On Tuesday afternoon of 15th October, UCLan students were given the opportunity to listen to and to question a multi-award winning photographer with a wealth of experience in the world of photography and advertising. John Claridge has been taking pictures for over fifty years ever since he was a young lad in London’s East End. John was in Preston for the launch of his latest limited edition book ‘Ribble Steam Railway’, a collection of stunning black and white pictures published by Preston based Café Royal Books and supported by the Contemporary Art Development Group. Café Royal’s founder Craig Atkinson, invited John to undertake a project in Preston and he chose the heritage railway at Riversway as his subject.Advertisement
Unusually, John’s talk began with him rearranging the audience and fielding questions from the assembled gathering. As no questions were forthcoming, John looked straight at me and said “Come on, you’re a journalist, ask me a question”! So I asked John if his career in photography had turned out as he had planned. “No!” came the answer, “Ask me another”. Rephrasing my question, I asked John if his career had thrown up any interesting twists and turns.
Fortunately, John was a bit more forthcoming with his answer this time and he gave a humorous and though provoking account of his career from his east end upbringing to his time working in the advertising world.
John answered several more questions while showing a selection of his works on the big screen, providing the audience with an insight into an urban landscape and way of life that has long since disappeared. John’s gritty monochrome images capture the reality of everyday life for ordinary people by using a combination of landscapes, portraits and still life compositions.
In the second part of John’s talk he presented images from his latest publication ‘Ribble Steam Railway’ and talked about his time spent at the docklands complex with the staff and volunteers that run the popular visitor attraction. The book contains twenty of John’s trademark black and white photographs including shots of the steam locos, the workshops and portraits of staff members. The book is a must for steam fans, evoking memories of a bygone era and reminding us of how important it is to preserve our railway heritage for future generations to experience and enjoy.
John’s talk was both interesting and informative and, I for one came away with a greater appreciation of John’s work and was inspired to take a fresh look at themes of heritage and nostalgia. I have no doubt that the Ribble Steam Railway is highly delighted with John’s efforts and, who knows, perhaps John will bring his wealth of experience and unique creativity to Preston again sometime soon.
The limited edition book ‘Ribble Steam Railway’ is available from Café Royal Books and I have no doubt that the print run of 200 will be quickly snapped up by fans of photography and steam alike.
The slideshow below, from Bernie Blackburn’s Flickr Photostream, shows a selection of images taken on the day of the launch at UCLan.
Did you go along to the launch? What are your thoughts on this event? Let us know in the comments section below.