300 years of history in one blacksmith shop

300 years of history in one blacksmith shop

I have been itching to photograph the Lewes Forge for years now, ever since I spotted it tucked away in a hidden corner off one of the most traffic-filled streets in town. By the time I got around to it, Ben Autie, the blacksmith, was ill and unable to work. Two years later and Ben is back and the forge is up and running full time again so I arranged a visit.

It was extraordinary to walk through a quiet courtyard and into a building that has been a blacksmithing site for 300 years. The main room has high ceilings and old whitewashed walls and is filled with equipment. Three huge bellows, now redundant, hang high up above the two forges. A large manual drill dating from the 18th century sits at the back of the room.

Two walls are covered with horseshoes, from when Lewes was a town with a racecourse and horses would line up on the road outside, waiting to be shod. Photographs of the former blacksmiths who worked here line one wall. And many dozens of pliers and hammers of varying shapes and sizes hang in convenient places around the room.

The amazing thing is that, although this space is filled with history, it is a living, working forge. Ben is here five days a week, busy with sculptures, weathervanes, furniture and anything else he is commissioned to make out of iron. It is definitely not a museum, it is just a business with a lot of history. You can see the rest of the photos here. You can find more of my photographs of people at work here.

It was a banger of a night

It was a banger of a night

So, the Lewes Bonfire celebrations have come and gone for another year. It was a warm, dry night and the town was buzzing with spectators lining the High Street, lots of fire everywhere and costumed, torch-bearing people marching through the centre. As a photographer, it is a rewarding, but very challenging, subject matter, what with the extremes of light and dark, the continuous movement of the procession and the jostle of the crowds. Then there are the bangers. They are loud, they are very bright, and they hurt if they hit you. (I admit to being a bit scared of them).

Which leads me to my photo of the week of a string of Chinese firecrackers being let off. I am pleased and just a little surprised by it. First of all, the change in light is obviously very sudden when something is exploding, making it difficult to meter for, but also I know I was probably hiding behind other bystanders when I took it. In addition, I am amazed that my camera was able to record something so extreme. What I like most about it, though, is that it captures a moment in time that the eyes cannot see in real life, which is one of the joys of photography. You can find more of my Lewes Bonfire photographs here.

Lewes Bonfire is on its way

It’s Bonfire time of year again

Lewes Bonfire celebrations are just around the corner. The largest Guy Fawkes event in the country is an extremely loud, colourful and slightly anarchic spectacle that takes over the town for one night a year. As a photographer, I find it hard to resist the pull and the challenge of trying to capture the drama with my camera.

I am particularly fond of this shot from last year. I like the sense of intimacy of it. We share the experience of the smuggler who holds up a bandana in protection against the all-pervading smoke, silhouetted by the flare of the exploding bangers. The flames in the barrel are echoed by the burning torches being carried into the distance.

The term smuggler refers to the people who wear the stripy jumpers. Sussex has 28 bonfire societies, seven of them in Lewes, and each one has its own colour combination. You can find more of my Lewes Bonfire photographs here.

If you are in Lewes on Saturday the 10th November, please join me at the Paddock Arts Studios (3 pm at Paddock Lane, BN7 1TW). I will be speaking about my project documenting the transition of the old industrial Harvey’s Depot into a state-of-the-art cinema.

If you have a building project, workplace or event that you are thinking of photographing, please get in touch. I deliver photographs that delve deeper than showing just the surface of things.

How to make focaccia

How to make focaccia

After showing you how to pour concrete in my last newsletter, my lessons continue with Genovese focaccia, made the authentic way at Caccia & Tails, our new Italian deli in Lewes. Elisa, the owner, stretched the dough until it was translucent and draping like an opulent piece of fabric. This was a skilled process that I found fascinating to watch. Obviously my single photo cannot teach you the technique needed to try this at home but it may inspire you to ponder the craft of lovingly-made food.

More photographs from this shoot are here. Proof of my fascination with photographing workplaces can be found here. And this is where you can find a gallery of working portraits.

If you have a workplace, project or event that you are thinking of photographing, please get in touch. I deliver photographs that delve deeper than showing just the surface of things.

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Saved by the bell

Saved by the bell

This week I was contacted about a shoot I did over 25 years ago. The UK Historic Building Preservation Trust wanted to use two of my photos in a proposal for the preservation of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in East London. The foundry had been in operation from 1570 to 2017 and made some of the most famous bells in the world during that time, including Big Ben, the Liberty Bell and the Bow Bells. It is very gratifying for me that my photos documenting this historic foundry are useful so many years later, and may even help to preserve it.

This shot shows a man tuning a large, upturned bell using a tuning fork and wooden mallet. I photographed this in 1991 on black and white film but it looks like it could have been shot any time within the last century. You can see more of my photographs of the foundry here. More of my photos of people at work can be found here.

If you have a workplace, project or event that you are thinking of having documented, please get in touch. Professional photographs are so useful to have now and you never know how important they might be in years to come.

A team effort is required to install windows

A team effort is required to install windows

Another section of my new website is a gallery of working portraits. This week’s photograph shows a group of builders installing plate glass windows onto the exterior of an office block. This is a skilled and complicated manoeuvre taking place high above the ground.

What interests me particularly in photographing workers in any line of business is the fact of documenting and honouring processes that often go unnoticed or become invisible once a project is complete.

Where buildings are concerned, we live, shop, work and relax in them, usually with little thought of the human endeavour responsible for making them possible. I like being able to show glimpses into this world that many people know little about.

More galleries of work environments can be found here, including local food producers and the RNLI on an air-to-sea rescue mission.

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