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Cover Story & Cornish Delight… and an audience with ‘A Poet of Light’

Posted on September 6, 2012 by Admin under The Life of a Derbyshire Photographer

From delight to disappointment to delight again in a matter of moments…  There were two items in the morning mail: a package containing two books I ordered as my image is on the front covers.

derbyshire photographer

First, Romans, a Bible Study Guide published in America which used one of my favourite images: a solitary boat on Ullswater captured in  the dawn mist.  Well done InterVarsity Press of Illinois for inserting the line Cover Image: Ashley Franklin/Trevillion Images.

In the same package was another of my book covers – a lovely shot of my friend Tamzin which Poolbeg Fiction of Ireland used for a debut novel by Caroline Finnerty (see a previous web log for the image).  However, much to my displeasure is the omission of a credit.  I fancy my image library won’t be best pleased either.  The publishers have made it worse by printing a small photo of the author where the photographer HAS been credited.  Ironically, the photographer is Deirdre Finnerty – the author’s sister?  I shall email the publishers and ask if one has to be related to the author to gain a credit in one of their books.

My disappointment soon turned to elation when I opened the second item in the morning’s post.  In this age of the quick and easy email, it’s always a joy to receive a handwritten letter or card, and this one was particularly joyous.  It was a ‘thank you’ from the world’s greatest living landscape photographer.  Here’s the story behind it…

In the June issue of Derbyshire Life, I wrote a feature on one of the world’s greatest photographers, John Blakemore, who lives here in Derby.  I’ve got several book compilations of photographic greats and Blakemore is in most of them, either somewhere inbetween Beaton and Brandt or Bailey and Cartier-Bresson.  I was pleased with the article and delighted that John liked it.  I was also pleased that my photo of John turned out to be ok.  Here he is below, alongside one of his Welsh landscapes, images which were to prove so influential to so many photographers.

I was a bit nervous having emailed him the draft, as I mentioned that he had ‘the visage of a retiring and kindly wizard’.  ’A wizard, indeed,’ I continued, ‘a photographer who became renowned for magical transformations.  Whereas Merlin waved a wand, Blakemore pressed a shutter.  It’s an apt metaphor because for those photographers like John who have dabbled in the darkroom, the materialisation of an image from the developing tray is like a moment of alchemy.’

John was fine about the wizard simile.  His only slight objection was that I opened the article by saying that ‘A meeting with John Blakemore is, for me, akin to an audience with the Pope.’  John wasn’t sure he wanted to be associated with the Pope!  However, he was more than happy to be associated with Joe Cornish, the great British landscape photographer.  When I met John, he told me that Joe Cornish co-hosted an exhibition which was dedicated to him.  So, I emailed Joe to ask if he would send me a quote.  He graciously did so within days, even though he was in the midst of a photo workshop.  His quote provided the icing on the cake of the piece.  I was also amazed to discover just how profound an influence Blakemore has been on Joe.  He wrote this:

‘Those intimate monochrome images of the textures of nature inspired in me the thought that photography was a transcendent medium. John’s vision transformed the world into an idea, an emotion, a gesture, a rhythm, a feeling; he is a poet of light. I have followed his career ever since, and while landscape has largely taken a “back seat” for John in his enormous output, all of his work remains a source of inspiration. I can think of no other photographer working in Britain today whose work is so creative, powerful and influential on succeeding generations. Many photographers have followed in his wake, although sadly not all know what a debt they owe him. If he were American he would be a major figure in the arts.’

Which, finally, leads me to the ‘Thank You’ card, depicting a wild Scottish landscape, a typically dramatic image by Joe Cornish.  Inside Joe thanked me for sending him the article, which he ‘really enjoyed… really well written and insightful’.  And the best bit of all, his closing line: ‘it will have a treasured place in my archives.’  Joe’s card will have a treasured place in my work study, where I can see it every day.