Monday, 7 November 2011

Paul Floyd Blake


Our latest exhibition features Paul Floyd Blakes photographs and I thought you would like to get to know him a little better.

We have a history, Paul and the ACE! Paul came and took part in a project we ran when we opened the building back in 2009. Paul took photos of people in Nelson and then we had them on display in the ACE for about 6 months.

Do you remember?
ACE Centre reception in 2009

This was also the year that Paul won the

National Portrait Gallery's
2009 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

Well done Paul.

And now... we welcome him back with the exhibition 'Give us a sign' and I did talk to Paul about himself and his work as we hung the exhibition.

I asked Paul where it all began for him. He told me a story...

"When I was 13 years old, my mum came home and told us we were going to Ramsgate in Kent for a holiday. This was our first ever holiday and we were beside ourselves with excitement. The train journey alone had us in raptures and the thought of a two week holiday too was almost too much. It was a brilliant holiday, where even my mum and dad got on well together and were happy. I took a photo of Ramsgate over the harbour as the sun was setting. When we got home the photo brought back all those memories and it was the first time I realised a photo had the power to change your feelings."

We did have quite a wide ranging chat about Paul and his work; he says he is sometimes pigeonholed as a portrait photographer, because of the prize (hmmm, should I maybe have mentioned that later?) but he loves to mix up his work, for example by taking landscape pictures. Paul doesn't go out with a set image in mind, he is looking for a bit of magic, the elusive x factor.

Paul thinks of himself as a social-documentary film maker and takes pictures which are an accurate record of what is there. He composes his photo carefully and this is why Paul likes to use film as you have to think about what you want, compose carefully and then take the picture rather than snapping away.

Paul does still use film cameras and usually uses natural light and works with what is there. I asked him what his essential out and about kit was; his camera, a light meter and a bit of money. That's it!

Give us a sign, the current exhibition is a collection of signs outside churches, mostly hand-made. I asked Paul why church signs?

Paul explained that he was in college when he took the first picture, 'Use god as your steering wheel' was taken in 2004 as "it tickled me" and then Paul saw more and then he thought this would make a good project. He liked the home-spun idea, the thought of the vicar sitting there scrawling away to make them. Now Church signs are nearly all done professionally so it was a moment in time that has passed. A Heath Robinson type moment. (If you don't know what that means click here).

The project started off with the humour in the signs as the driving force but as he started to accumulate them he found the pathos there too, the signs started to look a little forlorn and he started to realise the way the churches were struggling to keep pace with the instant gratification of today. Paul has now taken over 100 of these images and says the messages have more impact for him as he collected more photos.

Furthermore, the signs are now more boring than they were and Paul thinks some of the magic has gone. Plus a lot of churches have been re-developed, and these are the churches still standing.

I asked Paul how he found them; was it just wherever he went or was it planned. Paul said mostly planned and mostly in the North of England apart from the odd one from London or Norfolk from his holidays. Paul would grab a friend and pick a place and buy an A-Z. He would then plan a route around to include lots of churches and mark each one off with a highlighter pen as they were done.

I asked about using film, sometimes you don't get what you expected or imagined and how Paul reacted to that? Paul likes the waiting, it's exciting for him and there are usually a couple of images that he can't wait to see how they turn out. Sometimes he is wrong too; expecting a good one and it's rubbish or being really amazed by one that he didn't think would be full of magic. I asked if he went back to re-do any? He says not often, occasionally he has if it was a technical error but on the whole Paul is trying to capture a moment and when it is gone, it's gone.

Here is Paul putting up the exhibition.

Paul Floyd Blake

Thanks for talking to me Paul, and if you want to find out more about Paul, check out his website, next up I will post pictures of the exhibition.

Ta Ra


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