Pave Hull : August



Part of the reason for the show is to draw attention to HIP – Hull International Photography Gallery, an unsung hero in the town as far as I’m concerned.

There’s a poster which is supposed to talk about the work on show, but part of it starts with a diatribe about the raw deal HIP had durning Year of Culture. My wife said, no one will read this.

I hope you prove her wrong.

HIP Gallery

The work on show at Pave is a taster of a much larger body of work.

Black and white photograph of a 'Deckie Learner' in a suit stood at a bar in Hull 1971.

Three day millionaire

The Anchor Pub Hessle Road

We had to choose ‘Archetypes’ for a college project. I settled on ‘Deckie Learners’. I remember being disappointed that this chap Mick didn’t have the right hairstyle – a greased quiff with the ducks-arse finish.

I wanted him to fit an image I had of what a Deckie Learner should be. They had a reputation for being tough and big drinkers who could cause trouble, so I posed him against the bar and asked him to look mean… but he was holding a half pint, another disappointment.

It’s a dishonest attempt at a portrait.

But Mick transcends all that with his own honesty. A young man in an immaculate suit, out to celebrate his short-lived wealth. Simply pleased to be where he was, young and alive and cash in his pocket.

His immaculate suit with its pleated back and wide waistband, white socks and loafers a jubilant celebration of his tribe.

Black and white photographs of young trawler men in a pub, one of whom has his arm around his girlfriend, Hull 1971.

The Girlfriend

The Anchor Pub Hessle Road

So he’s Bruce and she’s Anita… at least I hope she is. Three weeks out at sea and three days home must have made for whirlwind romances. How did they manage it? Somehow obviously.

He looks like ‘Jack the Lad’ and his hair style is fabulous, something of the sea surely, and thank goodness for narrow ties, they don’t date. Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack wore them to stunning effect with white shirts and suits. So maybe that’s the attraction then, sharp dressed, dangerous men in suits with money to spend… if only for three days.

Two Trinity House boys in traditional dress in Hull bus station 1971.

Trinity House boys

Taken in the old Paragon Bus Station, one of my first photographs is just an experiment really, testing out a long lens, but Clee liked it. So he printed it up for me.

This was my first realisation that these little strips of negatives once magnified on to paper could give you interesting compositions and tell intriguing stories. But the biggest surprise of all was the power of black and white photography to transform the world of the everyday.

Black and white photograph of a man smoking a cigarette in a Hull Pub about 1971.

Man with a cigarette

The Paragon pub… I think

Smoke your roll ups right to the tip, drain your glass of all its beer, stay in the pub ’till the Landlord slings you out. Enjoy every pleasure you can, while you can, because Sunny Jim, there’s not a lot of it about – and maybe not a lot of time left, if the cross in the wood next to him is any kind of a clue.

Hull was always a city that seemed to face tough times and only brief rewards, but the trick was – always dress smart.

Photograph of young kids wearing duffel coats down Brighton Street Hull as it is being demolished 1973.

Duffel Coats

Brighton Street

You had a duffel coat as a kid and then you had one as a teenager.

We were told at college to go out and photograph kids in the street because they made good natural, candid subjects for photography. Nowadays photographing children in the street is a ‘no no’; it invites suspicion, aggression and the police.

It does my head in.

Such a tragic loss, not being able to engage in conversation with children anymore and capture something of their world.

When these photographs appeared in the Hull Daily Mail, someone called Harry Potterer emailed in to say ‘That’s me on Brighton Street!’

And someone called Dundoir said ‘That’s me dad!!’.

Brighton Street

This photograph looks like something taken in the blitz not 1973. These buildings were being demolished, part of slum clearance, or urban regeneration to give it its posh title. They set fire to the buildings first to clear them of wooden structures to make them easier to pull down. Kids watched with interest, fascinated by the fire and demolition. That was a time when they all played in the street together. There seemed to be no prohibition in going into the buildings which they all did including me.

I’m not sure if anyone had heard of Health & Safety. Now you are told flowing streams might be deep and the hot water in your basin might be… well hot.

These kids found out for themselves how the world worked.

Colour photograph of the river Hull 1971.

The river we once knew

If you would like to buy a print you can view all four images in the series on The River Hull page. Simply click on the image to see a range of sizes and prices.

One early misty morning I took a camera down to the river Hull and shot a roll of 120 Kodak negative film of scenes from the river.

I should have taken more.

Even then I had a feeling there was something different about these images.

My old lecturer Clee Rimmer, an inspirational photographer thought they were OK, nothing to shout about. As a student I had managed to get the light reading right and everything in focus.

That was all.

Neither of us realized what was drifting away from us at the time.

It’s hard to believe now that the river once looked like this. There’s an almost Venetian feeling of colour, light and architecture. Pushing it a bit I know, I mean this is Hull we’re talking about. But looking back I’m so pleased I kept the composition simple, didn’t try any tricky angles and probably more remarkable still, used colour film instead of what we were being trained in, which was black and white photography.

Photograph of a sad looking girl in a Milan bar.

The girl who never smiled

'Barlife is a study of the places where people and alcohol mix, where people go to find others or lose themselves. Click on the image to go to the Barlife porfolios

I’d seen this young women in the Navigli area of Milan, she was very striking looking, but I never saw her smile, not the once.

Well OK, maybe the once.

I’d tried to photograph her in a café a few days earlier, but she realized what I was doing, picked up her bag and stormed off. Then she came into a bar where I was drinking. I thought I won’t get another chance like this, but I had my back to her and I couldn’t risk turning round

I held the camera up back to front and fired blind, checked the framing and fired again. I was expecting an out of focus badly composed image. This is what I got.

The sax player was a gift.

Photograph of a couple in an Amsterdam bar, the lady is smoking near a window.

Cigar smoke Amsterdam

Click on the image to go to the Barlife portfolios

I liked the way the light entered this dark bar in Amsterdam, it reminded me of bars in Hull. There was an older man in a dark suit in the corner who looked alone and morose, but he lit up once a very attractive lady of a certain age appeared; or rather she lit up; the smoke is all hers.

She transformed the atmosphere in a few seconds, exhaling great clouds of smoke from an enormous cigar in the direction of the ceiling.

What bothered me was the bar counter which cut right across them. I tried moving positions and standing up, but that only drew attention to my presence. I thought ‘nice atmosphere, but a ruined shot’. The thing is, the bar counter bothered me, but it bothered no one else. The lighting and the atmosphere seem to be enough for most people, what is certain is, you won’t find bars with smoked filled atmospheres like this any more.

And Frankenstein looked on

From a behind the scenes study of the life of the Famous Hippodrome Circus Great Yarmouth.

2018 is Year of the Circus, a celebration of a 250 year old British invention.

You can see more work on my Facebook page here


Two circus dancers in tutus with vampire make up.
Femme Fatale

The problem with photographing anything back stage at the Hippodrome is the dancers.

Sometimes I’m struggling to find a subject, a composition, anything that captures the imagination. And then the dancers arrive in the corridor, and I no longer have a problem.

They always look fabulous, the costumes stunning. Even when they are lounging around waiting to go into the arena they manage to fall into elegant forms on the settees or chairs or simply as they stand talking to other dancers.

The men are different, when they relax something in the brain switches off and they slump. Is it the age-old artfulness of women? A predatory awareness of their power? Whatever it is, for me, it’s fatal.

You can see more work on my Facebook page here