Thursday, July 29, 2010

Brilliant Blackpool photography book

NOTE: A special treat for my readers – this text is the first-draft introduction for my next book which is provisionally entitled Brilliant Blackpool. This image is the first draft for the promotional flyer.

About Brilliant Blackpool

Why do I take photographs in Blackpool? Do I enjoy taking photographs in Blackpool?

Like many people, whenever I visit Blackpool I take my camera. On my first few visits I took snapshots. I came away with images of the tower and of the bright, garish signs.

I began to think differently about the resort when I worked as a casual sub-editor for the local newspaper – the Blackpool Gazette - for 16 months, between May 2004 and September 2005.

The chief sub at the time, a lovely lady called Linda Chatburn, lived on the other side of Lancashire and remarked how different it was working in Blackpool because ‘the people here will talk to the paper about anything, it’s not like that in other places’.

Sometimes during my 40-minute lunch-break I would drive close to the Golden Mile in search of a chippy. In winter, I would often go to one a few streets behind the promenade amongst the many run-down shops which are best described as selling cheap tat.

I began photographing the streets of Blackpool at that time, but it was not until shooting my documentary project on the smoking ban in the summer of 2007 that I turned my focus on the town’s people.

Of course, photographing people in Blackpool does not necessarily mean you are photographing Blackpool people. The resort, though run down and nowhere near as popular as it was in the 1990s nevermind the 1970s or 1950s, still has a staggering number of visitors, even out of season.

A Premier League footballer once told me how much he loved a weekend in Blackpool. With all his money, his regular holidays in Dubai, with all the top-class hotels he stays in with his club, he still prefers to spend his free time in a slightly-soiled B&B, drinking flat beer out of plastic glasses which glow under ultraviolet lights.

What is wrong with him? What is wrong with these people who come here?

Really, I should not be asking these questions, least of all in the pages of this book I have just reproduced. But listen, I know I am not alone in thinking this. However, I also know that many others disagree with me wholeheartedly. They still come, old and young, every year. My Uncle Ted came here from Durham twice a year for 25 years. People love this place.

It can be hard to photograph people in Britain. Unless there is an obvious occasion, like a parade, people do not ordinarily want to be photographed. In Blackpool, the self-proclaimed party capital of Britain, there is always an occasion. It is always someone’s birthday party, someone’s stag-do or someone’s holiday. Sometimes it’s just a weekend break for no other reason than to get mindlessly drunk.

I am as fascinated by the resort as I am repulsed. I go there on Saturday nights when I should have better things to do.

Occasionally I get criticised for showing the resort in a bad light. The council, always eager to promote the resort, have no use for my images. I promote the wrong kind of image. All I can stress is that, like all of my work, I do not seek to mislead or misrepresent. All I do is document the things that are going on - and there is a lot going on in this town.

I choose to photograph Blackpool because I like to. Perhaps I actually like Blackpool, perhaps that’s my secret. This is not an attempt to discredit the resort, it’s an attempt to give it credit for what it is.

Garry Cook, August 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mountain biking in La Plagne

I remember when I was a kid being mesmerised by photos of mountains while flicking through photo books and watching old movies.

The Alps in particular held a particular fascination, whether it was their serene snow beauty in winter or their green lushness in summer.

I dreamed of being in the Alps. I dreamed of living in the Alps. I still dream of living in the Alps. At the moment, I live in Preston.<o:p></o:p>

It took me until the age 34 to set foot in the Alps properly when I was visited la Plagne in the winter during the 2008 Telemark World Cup. A year later I spent a week skiing in Argentiere, also in the French Alps.<o:p></o:p>

And earlier this month (July 2010) I returned to la Plagne for a summer of view of the magical mountains and fantastic forests.<o:p></o:p>

I was asked to write a travel feature on the resort, which included two superb days of mountain biking.<o:p></o:p>

A mountain expert called Bruno Chavard – he skis and cycles – took me from the snow-covered peak of Col de l’arrete to the barmy valley floor at Plan d’eau de Macot.

I can’t tell you how good Montchavin, Les Coches, Belle Plagne, Plagne Bellecote and all the other villages that make up La Plagne are.

I stayed at the Hotel des deux Domaines run by Esprit. It was immaculate, it's staff were fantastic.

This place is just like I remembered from when I was a kid.<o:p></o:p>