100 Years Of Photography At Newport

Caroline Mardon

November 8, 2012  by admin  •  Alumni

I took the Documentary Photography course between 1985 and 1987.

Before then I was living in Newcastle Upon Tyne post-university, deciding what to do with my life and I spent much time hanging out in a multi-media workshop space there watching Newcastle’s documentary photographers create and print their images. One of them, Tom, ended up going to Newport and suggested a year later I do the same. I applied, have no recollection of the interview, but got on the course in September 1985.

A quarter century later I am a still a working photographer, although I didn’t realise then I’d end up having to re-learn the profession and spend much of my working time in front of the computer. Bring back the days of bits of string knotted at 12″ intervals for our light meters and chats with chums over printing machines.

I remember David Hurn talking one day about the ultimate camera being a small device attached to our heads which somehow linked to the blink of an eye. If we could just take the pictures we wanted like that, the decisive moment would be so much easier and we wouldn’t have to carry all this heavy metal and glass around.

As it is, a career in photography has rewarded me with the freedom and variety of life that I sought. No two working days have been the same. What other profession could give me the privilege of capturing the birth of a child one day, the challenge of photographing a drunk, bolshie film star the next and then being asked to go to Rwanda for the BBC’s Comic Relief?

Alas, there is less work out there now, but the strengths of the course, the ‘crits’ and instruction still echo in my memory, and occasionally I look back at the chinagraph streaks all over my contact sheets and am still reminded to “move lower so you can see his eyes looking at the nail” or “move the camera around until you get the most pleasing composition”….. And so I thank the then HND in Documentary Photography and it’s main tutors at the time – David, Clive, Daniel and Ron for the opportunity of giving me the skills for the professional life I have.

My mother died in May this year, and at her bedside I found myself photographing her hand as I held it. The powerful effect of this medium and of this course knows no bounds. The class of 85-87 knows this only too well after my friend and our contemporary Sharon Chazan was murdered in London by one of her photographic subjects in October ’87, just after embarking on what promised to be a glittering career as a highly talented and successful photographer.

I dedicate my two photographs here to my Mum and Sharon.

I look forward to seeing you all again this October for the exhibition :0)