Posts from the ‘Books’ category

An Antiquarian bookshop – which harks back to another era


Antiquarian Bookshop

Antiquarian bookshop


A couple of days ago I was in the lovely town of Lewes in East Sussex. My brief visit had nothing to do with photography, but I did have my camera with me. There wasn’t the time to explore the town, but I was struck by the number of secondhand bookshops there were.

This image of ‘A & Y Cumming’ takes me back to another time. This photograph could have been taken many years ago, as so little has changed. The only modern item clearly visible is the alarm box in the top left hand corner, but even this is relatively old if compared with what might be installed today.

In these days of Amazon and ‘online shopping’ etc, it’s rather appealing that a shop like this can still trade and survive. Even its opening hours are hardly 24/7. The sign writing on the door informs you the shop will open at 10am on weekdays and close at 5pm. On Saturday it stays open an extra half an hour until 5.30pm but not surprisingly it’s closed on Sundays. How very civilised.

The sign writing above the door is old fashioned, but befitting of what’s on sale. The telephone number simply says Lewes and does not display the area code, so you would have to know what this is if you wanted to ring the shop from outside the area. It’s all very quaint and says a lot about Lewes as a town. Yes, it has a large Tesco superstore, a Waitrose and other well known shops, plus a number of independents, but none of these has the charm of a Antiquarian and Secondhand bookshop which harks back to another era.

Long may shops such as these continue to exist and thrive in the future, helping to preserve a little bit of history in the process.


Taking inspiration from other artists – Chris Tancock

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I like to take inspiration from other artists – or to be more precise, how I like to enjoy the work of more accomplished artists and perhaps try and learn something in the process.

Today I just want to write a few words about the Welsh photographer – Chris Tancock, who describes himself as a rural documentary photographer as opposed to a landscape photographer, even though he takes photos of the countryside in which he lives.

I first came across his work when on holiday in Pembrokeshire in Wales a few years ago. His photographs were for sale in a gallery near St Davids and I found them particularly striking. The project was called ‘Quiet Storm’, and included a number of dramatic colour images of the Welsh landscape.

Later I found more of his work on the web, only to discover that he much prefers to work in black and white. Amongst his more recent projects are ‘Beating the Bounds’, ‘Off the Beaten Track’, ‘Farm’ and ‘The Dowrog’. I greatly admire his dedication to the work he produces. Beating the Bounds for example is a project spread over 5 years, where he walks the boundaries of 5 meadows, twice a day, every day, come rain or shine, observing and capturing the ever changing ‘story’ of the landscape he witnesses. The project is still incomplete but I am lucky enough to have the current version of his book called ‘Beating the Bounds’ which is published by Blurb.





I also have another book by Chris Tancock called ‘Wildwood’ again by the same publisher.




To me these images are not what might be termed ‘classic’ landscapes, where the photographer has used a well established formula to arrive at the finished photograph. It is hard for me to put into words the ethos of Chris Tancock’s approach to photography, so to give you a flavour of his style I have included a quote from an interview with the magazine ‘Onlandscape’ in which he said –

“I don’t want to hurt peoples feelings, but I don’t like boulders in the foreground, sunsets in the background, diagonals in between them, repeated again and again and again, hunting the countryside until you find these things. What does it tell you about the landscape? Nothing. It tells you about composition and the photographer, it doesn’t tell you anything about the landscape, but they’re commercially viable. They are very easily read images. People forget we read images on different levels and an image like that has the reading age of a 5 year old, its the equivalent of a Janet and John book”. 

Strong, heartfelt words and perhaps the reason why his images are documentary in style. His photographs may not necessarily be called beautiful but they certainly tell a story about the landscape and the countryside in which he lives. Many have a mysterious quality about them, little details contained within the image which are not always noticed on first viewing. Personally I think there is a beauty about the them and I very much enjoy following his latest work which he posts on Pictify.

If you are interested in learning more about Chris Tancock and his individual approach to his work, then you can read the full interview with “Onlandscape’ here.

For now I shall continue to admire his work and try and learn something from his approach to this particular style of documentary photography.

Taking inspiration from other artists – Norman Ackroyd

I have always enjoyed looking at the works of other artists. I dare say it goes back to my childhood years. My father was a very keen amateur water colourist and whilst he loved painting, he also took great pleasure from visiting art galleries and buying a few paintings for our family home. In fact he was of the opinion that a house was never a home until a few pictures had been hung on the walls and I agree!

Given my more recent interest in photography, I too now find myself going to photographic exhibitions or art galleries to see what I can learn from other artists work. To me it does not matter whether they are photographs, paintings, a piece of sculpture or some form of mixed media. They are all an expression of an individual’s art form, their interpretation of a scene or an object, using a wide variety of different techniques, materials, colours and composition to produce a piece of art. Which brings me nicely on to the artist I want to write about in this entry – namely Norman Ackroyd CBE, RA.

It was relatively recently that I discovered his work when I watched a programme about him in a BBC series called ‘What do artists do all day’. Born in Leeds in 1938, he is one of Britain’s foremost landscape artists, primarily known for his work in aquatint, a form of etching and also known as intaglio printing. The process uses acid to make marks in a metal plate, usually copper or zinc, and is combined with powered rosin to create a tonal effect. It is well worth watching the two parts of the programme to see how Norman Ackroyd produces his prints.

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Click on the screen grabs above to see the programme ‘What do artists do all day’ featuring 
Norman Ackroyd or Click here to see part 1 and click here for Part 2 – both on You Tube.

I was inspired by his work, his skill and artistry as well as his chosen subject matter – the far flung coastal regions of the British Isles. Places where the land meets the sea in wild and dramatic parts of the country. I wanted to know more about him, the techniques he employed and to see more of his work. I visited the Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy in London last year, only to discover that he was one of the co-ordinators. A few of his prints were on display and although I might have been tempted to buy one of them, I resisted but I did purchase a wonderful book entitled ‘A Line in the Water’ a collaborative work with the poet Douglas Dunn. There are some 80 very well produced plates in the book, a few of which I have photographed for the purposes of this blog entry. The book is published by the Royal Academy and is on sale here.

A Line in the Water.
Stiffkey Freshes
North Norfolk Coast

Atlantic Sunlight

Summer Isles
Wester Ross

Tretnish Isles

Given my love of black and white photography and the remote landscapes of the UK, it is hardly surprising that his work appeals to me so much. They are inspirational and the idea of taking my own photographs in some of these truly beautiful and atmospheric locations is hugely enticing. One day perhaps……………. but for the time being I shall just enjoy turning the pages of this very special publication.

Photographic books – not new camera gear!

Some time ago I remember reading on Eric Kim’s blog that many aspiring photographers would be better to invest their money in good books on photography as opposed to the latest camera gear. This comment struck a chord with me and whilst I can be accused of spending quite a lot of money on my Olympus Micro 4/3rds system last year, at the same time I have also tried to build up a small collection of books. Some cover camera technique and processing,  others photographs of a certain genre, landscape for example, or and perhaps most importantly on the work of people I admire.

One such photographer is Michael Kenna, whose exhibition in London I visited recently. I am all too aware that there are many amateurs (and professionals) who have tried to emulate his style or worse still copy his work – plagarism I think its called, but in the photographic art world he is still seen as a master craftsman, creating superb images which can be enjoyed on so many levels.

I was therefore very fortunate to be given for Christmas his two ‘Retrospective’ books, both of which have been signed by him. I am sure he signed many copies, but for me it makes them rather special having his signiature on the inside.



They are beautifully produced and from what little I know about printing and publishing photographic art books, the ‘plates’ are truly excellent. This makes viewing each book (there are not many words to read) a real pleasure. With 130 plates in each ‘Retrospective’, there are many of his photographs to enjoy, study and learn from. Not so that I can be a ‘Kennabie’, as I think the expression goes, but to try and understand and apply some of the masterful techniques which photographers like Michael Kenna have spent a lifetime perfecting. Incidentally both Retrospective books were very efficiently supplied by the specialist photographic bookshop  Beyond Words in Edinburgh, Scotland. My thanks to Bruce Percy who first mentioned this supplier when I was on his ‘Eigg’ workshop last year.

Given my love of black and white and the landscapes of the UK, I was also delighted to be given two other books, one on Wales called Pembrokeshire by David Wilson and the other on Scotland by Craig McMaster entitled Elements – The Landscape of Scotland. Although neither book has been produced to the standard of Kenna’s Retrospectives, they both have superb images which in my view truly capture the atmosphere and mood of both countries. These locations are also easier for me to visit. The chances of me going to Kenna’s Japan for example are almost non existent; so from an aspirational perspective these books make far more personal sense.


I have already greatly enjoyed all four titles. Yes, I acknowledge for different reasons but there is no question there is a lot that can learned by not just looking, but studying the works of the other photographers. Trying to apply these lessons to your own work is more difficult, but the latest camera or peice of kit will in my opinion never point you in the right direction! I will be a regular visitor to these books in the months to come, in the vain hope that given time the quality of my own work will improve as a result.

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