Monthly Archives: September 2014

“Is that who I think it is …?”

Kat Copeland

by John Cogan ARPS

“Is that who I think it is?”  John Clarke listens whilst the young Paratrooper quizzes him about the young blond who holds the attention of five photographers.  All he can do is affirm that this slip of a lass, this slight, svelte young woman with the bright blue eyes and long tresses is, indeed, Katherine Sarah Copeland MBE, known universally as Kat… the winner of the Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls at the 2012 London Olympics.  Her partner then was Sophie Hosking.  Who could forget Kat’s response when told they’d won?  That was one of the highlights of the games.

On a dull day in September we stood on the banks of the Tees, by the Tees Rowing Club and enjoyed her company… Gold medal she might have but her youth and simple joy of being alive, the quizzical expressions that crossed her face and her willingness to stand, lean, run or whatever when asked made the morning.

Was she planning to go to Rio in 2016?  She didn’t know… it depended on selecting the best at the time and there was a lot of competition.  The Team GB success in 2012 had started an avalanche… Dr John and I had seen this phenomenon the previous Sunday when photographing Jessica Eddie, the Durham girl who has represented Team GB in the Women’s Eights (2014 European Championships – Silver, and member of the record-breaking women’s crew that won this year’s Head of the River) and who was mobbed by the youthful beginners at the Durham Amateur Rowing Club.

Kat  Copeland 5 by John Cogan Jess Eddie 1 by John Cogan

Eventually, Kat’s gold medal came out of the back pack and was held for prying lenses.  A profound silence fell amongst as the medal was passed from hand to hand.  Back to Kat and we can see: hands surprisingly only a little calloused by hours of rowing.

Polite, warm and full of such generosity… like so many of those we have met during the course of this project… she has to fly to another meeting.  A water-sprite in faded blue jeans disappearing into the distance, leaving five photographers whose lives had been touched by her kindness.

A complete list of Portraits from the North East subjects can be found in The Story so Far on the About  page of this website

Posted in Essays

Another North East Portrait Blog…

By John Cogan ARPS

The team of photographers who make up the Portraits from the North East Collective is a varied one.  We have a smattering of street photographers who favour the instinctive approach and a similar number of more formal photographers.  Fortunately, the mix works well.  Going on any shoot together is always a learning process.

Julie is our landscape photographer; her ability to assess a static scene and wait for the light she wants doesn’t quite fit in with our working methods where we may have only 15 minutes to capture the essence of our sitter.  Therefore, when she went on her first outing to The Alnwick Garden to photograph Her Grace, the Duchess of Northumberland, there was a degree of trepidation.  Ah, yes!  Nothing quite like being thrown in at the deep end.  But, Julie is not unique in this.  Faced with meeting a stranger in their “territory” and having to photograph them is daunting for us all.

Our usual method of working is for one of the team to engage the subject in conversation while the others gently and discretely photograph the distracted subject whilst managing to keep the Project’s interlocutor out of the frame.

Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland and John Cogan by Tony Griffiths

Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland and John Cogan by Tony Griffiths

Her Grace is one of these people who put you immediately at your ease.  She has the looks of a film star, the sangfroid of Queen Elizabeth and the sparkle of the best Champagne.  I was the talker that day and I never took one photograph!  Like a rabbit in the headlights, I was mesmerised.  Fortunately, the photographs taken of our conversation show what a star Her Grace is… she actually looks interested in what I’m saying!  Yes, well, Oscars all round!

Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland by Tony Griffiths

Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland by Tony Griffiths

No matter who the subject is there are always points of contact.  In this case Julie and Her Grace, the Duchess, talked dogs and children.  When we explained our aim: to photograph people of significance in the North East… whether from direct input or example… and to publish the skill and talent we have in the region, she not only agreed with us but offered to host the exhibition.  Hence, our opening date of 5th May at The Alnwick Garden.

And Julie?  She’s very critical of her work, and that is good.  Portrait photography was a break with her traditional practices and way out of her comfort zone, but that’s another aspect of the Project.  There are others who feel the same way:  for Joanne working with the CEO of Caterpillar Trucks UK was a challenge.  Joanne is an experienced and very empathetic portrait photographer but having to produce work that would fit in with the practices of other photographers was a new experience.

No two sessions are ever the same.  The recent shoot with Bishop Paul of Durham took place in the Chapel at Auckland Castle, a venue full of light and white walls… a photographer’s gift.  Not so when it came to Rev Glyn Evans, the City Chaplin for Newcastle.  Photographed in the body of St Andrew’s Church the light from side windows allowed the grey day to creep in.

Bishop Paul by John Clarke ARPS

Bishop Paul by John Clarke ARPS

Rev Glyn Evans by John Cogan ARPS

Rev Glyn Evans by John Cogan ARPS

The past months have been a classroom for all of us.  And it is to the credit of all those involved that any and all assignments have been approached with a sense of professionalism and with skills of the highest calibre.  It is the commitment and photographic sense of my fellow Project members that have ensured the growing collection and the high quality of the portraits.

John Cogan

Posted in Essays

Visiting the Lord Barnard

The Lord Barnard by Julie Ferry

The Lord Barnard by Julie Ferry

By John Cogan ARPS

We were told this was a portrait session too far.  Sorry, but he won’t agree!  Still, the request reached The Lord Barnard and we waited.

In the intervening days we continued to contact others and went on photo shoots: Roberta Blackman Woods, the MP for Durham City was photographed, as was the CEO and Creative Director of Newcastle’s Dance City… Anthony Baker.  Then we heard that The Lord Barnard had agreed.  He would see us and be photographed.

That week, the first full one in August, was a busy one for the Project: on Wednesday we were sitting on the seafront at Roker photographing BBC’s Jeff Brown.  An amiable chat with a background of the Cat and Dog Steps and the redolent smell of crispy bacon butties.

Early morning on Thursday saw three of us sitting once more in the sun, drinking coffee and talking to the High Sheriff of Northumberland, John Carr-Ellison.  The garden is sublime and little wonder his daughter uses it as a venue for her Vogue fashion shoots.  Bees buzz and we talk of his red squirrels and their intelligent feeding habits and the fact that he has now stopped being the Latvian Consul.  It is a heady mix of good company and fine surroundings.  Eventually, we have to leave, but he has kindly lent us a book… a 1905 who-is-who of Northumberland.  Though there are elements of continuity in the families represented (his own included) in this book (some of those we have already photographed) not one female is represented.

The most striking is on the first page: the Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland is His Grace the Duke of Northumberland, a stern looking, semi-profile shot of His Grace complete with wonderful side-burns.  Our portrait session with the current Lord Lieutenant was very informal and has The Alnwick Garden as a background… and the Lord Lieutenant is Her Grace, the Duchess.

Friday, early morning, and we arrive at Raby Castle.  Access via the portcullis, following the sit-upon gravel-raker as it makes the already pristine pathway even more “formal”, we are taken into the private heart of the Castle, up stairs and along a wonderfully illuminated corridor to a door at the end.  There, in a comfortable room with a spectacular view over the deer paddock, is The Lord Barnard.  Though ninety years old he greets us warmly, obliges us by sitting where asked and turning this way and that.

Standing back and observing the shoot three factors leap out at me: Lord Barnard’s eyes are very alive; they miss nothing.  I notice his hands: long, fine and still.  They hold a stick, his favourite it transpires.  A hound’s head has been carved into the natural curve of the handle.  It has the patina of age and from much handling.  Both man and hound’s head become powerful elements in the photographs as both Lord Barnard and photographers settle into the shoot.

Relaxed in a comfortable linen jacket, The Lord Barnard is the epitome of casual sophistication.  Man and jacket are a partnership.  Allied to the hound-head stick, the whole is a personification of the man and the context.  The room and the man, and the very feel of things from the stack of magazines to the family portraits and the flowers on the round, Georgian table have the feel of a world apart, a well-loved, well-lived life.  This is the man as he is.  Vanity has little part in his life.

An easy chair is placed next to his laptop. In one corner are a couple of CCTV monitors.  Nothing is allowed to escape his interest…

We retire after a short while… rather more than our allotted time.  The images we have are good.  In fact, several have been submitted to the National Portrait Gallery for consideration by their September Assessment Panel.  Once more, the kindness and generous spirit of North Eastern people have gifted us with photographic gems.

John Cogan

Posted in Essays

Launch of our Website

from John Cogan ARPSThe Portraits from the North East website goes live! Thanks to Darren Pratt and the Team we can now share this exciting photography project with you and the wide world.

 The website covers all aspects of the Project from who we are to what we’re doing and how we do it.   Our HOME page has all the various metaphorical doors that lead to these sites within the site.  ABOUT describes our mission and there is a link to “The Story So Far” which shows an illustrated list of those already “in the can” for the exhibition.

 Welcome to the BLOG.  This part of the site is our way of keeping you up to date with what we are doing and how the Project is developing.  Hopefully, we will give you a chance to inspect the minutiae of how we work and who we work with.

 Go to our TEAM page to get to know we are.

Behind the scenes

 Go to GALLERIES for behind the scenes pictures and just some of the portraits


Behind the scenes 2

 Go to CONTACT to make enquiries and give feedback. We would love to hear from you.

 We hope you enjoy the website and follow our activities with understanding and enthusiasm… Thank you!

Posted in Web Site Updates