Monthly Archives: November 2014

One busy week on the Portraits from the North East Project

by Peter Walton

Whilst we wait with patient optimism for the outcome of our Arts Council grant application, life goes on, or should I say… the shutter keeps moving, and we push on researching and photographing subjects for this project.

Last week was as diverse and exciting as it gets.

On Monday John Cogan and I met the incredible Dr Hari Shukla, OBE who has devoted his life to Race Relations. He takes a keen interest in inter faith relationships and is involved with the coordination of a faith leaders group in Newcastle upon Tyne. Hari is a man you can listen to for ages, his enthusiasm and twinkle in his eye made great photography for a man in his 80’s.

Monday afternoon saw John and I photographing Tom Capeling, a local lad done good, after leaving Bede School Sunderland at 16 he rose to the dizzy heights as Chief Fire Officer for Tyne and Wear.

Tom was easy going and good to chat too, this always makes portraiture a lot easier if the subject is relaxed with you and you can bring out their character and a natural smile.

Wednesday took John Clarke and John Cogan to Northumbria Police Headquarters to photograph Chief Constable Sue Sim who was apparently a dream to work with. The two John’s still had smiles on their faces when we met again a couple of days later!

Thursday was the turn of Steve Howey, who as a schoolboy at St Cuthbert’s Primary School in Sunderland was spotted by football scouts that led to a career with Newcastle United, Manchester United and England. Steve now works for the Premier League and the British Council teaching football coaching all over the world. Julie Ferry and I caught up with Steve at his home and enjoyed coffee and a good chat. A really nice guy who was good to work with.

Friday was the day that the two John’s, Jed Wee and I visited Baroness Tanni Grey- Thompson at her home in Eaglescliffe. Tanni spends four days a week in the House of Lords and thanks to the persuasive skills of our leader John Cogan she agreed to see us on Friday. This was such a pleasure and experience to photograph a really nice person who was so easy to get on with.

If you think that was a full week well we’re not finished yet!

On Friday I had a call from Malcolm Gerrie, the man behind the TV shows The Tube, The Brits and the Baftas. He was responding to my letter and was in Tyneside at the weekend. Ian Stafford and I met Malcolm on Saturday at the Dog Leap stairs in Newcastle at his request as that is where The Animals were photographed when they rose to fame in the 1960’s although none of you will remember the 60’s!?

Malcolm used to be a teacher at Ryhope Grammar School, did a stage production of the Rock Opera Tommy at the school, and David Puttnam came to see it, the rest is history.

Malcolm is really interested in the project and has asked to be kept informed. He is a busy man who spends most of his time in London but managed to squeeze us in between meetings with Bob Geldof and Robert Plant. Now how’s that for name dropping!

Things are getting really busy behind the scenes and ‘on stage’ with this project. We do appreciate the work the team is doing to pull this together and especially John Cogan who spends many hours researching subjects and getting in touch with them.

It will all be worth it, I am convinced of that.

Clockwise from top left: Hari Shulka, Steve Howie, Malcolm Gerrie, Tom Capeling, Tanni Grey-Thompson photographed by Peter Walton

   peterwalton Hari Shulka171114_05peterwalton Steve Howey201114_02peterwalton Malcolm Gerrie221114_09

          peterwalton TanniGThompson211114_04peterwalton Tom Capeling171114_05

Posted in Behind the Scenes

The Story So Far … reviewed 22nd November

After a very busy week we have added several very significant people to the exhibition portfolio. The latest additions include: Dr Hari Shukla OBE, Tom Capeling Chief Fire Officer for Tyne & Wear, Sue Sim Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Force and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE. Photographed by John Cogan ARPS

Hari being questioningTom TWFS mono imperious

Sue Sim-8Tanni in profile

Posted in Web Site Updates

A Visit to the Medical School

by John Clarke ARPS

On Friday 31st October the team, Peter Walton, Julie Ferry, Ian Stafford and myself were invited to Newcastle Medical School to photograph Professor Doug Turnbull. He is the leader of the Mitochondrial Research Unit based there. This is currently in the news, due to the exciting work they are doing on some rare but devastating hereditary diseases that are carried by the mitochondria, which are the bits of genetic material outside the nucleus of the cell. Permission for human trials is now being sought in Parliament. The research gives hope to couples who, until now, have been unable to have babies unaffected by devastating genetic disease, usually incompatible with survival.

Professor Turnbull had helpfully arranged a reserved disabled parking space, so we all piled into my car. On arrival we made our way to the unit, where we were made comfortable by the staff. The Prof arrived before our booked time, and had given considerable thought to suitable backgrounds, offering a choice of three. We chose the laboratory and a large poster showing the Departments name with illustrations of the work they do.

The whole experience was made very pleasant by his friendly attitude, and being able to photograph in his laboratory was a real bonus. Microscopes seem a lot bigger than I remember at my medical school. He comes across as modest and self-effacing in spite of his achievements – he certainly tolerated us for as long as we needed and was also able to arrange introductions to photograph other important figures in the North East medical world.

In need of refreshments after our efforts we repaired to the students’ cafe, safe in the knowledge that we didn’t have to tie an absent fellow member, renowned for his old world charm, to his chair to avoid a diplomatic incident with the mainly female medical student population.

Pictured: Professor Doug Turnbull photographed by John Clarke

      Doug Turnbull 3 by John ClarkeDoug Turnbull 1 by John Clarke

Posted in Behind the Scenes

Darwin and the Self-selection of Good People…..

by John Cogan ARPS

An often asked question is: “How do we select our subjects?” Taken at face value this is an interesting question and one that lies at the heart of our Project. However, there is sometimes the implicit suggestion that we are either unfair in who we have chosen or are being unrepresentative. To be fair to those who ask the question we must concede that there will, inevitably, be unfairness in any project such as this. On a practical level, there is a finite amount of exhibition space wherever we display the final “product”. And should we try and be careful and even-handed in how we select our subjects then the project would come to lack the fresh spontaneity it has developed over the months. Besides, many of those we seek to photograph are suggestions from those we have already photographed. And this is where Darwinian evolution takes a hand and an element of self-selection surfaces to dot “I’s” and cross “T’s”.

Ah, I can almost hear you asking (with a justifiable degree of scepticism), is there some biological and evolutionary imperative at work guiding the Project’s hand, advising our collective consciousness? An interesting thought but the self-selection comes not from our practices but from the practices of our subjects. Comparing the number of invitations we’ve dispatched against the positive responses, our “hit” rate is quite high.

Of those who have agreed to sit/stand or generally do something whilst we click away capturing their light on our sensors, there are certain common factors. At this point Darwin raises his bearded head…..

….. take, for example, Jonathan Ruffer, new owner of Bishop Auckland Castle and saviour of the art collection therein. This man is very busy… he has a City business to run, several projects in the Bishop Auckland area to oversee. How can a man with such pressures upon him have time for a quartet of photographers, regardless of what they might profess to be doing? Yet, some of his precious time is offered, and not only time but access to the state rooms of the Castle.

The time between the invitation sent and the acceptance received was but a few days. A time and date promptly agreed and the quartet arrived to be welcomed with smiles from everyone at the Castle… Jonathan’s PA, Michelle, is efficient and excellent in every way. It was she who listened to our submission, evaluated it and passed on our request to her boss. People like Michelle are indicators of the health of the organisation and invariably herald an acceptance. The PA-cum-Secretaries are always our first point of contact. Those bosses who have “Big Hearts” pick PAs with similar attributes… Generosity is infectious and those who possess it generate a positive approach amongst their staff. Every staff member at Auckland Castle we met was clearly involved and committed. The crackle of efficient co-operation, a sense of a shared direction and the pleasure of working within a humane and caring environment was tangible… and that comes from the top!

Jonathan Ruffer is just one of the many who have made this project such a joy to be part of. When we come to collating the images and printing them up for the exhibition I hope the warmth of each and every one of our subjects can be sensed by those who come to view what we have experience.

Pictured: Jonathon Rufferat Bishop Auckland Castle

Dr John ~ Jonathan Ruffer and one of the saved  paintings eTony ~ three of the team sitting with Jonathan Ruffer eDr John ~ Jonathan Ruffer _1 e

Posted in Essays

The Story so Far, 8th November

Latest additions include Professor Douglas Turnbull, Professor of Neurology Newcastle Medical School, Ian Mearns MP, Paul Morrison, Senior RSPB Warden Coquet Island, and Stephen Fitch, Helmsman of RNLI Inshore Lifeboat, bringing the total Portraits from the North East subjects during 2014 to 63

Pictured: clockwise from top left: Stephen Fitch, Douglas Turnbull, Paul Morrison and Ian Mearns

RNLI Blyth Steve Fitch helmsman Doug Turnbull in lab by microscope

Ian Mearns MP Paul Morrison RSPB 1

Posted in Web Site Updates

A Trip to Coquet Island and more …

John Cogan ARPS

Busy, busy…. After the photo shoot with Steve Cram the Project hasn’t had much of a rest. John Clarke (whose silent motorised wheel chair makes him a photographic equivalent of Carlos the Jackal) took a small group to photograph Professor, Dr Douglas Turnbull, top man in the field of neurological and genetic research.

A trip to the closed Coquet Island for Joe Grabham and yours truly meant a boat ride across calm waters, in powerful sunshine, surrounded by male Eider Ducks eyeing up the female Eiders…. The return trip was rougher… The wind had suddenly backed from the North and that made a considerable difference. We were there to photograph the senior RSPB warden… Paul Morrison. This 65 year old bundle of humour and generosity has worked hard with his small team to create an environment that is safe and welcoming to many endangered species of birds… and he was wearing shorts!

Back on dry land, Joe and I travelled to meet Stephen Fitch, helmsman of the D-type RNLI inshore lifeboat. Blyth’s RNLI station covers a stretch of difficult coastline between the all-weather boats up at Amble and down the coast at Tynemouth. Along with the helicopters at Boulmer RAF station, it’s indicative of just how dangerous this stretch of coastline can be.

 The final shoot of this hectic week was the Gateshead MP Ian Mearns. Affable and generous, an MP of some standing. Ian proved not only a willing subject but a willing supporter of the project and gladly provided names and contacts for future portrait sessions.

Once again, a great “Thank You” to everyone concerned.

Pictured clockwise from top left: Ian Mearns, Joe with Stephen Fitch, Coquet Island, Joe with Paul Morrison, Doug Turnbull

Ian Mearns MP 3 Joe and Steve at RNLI Blyth 2 Coquet Island lighthouse

    Doug Turnbull by sign Joe and Paul Morrison 1

Posted in Behind the Scenes