Here’s PART 2 of when Linda Hampton met Jill Reidy, one of Blackpool’s talented and prolific photographers and a member of Blackpool Social Club’s team, as she launches her latest exhibition ‘When the Chairs Went Up’ this July.
They discuss Jill’s photographic style and her thoughts on the photographer’s responsibilities at a time of global shift and change. If you’ve not read part 1, you can find it here.
Q: I was lucky enough to see your exhibition ‘Seaside Towns out of Season’ where you had photographed many seaside holiday destinations during the winter. How does ‘When the Chairs Went Up’ differ from that project?
‘Seaside Towns Out of Season’ started off as a documentary project. I wanted to discover how the towns survived during the winter months; how they differed from the way they are in summer, and how they compared with Blackpool, my adopted home town. This soon developed into an unintentional trip down Memory Lane, when it occurred to me I was visiting several places that meant something from my childhood; holidays, day trips and homes of my grandparents and cousins. My projects often start with one idea and evolve organically into other areas. This project was no exception. As I had been feeling unwell mentally before I set off, cafés quickly became important to me as a haven, where I could sit quietly and settle my mind before continuing with the photography.
‘When the Chairs Went Up’ also started slowly and gradually evolved. I visited my mum in London when most public places were still closed. One day on a walk I found myself glancing through café windows, wishing I could stop for a coffee. All I could see were ‘closed’ signs and chairs piled up on tables. Like the seaside project, there was a sadness about these sights. I started shooting through windows, with no particular plan for the images. They were really just for me. I liked the contrast and the reflections. Later I visited Preston and wandered through Cleveleys, shooting through more café windows.
As I had been invited by Simon Wrigley, of the No.5 Café, to display some prints, before lockdown I decided that the ‘chairs up’ prints would be apt for a small café exhibition. I’m hoping that they convey the feelings of desolation and despair that many of us felt.
Q: We are fortunate to have many talented photographers on the Fylde Coast, including yourself. How would you describe your unique style?
Thank you – but I’m not sure I have a unique style. Like others, I’ve been impressed and influenced by several well-known photographers, and similarly, by some current relatively unknown ones. I’ve never wanted to blend in with the crowd, however lovely that crowd is. I like to be a bit different, not just in photography but in every area of my life. I’m not afraid to take risks. Sometimes they work, very often they don’t, but if we never take that risk, we’ll never know. With photography, as with all forms of art, there is rarely anything completely new. Having lived through my three score years and ten, I’ve seen fashions come and go, only to return years later in a slightly different form. Despite this, I’m ever hopeful of finding that new angle, that unusual shaft of light, that unexpected scene. We only have a moment to capture an image, and then it’s gone.
I’m interested in people, their stories and their lifestyles, and I find most of my best work stems from that. My preferred genre is Street Photography, although I often find it quite stressful. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, it keeps me on my toes, and seems that the higher the stakes, the better the final image. It’s a story I’m looking for, in that few seconds of action. My eyes are constantly flicking from side to side, trying to find the ultimate shot, and Blackpool is, of course, the ideal location. Sometimes the end result is planned, more often pure accident. Although Street Photography is my first love, I’m happy to take pictures of anything. If I’m out without a camera, I always have my phone, and, as they say, ‘the best camera is the one you have with you.’
Q: You were part of the amazing RPS 100 Women Photography exhibition at Hive in Blackpool in 2019. What do you think women bring to photography that differs from the male perspective?
This is a difficult question to answer, as I don’t wish to cause or exacerbate divisions, and I do think things are changing all the time. Speaking very generally, I think women are more empathic, especially towards other women and the situations unique to their gender. I also think men and women often see things from a different perspective. Other than that, I think the main reason for women-only exhibitions is to give women more of a chance, and not be dominated by men, in the same way that photography competitions will sometimes invite entries from various minorities.
My hope now is that all photographers, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or colour, can work alongside each other in harmony.
Q: What do you think are the photographer’s duties and responsibilities in times of shift and change in the world?
I’ve thought about this a lot, and I know my own ideas of duty and responsibility have changed over the years. When I first started doing street photography, I felt that most subjects were fair game. The only group I would never photograph was the homeless community, but I was so excited to capture people looking odd, that I forgot that they mightbe offended by being singled out for the way they looked. I now have a very simple rule of thumb: if I wouldn’t like to see myself looking a certain way in an image then I won’t take it. However, for a long term project, if a rapport is built up between photographer and subject, and there is trust on both sides, then it’s a totally different situation.
I think all photographers should have their own ethical and moral code. I certainly do, and I try to stick to it.
When the Chairs Went Up opens to the public, during café opening hours, on 2nd July 2021 at No. 5 Café, Cedar Square, Blackpool FY1 1BP. Upstairs to view.
Jill invites you to contact her for a personal meet up and to view the exhibition which runs for several months.
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