British Photographer Gavin Hicks's black and white film
Born and bred in Sussex, England, I studied geology at Sheffield University, leaving in 1979 having just bought the camera which has been used to take virtually all of my film photographs. I have pursued a career in building renovation, photography and as an artist’s assistant to my wife, the painter Henrietta Dubrey, and we now live in west Cornwall with our family.My self-developed black and white films, cover subjects from travel, friends and family and a reasonably wide range of other material which has inspired me over many years. The modern digital age has enabled the dissemination of images previously only shared in print form. My first exhibition was back in about 1985, principally of my Cornish landscapes from that time, gritty self-made prints, in a little café on Station Street in Lewes, run by Cynthia Parrot, and previously run by Pat Cooper who had gone on to open the then new Star Gallery just across the High Street. Most recently, since 2011, I have had the pleasure of working with Penzance based music composer Graham Lynch on images to enhance the covers of his new piano score books ‘Sound Sketches’.
My ongoing aim? To continue in the vein of what I have found my most satisfying photographs to be. That is to say, of, or about, people, whether the subjects are friends and family, or a more documentary nature. Weddings, to mention a specific, are both exciting, perhaps partly due to the stress and expectation bit, and rewarding; it is a real privilege to work with couples on their most important day, and weddings are occasions when everyone is more accepting about having their photograph taken; there is a sense of occasion, and glamour in the air.On a different note comes funeral photography, and here I touch on the issue of “photos I’ve missed”. My mother died nearly twenty five years ago. It all happened very suddenly. We had an elderly father whose needs were suddenly more apparent than any of us had guessed, and there were many, many other priorities. Taking photographs didn’t seem appropriate at that time. The first photograph I missed on that occasion would have been of the unexpected pile of flints the sextant excavated from a hard-won sharp-edged hole dug into the chalk in that little Sussex Downland churchyard. In a very special way this was passionately symbolic of the earth itself, and of the process we were going through. She was a vibrant and much loved figure locally, and the suddenness of her passing served to draw everyone together. At the interment I remember the mass of mourners, the little flint church tucked into the cold north facing hillside on that February day, and most of all the clergyman. Surprisingly, at least to me, in this apparently unassuming place and with the relatively downbeat nature of his parish the padre had taken airs, his sense of place in the Anglican Church perhaps higher than I had expected, and he was wearing the most wonderful black gown and fancy black hat. His garb seemed to enhance the sense of theatre, for a funeral that most important thing, the sense of time passing, the essence of place, so that the event is truly etched into our minds as a permanent mark of life passing. The second photograph which I missed would have been taken from a little way away, encompassing the church, the crowd, and the padre ministering over all, taken against the low winter sun setting into the hill, which would only have served to enhance the sense of atmosphere. Years later upon the death of my mother’s cousin I had the privilege, once I had gathered the courage to ask, to be involved, as sensitively as I could, in making a photographic mark of her wonderful funeral, set in the cathedral at Ely and its surrounds, and I will always be grateful to that arm of my family for their understanding, for making this possible, and I do believe that I did all of us service that day in making a record which now persists. For memory and photography do seem to be intrinsically linked, but we only discover this over time.
Inspirations? Bill Brandt, Henri Cartier Bresson. James Ravilious, son of Eric Ravilious, for his wonderful work for the Beaford Archive in north Devon over many years. Ander Gunn for his interesting and interested work with local artists, places, and the landscape here in Cornwall. Husband and wife Lola and Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and another Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer. And lots, lots more; none of us exist in a vacuum, although we do each have our own view and vocabulary, and therefore our own message.Gavin Hicks May 2013 (minor amendments July 2014)
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