Club members probably anticipated seeing images from some hidden corner of the UK showing a range of former dwellings, long since forgotten, being reclaimed by nature. Instead, we were introduced to James Kerwin, an exciting former event manager and very thoughtful photographer and inveterate traveller with a completely captivating talk that took us to places which we have only heard of through conditions of war-torn strife.
We started in his home City of Norwich and first got the flavour of a much-travelled man, having visited SE Asia, Australia, Japan and, importantly, former Eastern Bloc countries. There is something of the intrepid explorer in his character and clearly an ability to easily meet and interface with people and, importantly, to learn from them. During a visit to continental Europe, he described a journey with a group of photographers, and a model, and they adventurously paddled across a lake to access an underground smoking room, although the owner did not welcome any intrusions what he saw there whetted his appetite.
The feel for photographing older properties, and a change in employment status, now saw a business-like approach to his world of the professional photographer. More journeys to Southern Belgium and a dilapidated girl’s school saw the opportunity to develop skill in this particular genre creating mood and carefully composed images from virtual chaos. James will not accept the banal HDR photograph but is always searching for that slightly different and more remarkable shot. On location later in Bulgaria at the Buzludzha monument, a snow covered former cultural centre, here he described his target image, the wider discovery of the site, the decline and eventual start of its restoration – so fascinating.
Interestingly, at this time, 2015, James sought to extend his knowledge and learnt with Mike Kelley to understand colour management to extend his skill in creating more unique photographs. Virtually anywhere in the world James has discovered declining beautiful mansions and other buildings which are in need of saving but can’t, usually through financial reasons. This makes him more determined to preserve their existence through our art. We were delighted to see many wonderful images and each were described in detail. Moving forward we see in 2017 James’s next project Domum Dei (House of God).
The decline of religion within so many societies natural leaves, in its wake, those outstanding buildings where the faithful attended but which are now abandoned to their fate. His research has found ideal locations in Poland, Germany, Italy and many more, even chapels attached to private dwellings and we were fascinated by a North and South view of such a place with wonderful stained-glass windows, our speaker admitted to being blown away by the spectacle.
A concise description of his equipment and why each item was chosen was included at the end of the first half of this talk.
We now enter the period 2017 – 2018 in this amazing story moving from Portugal to Romania and back to the amazing Fruit Auction rooms in Liverpool – who knew? We now see a significant move to the Black Sea region as James engages in a wonderful exploration and, indeed development, of these stunningly beautiful countries, whose reputation does not do them justice. He is now committed to being a full-time photographer, with a professional approach to ensure a range of different income streams. He is clearly blown away by Georgia and carried out detailed research and investigated off the beaten track. He describes the region as low crime rate, beautiful villages, wondrous cloud inversions, medieval architecture, welcoming people and a growing tourist industry.
The capital, Tbilisi and another major towns, in the Caucasus are modern, with German influences, old as well as renovated areas, wine growing regions, excellent walks, plenty of accommodation, free walking tours and much much more, James is seeking to work with the local authorities to improve this region and his principle is very inclined to giving back – this attitude is almost unique in the modern era where the predominant style is to take away as much as possible.
James entire presentation was exceptionally well prepared and presented. His professionalism was epitomised by supplying us all with a handout of “Links and Resources” containing notes and references that were mentioned in his talk. He also urged anyone on the call that had more questions to contact him on his Facebook group.
All of SYPC look forward to seeing James again with another of his outstanding well researched talks.
For more information about James and his photography his website can be found at – https://jameskerwinphotographic.com/