There’s a great documentary on the writer, photographer and curator Bill Jay, titled Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay. Until this week is was only screened at selected venues, and those were primarily in the UK, but it’s now available on YouTube. I’m only part way through, as I usually am with most things right now, but I can really relate to many of the people in it and status of photography as it was then, in the 1970s in the UK, having started a serious interest in photography around 1972.
I’ve just returned from 16 days in the UK. First, a week in London and then up to The Lake District by car for the second week. Then it was back to London for another four days with my son and daughter and to see old friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in 25 years!
The weather was perfect throughout and only started raining as we were taxiing to the runway to leave.
The sad news this week was that Terry King passed away, in London, after suffering a heart attack.
We were first introduced by Martin Reed in the early 1980s and I loved his attitude from the start. He was a man of many strong convictions, but I always had the utmost respect for Terry, regardless of whether I felt he was right or wrong. Since moving to America I never got to see him as often as I would have liked – the last time was in Santa Fe in 2005 – but he, and his contributions to photography, will be missed.
I had the great pleasure of working with her back in 1995, in conjunction with the imminent release of her book, Eve Arnold: In Retrospect. To promote the book, there were to be two travelling exhibitions, one in the UK and one in the US, and a third set for a museum collection. Magnum, whose offices were around the corner from where I worked, didn’t have the facilities to print the large size fibre prints she wanted, so I was asked by her to make the three sets of exhibition prints, while they made those for the book.
The first time I met her I was so nervous. Here was a legend in photography and I was in her apartment, sitting at her kitchen table, eating cake and drinking coffee. Subsequently though, I always looked forward to those times I’d have to visit her. Every few days I would go to her flat in the West End to deliver the prints I’d finished and collect another batch of negatives. She had given me a set of unbound galley proofs of the book to match the prints to, and she knew exactly what she wanted in the prints, but if there were reprints to be made, she asked in a way that made you want to rush back to the studio and immediately start printing, and with enthusiasm. She was one of the most gracious photographers I have worked with.
Soon after I’d emigrated to America she contacted me again with a project in mind. Unfortunately she didn’t want to risk losing the negatives shipping them to the US, and I wasn’t in a position to move back to the UK so soon. Now, of course, digital technology and scanning makes that so easy. The project was a portfolio of 13 images of Marilyn Monroe, A Baker’s Dozen.
Back in June of last year I wrote about the death of London printer Bill Rowlinson. Now, Silverprint, one of London and the UK’s leading photo suppliers, has put a podcast on its website (hopefully the start of a series) of a conversation recorded by Martin Reed between Adrian Ensor and Bob Miller in which they discuss Bill’s unique methods and techniques and his career.
Admittedly, a little of the humour may be lost if you never knew Bill, but I was grinning all the way to the studio this morning listening to this. Amongst the topics they cover are his love for for freezing prints that he hadn’t yet finished, his cats, toning techniques that were downright dangerous, his house, its inaccessible darkroom (in many ways) and printing naked; all covered with much laughter and good humour. Keep in mind, if you do listen to this podcast and didn’t know Bill, the person they’re describing was one of the top professional printers in the UK. But I guess all us printers are somewhat off-beam, usually working in solitude and within our own small and unique cosmos.
An exhibition of Bill’s prints as well as Richard Nicholson‘s images of darkrooms Last One Out, Please Turn On The Light has just opened at Photofusion, and both Adrian and Richard Nicholson will be giving a gallery talk on December 8th.
Adrian Ensor is one of the finest printers in the UK and has been for over 30 years, having won Ilford’s Printer of the Year award twice. Bob Miller is a leading UK advertising and editorial photographer working on assignments worldwide since 1978.