Photography in the community

Anybody want to talk politics ?

No, me neither.

After a heartbreaking 3 weeks (where terrorists try to divide us and ultimately fail), I’d much rather talk about community and where I believe photography fits in and can help.

Most people see photography as an individualistic hobby or career, where we prefer the company of ourselves to others. Whilst thats also partly true, thats really not the whole story.

When I started off down this particular path, it appealed to me as I could be on my own with my own thoughts, not caring about the passing of time. All I wanted to do was spend time watching the world go by, photographing it and not really wanting to be part of it.

Whilst I love landscape photography and it really is my passion and a huge part of my life, I realised after quite a while that you need to be with and around other people (I’m not including family in any of this, as they are there for you, whatever the circumstances).

One of the biggest turning points in my career and life, was when Jennifer from Aireborough Voice contacted me to say she had liked one of my pictures and would I like to help the group. Somebody outside my family and friends had liked a picture I had taken, a real confidence boost (especially with the battle with depression that was still on-going in my head).

Jennifer is a wonderful person, who I have all the time in the world for. She gave me the confidence I had been severely lacking and that maybe (just maybe) this career path would work.

She opened my eyes to Aireborough and it’s people, my people, my friends.

So where does community come in to this ?

Aireborough is a beautiful place, in a wonderful part of the world.

However, the real beauty is the people that live here and that make the place special and make it what it is. The community spirit really brings the place together.

I initially thought that photographing the area was enough. It didn’t take long to realise that we needed more than just ‘pretty’ pictures of the area. The idea was then to start photographing the people and the community. We needed to capture the character of Aireborough.

Talking to people (something I found very hard to do), really does explain (to me) what the area means to them, why is it special and ultimately why do they choose to live and die here.

As an example, I wasn’t aware that taking a photograph of the Elephant Trees, would provide such talk, such memories. It’s just a bunch of trees I thought ?.  How wrong could I be.

People get engaged there, people have their ashes scattered there and it’s a sign of ‘home’ for a lot of people.

I have met some fantastic and very passionate people. Above all, the one thing that screams out at you is ‘community’. The selfless act of wanting to help one another makes you incredibly proud and really makes you think.

We now have a well attended and well respected Remembrance Parade service each year. Where once numbers of attendees had dwindled to a handful, now there is hardly a space for people to stand – it’s now getting back into the local papers.

There I met real heroes, George (a young 90 year old) and Ernest (102 ?) through to Elsie Turner, the unsung hero of the Guiseley branch of the British Legion.

George and Ernest (pin ups in my Aireborough calendar) served their community over the years and are fantastic people. Please talk to and listen to what they have to say. Buy them a pint and sit and chat with them – you will learn something.

Helping ‘glue’ all this together is the fantastic David Pickett (and his wonderful team and family). He is (an honorary Yorkshireman) who gets the place and is a beacon of hope and good in the community.

The Guiseley street party is growing year on year and is another fantastic community event (the amount of work by the volunteers in the background is quite incredible).

Jacob and Lucy Phillips (of Codswallop, previously JP Productions), fantastic people (with a fantastic family working hard in the background) who through their love of dance, music and art are helping create a vibrant addition to the Aireborough calendar with the Tales Told festivals, celebrating all that is good about Aireborough.

This is to name just a few people I have met and I have come to love and respect. It is impossible to thank you all by name, but I appreciate each and everyone one of you for what you do for community.

Where do I fit in this picture ?

Very simply, I (and many others) document Aireborough for the community and for future generations to look back on and fondly remember.

It gets people talking, it reminds people that the most important thing is to get out, have fun and just be yourselves. Meet new people, we have a lot in common.

I am very proud and honoured to photograph the Parades, the British Legion, the local events. I love the reaction people have to my photographs.

Now more than ever, communities need, no MUST come together. it’s time we stopped living apart and start living together – regardless of colour, religion, age etc, we all have one thing in common. We are all part of one race, the human race.

Whilst I appreciate, the world isn’t always like that, wouldn’t it be nice for us all to be children again, where we play together, we grow and learn together and we don’t see colours or different languages, we see friends and new experiences.

It’s strange, but I thought I was a landscape photographer and that was it.  The people of Aireborough convinced me that there is more to photographythan that. There is a need to document the area.

I love photographing people (young and old) and it’s a real pleasure for somebody to ask me (and trust me) to document their event (community or family).

Recent thanks to Brian and Pauline for asking me to document their recent Golden Wedding (only finding out later that this was pretty much the only time the whole family can get together).

Stop taking selfies, turn your camera around and photograph the community. It’s a lot easier and I guarantee that more fun and laughter is  created through photographing others.

It doesn’t matter if the photograph is lit correctly, in focus or is badly composed – what matters is that the moment is documented and captured in time.

I do have the best job in the world – photographing beautiful landscapes and community.

Thank you all,

Till next time.