England Observed; John Gay 1909-99

I borrowed this book (England Observed, John Gay, English Heritage Publishing, Swindon, 2009) from my local library. It was not a photographer I had come across before but I found the book really interesting. The book was divided into a dozen chapters, each containing a number of examples of his work in each theme. The chapters were

  1. Portraits
  2. Leisure
  3. Childhood
  4. Animals
  5. Rural
  6. Work
  7. Urban
  8. Modern Architecture
  9. Railways
  10. Cast Iron
  11. Highgate Cemetery
  12. Advertising.

The list above shows the sheer versatility of his works and I found photos I really liked in each of the sections, I will choose one or two of them for the Analysis section of this Learning Log in due course.

Examples of much of his work can be found on The English Heritage Prints website.

A couple of quotes from the book struck me

“Not what you take, but how you take it matters; there is but one correct view-point.”

There could be considerable debate about this statement –is there really only one correct viewpoint for any photograph? I think that perhaps he was saying that the ‘how you take it’ matters far more than the subject matter and that there is, perhaps, one viewpoint that will give the best image of all.

“What is novel today, will be commonplace a few years hence. The photographer of the future will not be at a loss for new problems to grapple with. the amateur is in the van of the experimental army. He brings a fresh mind to bear on a subject and he finds experimenting in photography one of the most fascinating pastimes, for the results are from time to time deeply satisfying.”

An interesting comment written in 1936. There is certainly no shortage of new problems to grapple with. Maybe the comment about amateurs being more experimental in their approach to photography reflected his concern about constraints imposed by clients whereas amateurs were free to follow their own interests completely.

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