Week 13 34 Attending.
This week we welcomed several people from Chesham Camera club to join our audience and it was lovely to see some new faces.
Chris Upton presented an inspiring and insightful talk on a project he had worked on for a year photographing the closure of Thoresby mine. The county of Nottinghamshire has had a history of mining which runs over nine hundred years and Thoresby was the second but last mine to close in this area.
Chris explained that his working career had been as a salesman for Mars so to be introduced to a working mine was an amazing experience. He had never seen so much coal dust. He had enjoyed amateur photography for over thirty years and is a Fuji Film Ambassador. When he retired as a salesman, he worked as a Travel and Landscape photographer and showed us some of his work in Santorini, and Death Valley.
After touring the mine in 2014, he knew that he wanted his photographs to reflect the mine and the life of miners which is often harsh, gritty, and raw. He wanted the photographs to capture the sensitivity of the situation. As Chris said he wanted “a series of pictures that would tell a story,” and the choice of a black and white presentation used tone, texture and mood to magnify this and reflect the great history of mining. He urged people ‘not to shoot what you see but what you feel.’
Chris told us that he took time to build a trust with the miners and so for a while “was seen” taking photographs and enjoyed exchanging banter and laughs with the men.
Planning and organisation were essential to this project as its vastness was overwhelming. He made shoot lists and sub lists for the day. He would constantly re-evaluate his work. Chris wanted to make sure he had images that portrayed different days, different weathers and different elements of the mine. It helped him to identify any gaps. He likes the irony of contrasting words to image and showed a wonderful example of a sign on a wall saying “Keep this area clear” which was surrounded by metal trollies in abundance.
Stunning images showed the audience the bleakness of Coal Prep Plant and the Snap Cabin and the humanity of the Lamp Room.
As the project continued and began to expand Chris found himself learning different streams of work. He needed to organise Exhibition space and approached Mansfield Museum and had to research how to publish a book which included, size, paper, publishers and layout. He needed to market the project so contacted newspapers, magazines, social media and he needed sponsorship.
As time slipped away and the final closure date was brought forward to July 15 and the penultimate day arrive. Chris took some portraits of the men who worked at the coalface.
In those final portraits the sadness and loss of not only a livelihood, a history and an identity became apparent. This presentation resonated with the audience leaving a sense of emotion and history that could have been lost if not for Chris’s Project.
Chris ‘s presentation was very moving and brought in the history, the effect on families of the Miners’ strike, the everyday workings of the mine and the end of an era. It was told with powerful honesty and amazing images.
Next Week The Camera Doesn’t Lie (but photographers do) – Guest Speaker Graham Dean
Tuesday December 1, 2020