I’ve been in and out of my local photographic society (or camera club as some call it) for several years. Unsurprisingly, the photos I enter into competitions are unlike anything anyone else puts in, and generally do quite well, although some judges just don’t get them. Fair enough, you either love or hate what I do. One comment that has popped up on more than one occasion is that my work is very similar to Leigh Preston’s. He’s quite well-known in amateur photographic circles, but I’d never seen him speak at our club or seen any of his work, and his website didn’t leave me any wiser.
So, I sought out his book, ‘Shadows Of Change’, which was published in 1993, and while now out of print, it’s still available second-hand. As I looked through the book, I realised that Leigh had been doing in the 1980’s exactly what I’ve been doing in the 2000’s and that’s photographing the changing industrial landscape. It’s odd as he even used similar compositions such as looking through broken windows, reflections in puddles, as well as night photography. And all in high contrast black and white. It’s almost like I’ve been unconsciously influenced by him without even seeing any of his photos!
Workman’s Hut, Stroud Station, Gloucestershire
What I have huge respect for is that Leigh is based in he south of england, and most of the photos are in the north, so finding the locations for these photographs must have been far harder than it is for me. Even more so when you consider that this was before the days of the internet, and so it was a case of using OS maps and turning up in an area to see if the territory matched the map (something I know is often not the case).
As I’ve said before, I often feel that what I’m doing is 20 – 30 years too late, and indeed, many of the scenes that Leigh has captured are now unrepeatable – the collieries are all but gone and many places have simply been demolished or tidied up. But back then, many of the places that I’ve photographed in the ast 5-10 years were just an unexceptional, regular part of the landscape. It’s only when things start to change, or when they’re abandoned or demolished do people start to notice them, and no longer take them for granted.
Mill Gates and Cobbles, Chadderton, Greater Manchester
Click on the picture below to go to Amazon to buy the book!