Images I’d hang on my wall No2 – John Blakemore ‘Friog Wales’ 1977

APRIL 2019

‘Back in the day’…well back in the late 1970’s, there wasn’t that much landscape photography around. You could see some in the extremely poorly printed books that appeared or else in the pretty rare exhibition.

The books were truly awful…I still have a few. Monochrome images were printed with no deep blacks at all. A sort of muddy dark grey was the usual. Exhibitions though were where you would need to go to see some high quality prints. These would be ‘silver prints’ of course done in ‘proper’ darkrooms.

However not many art galleries would show ‘mere photographs’, so London had the Photographers Gallery and elsewhere a few major cities like Bristol, Liverpool and Cardiff might have a gallery that was worth visiting.

We were living in North Wales for awhile in 1982-3 and became friends with a couple that had a small gallery nearby, and they sold photographs. They had an exhibition of pictures by John Blakemore and I was knocked out by these.

Here’s the standout image that still haunts me:

John Blakemore: From ‘The Sound Of The Sea’ sequence Friog Wales 1977

Blakemore used a view camera and I think this was the first time I was aware of what transformation a very long exposure could do to capturing the sea in movement. I will confess that at first I thought this was mist!

The image above wasn’t available to purchase I think…anyway I bought another from this sequence, but it has never resonated like this large black rock picture did.

Here’s the one I have:

John Blakemore: Friog Wales 1977

Alas my print was never signed by John and even has white dust spots on it showing it needed the ‘spotting brush’ and it has ‘yellowed’ slightly which I guess means it wasn’t as ‘archival’ as we’d like nowadays. But hey, photographs weren’t ‘art’ were they and photographers didn’t do things like ‘Limited Editions’.

Perhaps one day I’ll get a copy of ‘the large black rock’ image for my wall. I realised that I pulled it out of my memory when I stood on Uttakleiv Beach in Lofoten and saw this rock:

David Taylor: Dark rocks and frozen beach | Uttakleiv Lofoten Islands Norway | January 2014

No lapping waves to render as a ‘mist’, just a frozen beach…the power of the big black rock in an image that came back to me.

Alas my image lacks something that Blakemore’s has…mystery.
The large rock in both images has nothing to give any scale and my long exposure rendered the sea without texture but there is no sea around the rock whereas Blakemore’s has those mysterious lapping waves that he’s turned into mist. Wonderful! I like the light reflecting off the foreground ice in my image but it’s Blakemore’s I’d want to keep.


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