20th. September 2021 – MARTIN COOPER – “Mono Memories”

Our guest speaker last night took us on a trip down memory lane through a number of his photographic trips, holiday and journeys of a great variety. His memory of the places and times is quite extraordinary and he was able to provide an informed and judged critique of each image including his reasons for the post processing method that he had employed in order to achieve his objective.

Winter Cuillin – Martin Cooper

The opening image showed an old upper room at 26 Westgate Street which had been a house occupied by a judge, a bookshop an antiques centre and many others and this image showed a man exiting towards a set of stairs and appeared rather ghostly. This was followed by a typical image from the Banksie “Dismal Land” Exhibition held at the Tropicana, Weston Super Mare which many of us enjoyed. The images, almost exclusively mono, were presented to us, often with their title e.g. Do I look Bovvered, Tuf Guy, Tube Blues, and so on.
A collection taken in Pembrokeshire, the Isle of Skye and Cornwall showing the sea front, were well appreciated, many incorporating the figures at the shore line, as silhouettes, often their positions telling a story. These morphed into the sea and wind turbines, and a possible Antony Gormley statue. A subsequent Isle of Skye photo made the foreshore look like molten lead, very pleasing.
The variation of subjects was interesting, though the speaker is clearly a landscape photographer, we saw a Shetland pony emerging from its stable, the texture and markings of its hide readily fell in line with the mono theme. This was followed by a heavily horned ram, crouching down by a craggy building wall and perfectly balanced with a small unglazed wooden framed window, at top left – the range and precision of textures gave great interest to the image.

“Guardian of the Light” by Martin Cooper

We were soon returned to his much-favoured Scotland, followed by a cave system in France containing a modern abstract statue, with splashing water and an array of textures. Amazingly this gave way to the skyline of London at close quarters with the Gherkin, shoe horned between two glass fronted towering buildings, “fighting for space” and “bursting at the seams” followed by the Imperial War Museum North, so different from the London version and the apparent appearance of the much-favoured building was armour plated. Away to Derbyshire showing wind turbines covered by one spectacular cloud, so well seen. A wonderful view of a huge North Eastern timber mill was presented in B & W and then colour (this showing the juxtaposition of yellow and blue) – the audience were clearly undecided which to prefer.
The textural theme was well explored by the study of a broken rural gate at Cwm Awthin and another on the Isle of Lewis followed by a dazzling sight of the Old Man of Storr on a miserable dreek day, but still managing to evoke passion from the viewer. Martin had invested in a 17 stop filter and showed us images where a long exposure smoothed the estuary view at Weston Super Mare towards Steep Holm further shots along that waterfront delighted us, as we know the area so well. Bridges, lighthouses, piers and out of the way places like Arbroath and Montrose, although apparently dull still show something, a unique set of retractable washing lines. Foggy/misty woods close to the author’s home provide inspiration for the depth of woods and adjacent walls and much texture. A set of snowy scenes, so often difficult to photograph, forewarned us that winter is approaching.

The second half of the set took us once more to Scotland with views of Glen Torredon, which Martin prefers to Glen Coe. Here we saw the peaks of distant hills, vast open spaces, fabulous lighting. Just as quickly back to Arnos Vale Cemetery and the curved central display commemorating the glorious dead in a setting of inherent decay. Who would have predicted our next topic would be Bodmin Jail? High walls showing the structures that would have supported at least three wooden floors and a set of steps going where? Now over to France, Limousin. Back to Gloucester prison and the restrictive feel of so much steel! Cells, toilets connecting walkways and the vertical and horizontal feel of such a place. Onward to Shepton Mallet Gaol, grim and stony with a wide recreation yard, involving a chessboard painted into the flooring, walls bars and coldness.

Checkmate – by Marin Cooper

The author’s restlessness over the years now moves us on to the sea front of Dungeness and two boats tethered to stout cables, who would know they would be decimated in that position by wind, rain and tide over the coming years? And, of course, a nuclear power station. A wonderful picture of a lime kiln by Holy Island, such textures. A desolate coking plant from the recent Wild Wales series completely surrounded by an 8-foot-high fence and lethal razor wire set us the task of finding the way in to see what mysterious engineering ephemera lay here – a dangerous place, perhaps a venue for the future. Dunnet Head, the most Northerly point on the UK mainland, proved an interesting place to photograph a cottage showing simultaneous signs of both care and decay.

“Fence in a Field” by Martin Cooper

Isolated cottages on Lewis and Arran take us to Sutherland and the shameful Highland clearances where evidence of the forced evictions is still apparent to the careful, knowing eye of the astute photographer – the former homes of many who sought a better life in the colonies. The slate mines of Wales have an intriguing history and the vast size of Dinorwig Slate Mine clearly left an impression on Martin and he is drawn to return, having puzzled how to reveal its mysteries, at their best. A visit to the apparently banal town of Lancaster found the decaying Williamson linoleum works. Interior shots revealed the Secretary’s office, workshops, and a factory which gave employment to many in years gone by. In South Wales South of Cowbridge lies a former holiday village, St Athan, created as a holiday venue for the sons of miners by a local benefactor, after 4 visits our speaker reported the overwhelming decay following fires, vandalism and crude graffiti.
Our varied and well observed memorial journey finished with three venues popularly visited by the age group of our members and many of us will have recognised the WW1 Battlefields of France and Belgium, the tragedy of the village of Oradour Sur Glane frozen in time and Auschwitz concentration camp, a complex of concentration and extermination camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II.
For those who might want to view more of Martin Cooper, check out his website at – https://www.martincooperphotography.com/

Martin an outstanding evening – we look forward to seeing you later this year when you are judging our End of Year Competition.

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