Saturday, 27 July 2013

Faded Memories and Retro Chic

Hello everyone,

You may have noticed that, as part of our current exhibition, 'Funpark', we have been exhibiting photography in the gallery for the very first time.  Although this is a bit of a departure for us, the decision was made really easy by the quality and the beauty of Leeds-based photographer Natalie Liddle's work.  In fact, her photographs are an integral part of this exhibition - it would not be so coherent or successful without them.

Now I don't pretend to know a huge amount about photography, but I do know how much impact these photographs have.  Natalie found a box of 35mm slides of the Skegness area, taken by her Grandfather in the 1960's, and they have inspired her to take some images of the area herself, giving a more modern perspective of the area.  Using a traditional, analogue camera and film that is hand printed, and layering it with her Grandfather's slides, Natalie Liddle has created the most wonderfully evocative images, warm with nostalgia yet with a hard edged, contemporary feel to them.

Take a look at this:

'Wild River', medium format, C type photograph, by Natalie Liddle.

And this:

'The Big Man', medium format, C type photograph, by Natalie Liddle.

I love the fact that beneath the 'big man', there is a beautiful little image of Natalie's own big man - her Grandfather.  Very clever.  I also love how these images affect me.  When I was a young lad (admittedly in the 1970's and not the 1960's), my Father used to take us to the funpark at Butlins at Minehead in Somerset, as a treat every now and then.  I'm sure that it was all pretty small scale, but it was exciting and I confess to remembering those days with a hint of warm nostalgia.  Natalie's photographs immediately made me think of those trips especially as, along with much of what is in her Grandfathers slides, the funpark at Minehead is now gone (although the Butlins still exists apparently).

Natalie Liddle describes this work as as play on faded family memories and questioning the evolution of our fading British seaside towns.  For me, it fulfills its brief to perfection: you really should come in and see it soon.

A Special Footnote:
Last time I saw Natalie, she had this camera round her neck:

This is a Diana camera, made in Hong Kong almost entirely of plastic (including the lens), and largely given away with magazines in the 1960's.  These cameras may be beautiful pieces of retro chic, but they are also famous for being not very good!  Apparently they don't fit together very well, so light always gets into the film and distorts the image.  However, a by-product of this seemingly calamitous defect is that they can produce fascinating, if rather unpredictable, images.  Natalie regularly works with this camera, producing beautifully corrupted photographs.  I just thought it was a really interesting development for a very cool-looking, but fatally flawed product.
There's hope for us all yet!


  1. Thanks for posting this A and R. Natalie's images definitely caught me. Davy K from the local lifeboat has been recording life around here with a Diana for some time. The edge burning and overexposure are wonderfully evocative of pre-digital lost innocence. Keep going Natalie, use bin liners to unload film, and keep broadening those Union Gallery Horizons!

    1. Thank you A & R and Peter for your kind words.