Showing the darker side of life

Morpeth Camera Club

Wednesday, 31st October 2018, 11:37 am
An Image Talks

Morpeth Camera Club welcomed John Race, of Durham Photographic Society, to present Angels With Dirty Faces.

John opened with images of mouldy old boots, chairs, shoes, dirty feet, comical moulting rams, chickens with spiky feathers, mangy mutts and sad horses.

There followed images of a mental health hospital in Denby, with stark, dreary shots depicting desolation and emptiness, disused petrol garages with rusty roofs, abandoned houses on Skye and almost buried cars in Weardale, accompanied by interesting and humorous stories of people he came across on his travels.

Interiors of old cottages followed, with eerie dolls, prams, an old bent bike, cobwebbed bottles on filthy window ledges, yellowing newspapers, a rusty sewing machine, an old settee in overgrown land, and at Tanfield, textured orange rusty chains, nuts and bolts.

Included were storytelling images taken at Eldon Square Armistice Day, then Second World War re-enactment shots of jeeps, tanks, pilots, nurses, lands girls and remarkably realistic battle scenes, together with scenes of the Sealed Knot, English Civil War costume re-enactment.

Abstract monochrome images of silhouetted figures at the Tate Modern, gritty graffiti and murals captured in Glasgow and London, and the alien-like Anthony Gormley figures at Crosby beach were among the varied subjects.

John included atmospheric shots of old fishermen’s sheds at Dungeness, beached rusty ships, decaying lighthouses, boathouses and skeletal trees, following with stunning infra-red shots at Fountains Abbey and Gibside, scenes of Snowdonia with its ever changing light, and a graphic ploughed field with yellow rape seed.

Portraits of the homeless came next, of bearded buskers, sad characters living on the streets, faces filled with sadness, with dirty hands and nails, beggars and down-at-heel characters with expressions of despair, some set against hard-edged graffiti.

There were detailed facial expressions of horse dealers, smoking fishermen, quirky musicians at the Americana Festival, red-faced, spiky haired farmers at agricultural shows and bedraggled horses and mutts at Appleby Horse Fair.

Throughout the evening John had the audience laughing out loud with humorous anecdotes of his experiences with a Blaydon Council steam roller, his strange neighbour who dresses in German national costume, and conversations with characters he had come across whilst taking photos.

Detailed portraits depicted the sadness and despair of people dispossessed, his interiors portrayed squalor and abandonment, his landscapes were dark, moody and atmospheric; Angels With Dirty Faces was a very apt title.

Chairman Mark Harrison thanked John for a very interesting show, after which a selection of his prints were on display.

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