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Solaris Centre shines with Jill Reidy and Chris Beard Photography Exhibition

Cuba by Jill Reidy

This month we saw the start of a new exhibition based in South Shore at the Solaris Centre. I spoke to the photographers exhibiting, Chris Beard and Jill Reidy, to find out more:

How did the two of you come together to exhibit at this particular site?

Chris: We didn’t ‘come together’ as such to put up the exhibition, the fact that we are both exhibiting at the same time is purely down to chance. I asked the staff at Solaris about the possibility of exhibiting some of my images and the earliest available date were November and December. It was several weeks later I discovered that Jill was exhibiting at the same time.  I took a few sample images in to show staff at Solaris examples of my work. They were so impressed that they immediately booked me in again for August 2015 – their busiest month.

Jill: As Chris said about it being a coincidence; I phoned the Solaris about 18 months ago and they said they had a two year waiting list and weren’t taking any more bookings until October 2013. I went in on 1 October and booked the exhibition for the following November. I didn’t know Chris until about six months ago so the exhibition ended up being at the same time.

How did you begin in photography, what’s your background?

Chris: I fell into photography by chance.  A friend’s daughter decided to get married on Koh Samui (Thailand) and her father, who was a wedding photographer, suggested I buy a camera and take some photographs of the wedding as he was participating and wouldn’t be able to. So off I went to Thailand, took a few photographs and when I showed them to my friend he was delighted with them. I didn’t just point the camera at my subject, I tried to introduce a bit of creativity into my images; things like selective focus, capturing expressions or having my images telling stories.

This initial success spurred me on to join a local camera club to try and develop my skills. I entered my first competition within six months of taking my first photograph and came third. I came second in my second competition and then won the third competition.  This gave me confidence to continue experimenting with my photography. Since then I have won a National Geographic Traveller magazine competition, had images exhibited all over the world (India, Denmark, Argentina and Canada as well as the UK). I am recognised internationally for my Damselfly and Dragonfly (macro) images as well as my landscape photography.

Jill: Briefly, from 1969 – 73, I was at art college doing a degree in Graphic Design. I always had an interest in art, design, crafts and photography. After retiring from teaching in 2005, I became more interested in photography, bought a good camera, did a couple of basic courses, and just kept practising. After visiting Havana, Cuba, I became really enthused due to the subject matter. Determined then to get an exhibition and display the prints –  I successfully exhibited in March 2013 in a local restaurant, La Piazza, which is still ongoing. I then decided to contact Corrine at Blott Studios and Artists Collective, with a view to her displaying some images. She loved the Havana prints, put them on display and subsequently invited me to become part of the Blott Collective (which I still am). We had a Blott Collective exhibition in March 2014, which included some black and white images of mine from a series called Passing the Time.

What or who inspires you?

Chris: I am inspired by nature itself, the way the light changes throughout the day and the way the light enhances the landscape, especially at sunrise and sunset. About 30 years ago when visiting friends up in Scotland I came across a print of a famous painting, The Sun Peeps O’er Yon Southern Hills, by Scottish artist Joseph Farquharson. The print wasn’t for sale but I tracked down the manager of the store and managed to buy it from him. There was just something about the light in the painting that I loved. The print has hung on my living room wall ever since and I often reflect on it, how the cold, weak winter sun lights up the landscape.  I always get a shiver down my spine when I look at it. It’s that same kind of emotion I try to portray in my images, I want them to touch people on an emotional level. Rather than my photographs to be just a record where people would perhaps say: ‘I have been there’, I want them to say and feel ‘I want to GO there’!

I find inspiration by using my camera in a creative way, to capture images which amaze and astonish others. eg. my star trails are blends of numerous single exposures taken over 20, 30 or 40 minutes or even hours to show the apparent movement of the stars in the sky over that time period.

Jill: As my work has become more diverse (mainly street photography, but also landscapes, seascapes – anything that makes me stop and think, wow, I have to capture that!) I am inspired by many street photographers, not just famous ones such as Henri Bresson, Bruce Gilden, Eric Kim etc, but also those who are mainly unknown but very prolific via social media etc. What inspired me more than anything, in the past year, was visiting an exhibition of street photography by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr. I was totally blown away by what I saw (and I hate to say it, but I’d never heard of them before).

I think I’ve basically always just ‘done my own thing’ and only afterwards have I looked at what others have done. Although inevitably influenced by other artists/photographers, I still like to try and do something that others haven’t done – an unusual subject matter, a different angle, a change of direction, an unexpected crop etc. I’ve never really liked to follow the crowd. As Chris said, the light in an image can make all the difference. Late afternoon in Autumn, the end of a hot summers day, snow, overcast skies, thunder – different lights but all create an atmosphere or ambience. I try to combine these various aspects of light in my pictures, regardless of whether they are simply scenes or contain people. Living so near to the prom, I often find myself running down there (more than once in my slippers) when the sun is setting or if there is a particularly dramatic sky, just to catch the light.

What’s next for you both?

Chris:  I will be exhibiting work at Lowther Pavillion cafe during April 2015, the Lytham Arts Festival during July 2015 and then again at Solaris in August 2015. I am also investigating other venues in which to exhibit a selection of my images.

As for future photographic projects, I have teamed up with another top local photographer and we are going to be photographing high end weddings with the emphasis on top quality, creative images. I also plan to build up a collection of winter landscape images. I have scouted out several locations in the Lake District, all I need is the weather to cooperate.

Finally, a very exciting project I want to work on is to build up a portfolio of creative, high speed action sports images. I took some images of skateboarders on the Comedy Carpet at Blackpool earlier this year, using high speed flash, that were very successful. I now want to expand on this and find some local sportsmen and sportswomen and also sports teams to set up some unique action images. If you are a sports man or woman or with a local sports team and would like to get involved please contact me at [email protected].

Jill:  I am loving what I’m doing at the moment, which is a combination of street/landscape photography, photo shoots (families, children babies, events) and exhibiting. I have another exhibition booked at the Solaris in March with Dawn Mander, my partner in Two Old Birds with Cameras, which will probably focus mainly on street photography. We are trying to organise a pop up exhibition in February for a display featuring members of the LGBT community, entitled Inside Out. We had a great time earlier this year, photographing volunteers for this. Unfortunately we have been let down twice with spaces to exhibit, so our subjects have had to be supremely patient. We have everything ready to go, so hopefully the space we’re hoping for will materialise.

I have a collaborative exhibition booked with a friend and fellow artist (painter) in November 2015, entitled Reflections, Reverie and Real Life, at Lytham Heritage Centre. This will be two collections, one photographic and the other paintings, both under the same title. I have just heard that some of my work under Red Snapper Photography and some of the work by Two Old Birds with Cameras is wanted for display in a pottery shop in Chorlton, Manchester. I have also been asked to display at R-Space in Belfast, N Ireland, and I’m just in the process of working out the logistics. I have lots of ideas and plans for future photographic projects, both with Dawn Mander and independently. At the moment there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

The exhibition at Solaris runs until 19 December.

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