Sunday, 29 November 2009

Joe Cornish Exhibition - Newcastle

This one was by invite. The venue was Digitalab in Ouseburn, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
The weather today has been awful so I was quite glad to sit this one out and let my friend take on the driving duties in treacherous conditions, it has to be said. Mind you, travelling in a Nissan Murano along the A1(M) seems like a safe bet in even the worst of conditions, but when you're not paying attention to the Sat-Nav, you're asking for bother. Yak yak yak.

We got there in the end though. Digitalab is situated on Stepney Bank, Ouseburn. They specialise in the production and finishing of highest quality photographic printing. On the premises is a small gallery, which is where the stunning landscape photography of Joe Cornish was being displayed today.

Joe Cornish Biography :
Joe was born in Exeter in 1958. He studied art at Reading University, where he first came under the spell of photography. After graduating in 1980, two years assisting in Washington DC and two years assisting studio and car photographers in London prepared him for a career in mainstream commercial photography.
It never happened. His passion for the outdoors encouraged him first to pursue travel work. A meeting with Charlie Waite in 1986 helped provide both an important and ongoing source of inspiration, friendship and mutual cooperation. From 1986 to 1995 Joe was responsible for either all or the majority of the photography in more than thirty travel books. An assignment with Raleigh International in 1991 was to inspire an abiding love of wild places and wilderness, and ultimately to alter the direction of his work. Around the same time he began a working relationship with the National Trust photolibrary that continues to this day, and this experience has convinced him of the vital role photography plays in inspiring environmental conservation.

Joe knew that his first photographic hero, Ansel Adams, had built his reputation as a landscape photographer by working in Yosemite Valley as a warden for eight years. If London had been a necessary phase in his photographic apprenticeship, it was never going to provide the backdrop for practising the skills needed for landscape. Moving to North Yorkshire in 1993 was a vital first step to fulfilling this goal. Towards the end of 1995, after a frustrating assignment doing travel photography in Greece he made the decision to devote his photography to landscape in general, and wild places in particular. He began this process shooting on the Horseman SW 612 wide-angle camera, but after a year switched completely to 5x4 inch. He has been using various versions of the 5x4 Ebony field camera ever since.

The North York Moors and coast are Joe's personal Yosemite, and other outstanding landscapes of northern England have been a further source of inspiration not too far away. He also has a deep affinity for Scotland's magnificent coast and mountains, and has travelled widely throughout the UK for the National Trust, specialising in particular on the coastline. He believes he must have seen as much of the British coast from the land, as anyone else alive.

Joe has continued to be involved in books, having contributed heavily to many National Trust publications, especially Coast and Countryside, published in 1996. His first book as an author was First Light, a Landscape Photographers Art, 2002, now in its fifth printing. More recently he wrote and photographed Scotland's Coast, a Photographer's Journey, and shot the pictures for Urbino, (a hill town in central Italy) a rare departure into architectural photography.

He writes regularly for Outdoor Photography and Amateur Photographer magazines, and his work has been featured in (American) Outdoor Photographer magazine. In January 2006 Amateur Photographer honoured him with their annual Power of Photography award.

In 1999 Joe started Joegraphic, with designers Joni and Joe Essex, a business devoted to producing a range of cards and calendars. This has since grown and is now developing into Joe Cornish Galleries as a trademark. It includes the production of limited edition prints, two galleries, and embraces a publishing programme that also features the work of other fine photographers.

Joe has given lectures on landscape photography throughout the UK and as far afield as New Zealand. He is an experienced workshop leader, having led tours for Charlie Waite's company, Light and Land for a decade, and also for Inversnaid photography workshops. Photographic companies who work with Joe include Lee Filters, Fujifilm UK, Gitzo and Lowepro.

Todays exhibition was a preview for the main event, 'An Evening With Joe Cornish' which takes place on Tuesday 1st December. Work commitments scuppered any chance of me attending the event and meeting Joe in person, so today's preview was the nearest I was going to get to see the man's work up close for the first time. There wasn't a great deal of exhibits, but what was on display was of the highest quality in every photographic sense. Each image was mounted and framed before being signed by the artist and then promptly priced between £400-£500.00 each! Quite steep you may suggest, but anyone who knows their photographic onions would agree that imagery of such a high standard as this deserves to command such a fee.

Each image had been printed 'In house' using the latest high-end large format printing equipment. As the images were of local interest I could relate to them quite easily, as I'd often walked these locations before, unknowingly re-tracing the steps of Joe Cornish. There were images of Holy Island, Budle Bay, Dunstanburgh Castle and St Mary's Lighthouse. At a quick turn there were postcards of Newcastle Quayside, Angel Of The North and Roseberry Topping. Each one was breathtaking and the bar was most definately set for any photographer wishing to reach the standard Joe Cornish has set.

My friend introduced me to Jill Roe, exhibitions manager at Digitalab. The three of us had a chat about Joe's work and she said how excited she was about the forthcoming event where visitors could meet Joe in person. I told Jill of my own interest in photography and printing techniques before she gave us a tour of the printing studio upstairs. This was a very modern 'State of the art' set-up. I have a large A3+ inkjet myself, but some of these big boys made mine look like an Oxo cube in comparison. Then again, when you're shelling out £175,000 for a printer you obviously mean business. We were shown a large collection of top quality prints in finest detail on a variety of media, including photo papers, canvas wraps and fujiflex.

This was definately well worth a look out. Very much a case of 'Food For Thought.'
In the meantime, why not take a look at the work of Joe Cornish - a genius in his field.
Finally, a link to Digitalab.

Thanks, Ash