More From … PftNE Exhibition, The Alnwick Garden

Last chance to see this gratifyingly well received exhibition at The Alnwick Garden in the light and airy Pavilion Room with magnificent views of the world famous fountains – the last day is this Thursday 14th May from where it moves to Newcastle Cathedral

More about The Alnwick Garden is here

Pictured: scenes from the opening event

   Duchess of Northumberland with Bishop Martin Wharton and Northumberland Fire Chief Alex Bennett e  683A8442 e

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Posted in News

News: Portraits from the North East Exhibition – 1st Pictures

A large gathering of PftNE subjects, guests and PftNE photographers were at The Alnwick Garden on Tuesday 5th May for the first Portraits from the North East Exhibition.

In his welcome on behalf of PftNE Dr John Clarke thanked our sponsors Dr Tony Trapp and Ken Whyte for their generosity which paid for the printing of the exhibition, our amazing subjects who were welcoming and more than generous with their time, their long-suffering secretaries and PAs who were extremely helpful and the staff of The Alnwick Garden. Dr Clarke also expressed gratitude to the Duchess of Northumberland who was sufficiently impressed by the idea of the project, not only to sit for us, but to encourage us and to make the very generous offer of an opening in this beautiful setting.

 The exhibition was duly opened by the Duchess of Northumberland. It is fair to say that the work on display was well received by the enthusiastic and appreciative audience.

The exhibition is in the Pavilion Room of The Alnwick Garden and is on until Thursday 14th May.

More about The Alnwick Garden, “The World’s most extraordinary garden”, is here

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Posted in News

Exhibition News: Portraits from the North East opens at The Alnwick Garden

After eighteen months and 15000 photographs, reduced to a manageable 300, the PftNE team of fourteen photographers are pleased and proud to announce that the first exhibition of over 100 Portraits from the North East opens in the Pavilion Room at The Alnwick Garden from 2.00 p.m. on Tuesday 5th May and continues until Thursday 14th May.

The Duchess of Northumberland will declare the exhibition open at 11.30 a.m. on the 5th during a private opening event. If you would like more information please contact John Cogan directly or via the Contact page here

More about the remarkable individuals in the exhibition is in The Story so Far on the About page here

Opening hours at The Alnwick Garden are from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. daily.

Pictured: The Duchess of Northumberland and PftNE’s John Cogan ARPS at The Alnwick Garden

                  John Cogan in conversation with the Duchess of Northumberland.


Posted in News

The Story so Far – reviewed 20th April 2015

The latest additions include:

Lord Walton of Detchant, Dr Kianoush Nazarpour, Dr Richard Kirk, Frank Major MBE, John Mowbray OBE, Susan Winfield and Trai Anfield

Pictured: Lord Walton and Dr Nazarpour on location with PftNE

   20150320 118 Lord Walton  20150313 b 006 Dr Kianoush Nazarpour


Posted in Uncategorized

News: Newcastle Journal Features Portraits from the North East

“Photographic project captures the North East rich tapestry of talent”

… that’s the headline of an article by Sam Wonfor which appeared in the Culture section of the Journal

Sam interviewed John Cogan of Portraits from the North East and tells the remarkable story of the first year of the project, ahead of the first exhibition in May

For Sam’s article and a gallery of PftNE pictures Click here

Pictured: Brendan Healy (shivering for comic effect), Tom Capeling, Julie Ferry with Lord Barnard

  Brendan Healy shivering for comic effect Lord Barnard with Julie Ferry Tom Capeling

Posted in News

The Story so Far – reviewed 25th February 15

Since the last Story so Far update in January we have photographed two Professors from the world of medical research, an author and former Children’s Laureate, a Deputy Shadow Chief Whip MP, a Judge, a Director of a major North East museum, a Chief Fire Officer and a renowned artist

Pictured: on location with Adrian Jenkins, Bowes Museum,  and Prof. Herbie Newell

20150217 183 Adrian Jenkins, Bowes Museum 20150210 013 Prof. Herbie Newell


Posted in Web Site Updates

Glass Walls and Narrow Lanes

by John Cogan ARPS

The venue is Sunderland’s National Glass Centre. Overlooking the River Wear, the wall of glass, allows for an uninterrupted view of traffic and the monstrous red-painted vessel at rest opposite. Stand still and sample the light. It fills every nook and cranny, adds lustre to the pale walls, and provides the perfectly balanced background for our portrait session. It is early morning and the Centre is opening, making ready for the first visitors. Peter Walton and I are there to photograph Marie Nixon. She is the CEO of Sunderland University Students’ Union, is on the board of Music, Arts and Culture Trust and was once member of the Indie Rock band Kenikie. Marie Is a Sunderland girl. She is the perfect subject; sitting with her coffee and listening while we explain the project. Occasionally, she asks a question or adds a comment. Our project has engaged her interest.

The contemporary backgrounds in the Centre are appropriate for this young woman. Fortunately, the bright sunlight of the morning is fading to a paler blue and a layer of fine cloud diffuses the light. Marie’s colouring and this softer light are combinations that provide an ideal photographic opportunity.

The shoot ends and Peter and I leave Newcastle, and travel along the A68 towards Haydon Bridge. Sited high on the valley side overlooking the town and the river is the home of one of the North East’s best loved comedians: Brendan Healy. To reach this eerie we snake our way along single-track lanes, through farmyards and pass solid, stone dwellings. There is something comforting in this raw, rural landscape.

To call Brendan just a comedian is the same as saying Woody Allen is just a stand-up. He started his life in entertainment as a musician with groups such as Lindisfarne. As an actor, Brendan Healy has appeared in many classic television programmes such as Auf Weidersehen Pet, Boon, Spender, Byker Grove, Coronation Street and the Catherine Cookson series, amongst so many others. His theatrical CV includes everything from Shakespeare to pantomime, musicals like West Side Story to comedy plays like Andy Capp. He has written, produced, directed and even composed the music for many more. For West Side Story he even orchestrated the fight scenes.

Performing with John Miles and two years on the road with Lindisfarne merely adds to this entertainment polymath’s biography. Generous, and another subject supportive of the project, Brendan takes us where he knows the lighting will be perfect, and it was. Evening light slopes in from the west, warm and subtle, only partially filtered by the leafless trees that surround us. Brendan shivers and assumes a role, mugging for the camera. The shoot eventually produces two distinct types of photographs: the comic mask and the intimately reflective.

A single day of photography made special by the subjects: their openness, their commitment and generosity brighten the winter gloom. Being a Yorkshireman Brendan found time to joke about a dyslexic Yorkshireman wearing his Cat Flap…. Ah, well! Even that failed to dampen feeling good

John Cogan

Pictured:  Brendan Healy and Marie Nixon photographed by John Cogan

      Marie Nixon at the Glass Centre  Marie Nixon and the white wall in mono

           Brendan Healy through the diamond window       Brendan Healy shivering for comic effect 


Posted in Behind the Scenes

The Story so Far – reviewed 30th January 15

The latest additions include:

  •  Prof. Sir John Burn
  • From the world of entertainment we have Brendan Healy and John Miles
  • From politics we have Lord Jeremy Beecham
  • The poet Katrina Porteous, and the guiding hand behind Side Gallery Graeme Rigby
  • Mike Barton, Chief Constable of the Durham Constabulary and Marie Nixon, once a member of the pop group Kenickie and now part of Sunderland’s regeneration
  • And Gary Bennett, the legendary Sunderland FC footballer

Pictured: Katrina Porteus and Professor Christopher Chinnery on location with PftNE

        Katrina Porteus on location at Beadnell with Joe Grabham (centre) and John Coganfrom right, John Clarke, John Cogan, Professor Chinnery

Posted in Web Site Updates

The Story So Far – reviewed 15th December 14

After a busy, pre-Christmas period we have to report the following new additions to our portfolio:

  • The two founders of the Berghaus brand: Peter Lockey and Gordon Davidson,
  • Ammar Mirza CBE, called by the Journal “The most powerful British Asian in the North East!”
  • Malcolm Gerry, the power behind The Tube and many other musical events… giving us a photo opportunity after a phone call with Bob Geldof
  • Grahame Morris MP for Easington,
  • Mike Tilley, the businessman behind the Newcastle Arts Centre and other developments.
  • Steve Howey, Sunderland-born but played football for Newcastle (and Manchester City)
  •  Jim Montgomery, legendary Sunderland goal keeper and ambassador for Sunderland AFC.

Pictured: the founders of Berghaus

                        Berghaus founders

Posted in Web Site Updates

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