Not all photographs are good photographs. These days we get instant results from our digital cameras and smartphones, and those that are out of focus, under-exposed or decapitating the heads of relatives, can be instantly deleted. Back in the Film Age, however, the seasons could change between the shutter clicking and the prints arriving. This means that half a century later you come across an old, under-exposed, scratched and out of focus colour slide, and you have to try and make the best of a bad job. The best I could do with this photograph of the old railway sidings near North Bridge in Halifax, is to turn it into a nineteenth century painting.
It’s raining and I’m supposed to be rearranging the deckchairs in my Titanic study. This entails moving piles of papers and old photographs from one plastic box to another and finding more floorspace to accommodate even more plastic boxes. As an exercise this is up there with paint drying, and therefore I waste a ridiculous amount of time choosing a picture for my daily desktop calendar (oh, what a complex life I lead having to make such decisions on a daily basis). I eventually decide on a picture I took fifty years ago of New Bank in Halifax, the little road running from the top of Godley Bridge to the main road below. I realise I can waste even more time by experimenting with a variety of new treatments of the old negative: with vibrant skies, coloured walls and painterly lines. Which one shall I use – I will think about it for a bit longer!
More photographs from Halifax Charity Gala taken in the mid 1960s. At the time, I was hoping to get a job as a photographer for the local newspaper, and therefore I was attending all the local fetes and galas, getting some practice in. I did eventually get the job confirmed, but then changes to the local newspapers meant that I was made redundant the week before I was due to start. All that remains of those times are a few memories and an archive of old negatives.
This is from a strip of six negatives from the mid 1960s. The photographs were taken, as far as I can remember, at the Halifax Gala in Manor Heath. I may have featured some of these photographs before, I can’t remember, but they are probably worth a second outing. The first of the six photographs features a wonderfully home made skittles alley and a rather professional looking bowler, out to win a prize.
We hear a lot these days about the changing nature of town and city centres, but the centre of gravity of our conurbations has never been static. I took this photograph over fifty years ago from the waste land at the bottom of Woolshops in Halifax. Widespread demolition had already swept through the narrow streets, terraces and workshops of – what was traditionally – the heart of the town, leaving vacant lots and uninterrupted lines of sight to the town abattoir. The retail footfall rarely got down this far back in those days, preferring the wider prospects of Commercial Street and the like. And then things changed: development came, new stores and car parks were built, and the abattoir and cart would more likely to be the name of a rather select bar than a description of what could be found outside.
This is a photograph I took 55 years ago, looking over Halifax from – I think – Bradford Old Road. This is not just Halifax, this is my youth. Part the smoke fuelled clouds and you can see my school, the streets I walked down, and the parks I played in. Walk up the hill and look north and you could probably see the village I grew up in. The washing on the line, the spires and the chimneys, the black and the grey – they are all part of my youth, my Halifax.
Geologists sometimes date rocks by reference to seismic events, mass extinctions and the like. I tend to do the same with my old photographs. This photo of Halifax Borough Market fits into the pre-decimal period which means I must have taken it over 50 years ago.
The line went from Halifax Station to North Bridge Station via the Gas Works. At one time it carried people and goods to exotic places like Ovenden and Queensbury. It was closed in the 1950s and, thirty years later, the solid stone structure was demolished. It had become a bridge too far.
These days you can get Artificial Intelligence to add colour to old black and white photos, but if you tried it with my picture from 50+ years ago, it would never get it right. It would make the grass green when, in fact, it was a dirty seaweed colour, the stone would be rich and warm when, in fact, it had been chocked to death by the soot from countless mill chimneys. Monochrome suits that age of Halifax better.