged. i thought i recognised one of them, but thought nothing more of it.
Mary, the curator came running up to me and asked me “did i meet him?” “who?” i replied “Don McCullin!!” “He’s been looking at your photos for ages. he brought some Korean friend s with him as well. he said he was impressed!!”
FLIP!!!! For years I have been quoting Don McCullin as an influence, i have every book he has ever done and studied his images until i knew them off by heart. I especialy love his landscapes of Somerset and have figured out locations and techniques for most of them. I have been to his exhibitions and have been to scared to speak to him as to me he has this aura about him, so the one time he comes to see ME, i don’t recognise him and miss the chance of a lifetime. it still annoys me in a funny way 10 years later.
Maybe this aniversary and a bit of a hefty nudge in the right direction will get me to do another show sometime soon. Who knows? And what with me back working with film again it should be fun and 😀
Just in-case you don’t believe me, there’s the visitors book to prove it and one of my favourite (McCullin inspired) shots (Printed by Robin Bell) from the exhibition as well.