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Thursday, March 9

Inspiration from a book


A slightly battered Nikon FE and a couple of rolls of film - that's
all the fun I need.

Here's a humble little book that sometimes gets me itching to go out with a camera and might do the same for you. The printing isn't of the highest quality and neither, to be honest, are the photographs although they're OK.

It won't look cool on your coffee table and it's not one of those that cost twenty quid when it was new and now sells secondhand for £250 - if you can get your hands on one. It won't make you appear sophisticated if you mention at the local camera club that you've been reading it. And yet the book's concept is one that I find irresistible.

It's the Shell Guide to Photographing Britain by Jorge Lewinski and you can pick up a copy for two or three pounds - sometimes including postage - from the likes of Abebooks or Amazon. What's so special about it then? If you're like me then the most enjoyable part of photography is being in a new environment with a favourite camera, a roll or two of film and time to spare.

This book is your armchair companion revealing new places of interest and offering glimpses of tantalising new scenes and subjects that, if you're in the UK, might well be within reach of an afternoon's drive.


Another good thing from my point of view is that the late Jorge didn't rely on famous landmarks or world heritage sites for his photographs: these are small scale landscapes - the kind you can walk across in an hour or less - and intimate, homely vignettes of charming locations, hamlets and rural life.

There's some basic info about techniques and equipment for those new to photography, a section of "on location' shoots and a gazetteer with suggestions for photographic expeditions of the down-to-earth kind. For instance, one of the on location features is The Trossachs, Scotland's lake district, and little more than an hour's drive from me.



Trossachs church

I should really make an effort to get to know The Trossachs better. I've passed through a few times but the picture opportunities aren't the kind that wave at you as you drive by. There are definitely some lovely landscapes to be photographed but I'd have to do some research first to figure out where to go.

Norfolk fields seen from the church at Ranworth at sunset.


I implied earlier that the photography in the book isn't spectacular and it's not. The book gives me the impression that Jorge was up against a tight deadline when travelling the country looking for subjects. The printing of some photographs is heavy-handed as if he's gone into the darkroom with the intention of producing an ambitious number of prints by the end of the day rather than giving each his best effort. That's maybe doing him a disservice: it could also be a sign of the times since contrasty landscapes were in vogue in the UK in the early '80s when the book was first published.

A field in Norfolk

Weston Underwood in Northamptonshire

Llantysilio Mountains looking towards Llangollen Valley

But none of this matters for me. I've been enjoying this book for about 30 years and still pick it up now and again for another read. Were I able to go back and choose a new career then illustrating and writing travel books like this would be high up on my list.


Every time I flick through its pages I'm reminded that I really was a fish out of water as a newspaper reporter and only wish I'd realised that in time to do something about it. Ah well, maybe there'll be a time machine along in a wee while. Until then, I'll keep writing and illustrating posts for this blog.

Wensleydale, near Hawes

20 comments :

Marcus Peddle said...

It's difficult to make comments on the printing just from seeing pages on a web site, but this is the kind of photography I really like. Well composed, quiet photographs that let me enjoy the world vicariously. I will have a look for this book on the used sites. Thank you for sharing.

Richard Warom said...

Thanks for the heads up on this book Bruce I will also see if I can find it.
Richard

Omar Özenir said...

I share your fondness for books/booklets like these, Bruce. I have some myself. The photography here might not have the "wow" factor, but maybe that's why I like them even more. IMO they are well seen and composed, unpretentious and sometime even witty...love that extrovert cow in "On the farm 2".
The Trossachs pages brought back nice memories, as it is my very first impression of Scotland when I travelled there 15 years ago. I stayed in Aberfoyle and drove up to Loch Achray, climbed the hill between Loch Achray and Loch Katrine and enjoyed the wonderful view. The next morning I photographed on the shores of mist covered Loch Achray, possibly around the same location as Jorge was in the lower picture in "The Trossachs 1" page.
Thank you.

Herman Sheephouse said...

Actually Bruce, you're doing the photographs a disservice - they're rather good, and the printing technique is no different from some of the stuff in such lauded tomes as Ephraum's Creative Elements.

I'll keep my eye open for this - sorry - actively avoid Amazon and Abebooks (same company). Can I draw up my soapbox? Every pound/dollar/euro/whatever spent at the behemoth sounds the death-knell for countless small businesses who simply can't compete against 'destruction pricing'. I'd rather have individuality and choice and somewhere I can browse. Even buying through third party sellers on Amazon, gives them a cut, and also puts the cosh on the seller because of Amazon's pricing structure for postage.

Anyway, enough of me moaning, this is a good little article!

DavidM said...

An excellent little book. A good deal of sense was talked in the good old days before all discussion was usurped by Lightroom plug-ins. (That's not true at all, but the boring stuff seemed less boring then.)
This sort of printing used to be greatly admired. Everyone wanted a "Punchy Print." I believe that in circles where these things are important, the word is now "Impact." Is it something to do with competitions and short attention span? Has the preponderance of colour images necessitated a new word? I suspect that it's also connected with viewing single images instead of photographic essays. (Is there a better word for photographs that are intended to be viewed together?)
Field Marshall Tupcottage speaks wisdom, as usual. On the other hand, I searched for years to find a copy of the third Kai Lung book in every charming little personalised bookshop I encountered. Then I tried the web and my principles dissolved in cupidity...
Now, if you know of a reasonably-priced copy of "English Farming and Why I Turned It Up."...

Bruce Robbins said...

Phil,

No problem with your soapbox. However, I think it's only fair to point out that you sound like Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail. Not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with that. If the dress fits...

Herman Sheephouse said...

I'm not saying don't use the web, I'm just saying try and avoid Amazon - there ARE alternatives (like Alibris for secondhand or Wordery for new) and I know I sound like Meg, but I love that film and you know what, Fox books just sell books, so though the premise of big business utterly destroying quaint individuality is there, at least it is just books.
I mean seriously, have you looked at what Amazon sells? it's bloody everything - and it is completely destroying retail - that's my job, and I am watching it happen. I love small shops - yeah maybe I won't find what I'm after, but like I remind myself, I might well find something else that looks interesting. You can get there quicker on a motorway (sic) but sometimes (most of the time) the country lanes are more interesting.
So when you're dribbling your Amazon gruel, into your Amazon bib in your Amazon care-home listening to your Amazon recommended music on your Amazon headphones, and waiting on your next Amazon cheque to arrive because they had enough money to sort out social services and still make a profit, give a thought to what was lost.

Soapbox done. =

Herman Sheephouse said...

BTW David - most pricing these days is done by software - good luck at finding anything at a reasonable price - have a deco at this and then laugh at the madness.

http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=358

We get this all the time - a CD goes out of stock, software gets a sniff - instant 300/400/1000 % price increase - way beyond anything reasonable. I was amused to learn I'd bought a £8 paperback at superb little bookshop in St Andrews that was valued at £3500 on Amazon . . and who is buying it? beats me. Utter madness, the robots are taling over.



Dave Jenkins said...

I promptly ordered the book for cheap from Amazon (sorry, Herman!). I love books like this. I have owned Kevin McDonnell's books on Kent, Sussex, and London for years and ordered his "Freelance Photographer's Britain" after reading about it on this site. I suppose some might find them boring, but I actually reread them for their low-key pace and the feeling that this sort of thing is what photography ought to be about. (Not a feeling, I am sure, that will be shared by everyone.)

Marcus Peddle said...

Book ordered from Abebooks. I would love to browse in a bookstore but I live in Korea where there's only a very limited selection. Only one dedicated English bookstore (that I've found) and it sells mostly bestsellers. So, it's the Internet for me . . . .
I didn't know that prices are determined by software. That's mental.

DEREK SCULLY said...

I have also ordered a copy using Bookfinder.com to find suppliers. Comment has been made regarding crazy prices online,I found prices from 84p to over £500 plus P+P for a book published in 1982. Used Alibris and bought via a bookshop in Cornwall. Looking forward to delivery over the next few weeks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the story and photographs, all of interest to me. I like the straight-forward, descriptive nature of the photography. Bill

Howard Pan said...

Thank you for sharing.

I like the way he prints. I'm going to explore printing in this style later.

DavidM said...

"One new from USD $113.26" – AbeBooks.com
"Three new from GBP £83.28" – Amazon.co.uk

DavidM said...

And!
"1 neu ab EUR 340,99" – Amazon.de

Herman Sheephouse said...

See what I mean . . because of all the interest and hits being generated by this post, THE BOTS are getting excited. What a weird, f'd up world . . .

Dave Jenkins said...

I ordered my copy through Amazon-US immediately after reading Bruce's post and paid $1.19 plus $3.99 postage for shipment from England. Even cheaper copies were available, but I chose this one because it was rated in "Very Good" condition.

Now, the cheapest copy on Amazon is $11 plus postage, and it is only rated as "acceptable."

Herman Sheephouse said...

Please, if you are reading this, start a quiet revolution against the pricing BOTS - let as many people know as possible - cite that article about the fly book.
The software will also work on the cookies inserted into your browser when you browse something at Amazon. Go on, look at something, then close the page like you're not interested any more, then go back a bit later; quite a few times it will have gone up in price for no reason. Thing is, if you go and clear the cookie from that browsing session where you were 'interested' and the cookie from the session where it had gone up and go back as a fresh search and look again, the price reverts back!
This sort of dodgy dealing really needs sorted out with consumer power - spread the word.

DavidM said...

Out of curiosity, I googled Mr Lewinski.
Here are the URLs of two obituaries. Interesting chap.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/jorge-lewinski-portrait-photographer-who-captured-a-generation-of-british-artists-on-film-779776.html

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2008/feb/13/2

Bruce Robbins said...

Indeed. Seems like he was a good bloke. Disliked digital but liked film and sport. We'd have got on well.