First posted 25 October 2009
Just over a week ago I found myself in the northern UK town of Bolton. I was there for two days with my university students who were doing a street photography project based on the ‘Worktown’ pictures of Humphrey Spender.
Spender was part of a group of people who were involved in a mass observation project which began in 1937. This was a large scale project which investigated the habits and customs of ordinary people. They observed how people worked, played, interacted and behaved. Their lives were scrutinised, noted, and photographed and this has become a rich archive.
There is a website which explains the project here; http://spender.boltonmuseums.org.uk/
We were given a talk on Spender and shown his original negatives and some of his prints. The students were then instructed to spend the rest of the day walking round Bolton looking for images which were inspired by his work.
I decided to shoot a few frames for the fun of it, as I haven’t done any street photography for many years. We (my colleague Rene Lumley and I) sent the groups off in various directions and went exploring ourselves.
After two full days and four groups of students we returned home and I set about processing my six 35mm films as soon as I could. I had a feeling that I had a few strong images and I was keen to see the results. The contact sheets had many ‘almost’ images, where people had looked away at the crucial moment, or a car had entered the frame as the shutter was fired, but I did get some I was really pleased with.