A selection of Twenty of my favourite books and films

Here I’ve selected twenty of my favourite films and books. For me, books and films are of equal importance. They are stories, life experiences, fantasies, but told through through either words on a page or images on a screen. My own story ideas often encompass both writing and moving images. This is just a small selection, listed in the order that they came to me.

2001 illustration1) 2001 A Space Odyssey directed by Stanley Kubrick (film and book)

My favourite movie of all time, I saw it when it came out in 1968 and it had a huge effect on me. I also read the novel of the same by Arthur C Clarke.

2) Dr Faustus  by Thomas Mann  (book)

I read this as an student of German at TCD. Allegory on 20th century Germany focusing on a composer who makes a pact with the devil in order to be creative. Riveting and unputdownable!

3) Der Tod in Venedig / Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (book and film)

Also by Thomas Mann, a novella or shorter story about a man who becomes obsessed with a boy in Venice. Read it for A Level German.  The film, starring Dirk Bogarde  is good too.

4) The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Book)

Reading this inspired me to write. Hilarious and intelligent.  Preferred the book to the TV show

5) The Catcher in the Rye (Book)

A classic piece of literature but very readable and mind-changing. About the troubles of youth.

6) Die Neuen Leiden des jungen W (Book / Play)

A kind of East German Catcher in the Rye, about young Edgar and his treatment by colleagues, relatives and friends. Saw the writer Ulrich Plenzdorf when he visited Manchester University.

A Taste of Honey7) A Taste of Honey (Film / Play)

My favourite local film of all time, based on the play by Shelagh Delaney. Saw the play in Oldham and met  Dora Bryan. I’d still like to meet Rita Tushingham!

8) Double Indemnity (Film / Screenplay)

Classic 1940s American movie about betrayal. Classic film noir style and dialogue. I read the screenplay and it is still electric.

9) 12 Angry Men (Film)

Based on a play, it takes place in one room where a jury of 12 men decide on the fate of the young accused. Riveting.

10) [UFO book - name forgotten]

I was once given the present of a book about UFOs by a friend. Unfortunately I don’t have the book now, and I can’t remember th title. but I remember being captivated by the first chapter, which was about a mysterious and spectacular UFO event. I was inspired to create something in the second chapter of my book Stargirl of the Edge.

Kes11) Kes (Film / Book)

A Kestrel for a Knave turned into a film directed by Ken Loach. Grim, realistic and brilliant. Inspired me to make a short film.

12) Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Film)

One of my favourite films of all time, it has influenced my writing. I love the narrative style and the portrayal of  ‘Anytown America’.

13) Wuthering Heights (Book)

Classic of English literature, as effective for its moody portrayal of the Yorkshire Moors as much as the story.

14) Dubliners (Book / Film)

Vivid pictures of people from different backgrounds, captures a strong mood of Dublin in times past.

Christane F Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo15) Christiane F. Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (Film / Book)

The shocking story of a girl caught up in drugtaking and prostitution in Berlin in the 70s. I watched the film and read the book. I lived in West Berlin from 1979-80.

16) Tess (Book / Film)

By Thomas Hardy, a classic portrayal of the beauty of the landscape and of the woman, Tess. I enjoyed the movie too.

17) La Modification (Book)

Groundbreaking novel about a man on a train travelling between Paris and Rome, uses unusual time perspectives and disjointed storytelling techniques. Maybe I just liked it because it’s set on a train.

18) L’année dernière à Marienbad (Film)

A bizarre, dream-like film set in a palace, disjoined, incoherent, pretentious perhaps, but visually fascinating. In French with English subtitles.

1984 George Orwell cover19) 1984 (Book / Film)

I read the novel in 1984 and watched the film. Utterly riveting, shocking and a fairly accurate prediction of what happened in the Soviet Union and East Germany, which I visited in the 70s and 80s.

20) The Singing Ringing Tree (Film)

A fairy-tale in the style of Grimm turned into a film for children. Made at East Germany’s DEFA studios in the late fifties, it had groundbreaking use of colour and special effects. Its weirdness and foreign mystique had a deep effect on me and my generation in the UK. Available on DVD.

Manchester Architecture canvas prints – a unique artwork

8 Manchester Architecture canvas prints

This set of eight canvases on the theme of Manchester Architecture was created in 2013 as part of a special project. I needed to express the idea of architecture in Manchester, old and new in the form of tall, narrow images.

In each image, I placed an example of modern architecture on the left and traditional architecture on the right. This is quite different to how I normally take buildings, with the camera aligned in horizontal orientation.

In Photoshop, I juxtaposed a number of buildings, famous and not so famous, with a blue sky in between, except for one image.

The buildings featured in the images are:

111 Piccadilly (former Rodwell Tower, built 1962) and the chimney of Murrays Mills Ancoats, built around 1800.

Residential apartments Spinningfields (2000s) and City Police Courts Minshull St (c1870)

Former Daily Express building (1939( and Brownsfield Mill (1825), both on Great Ancoats Street

The Civil Justice Centre (opened 2007) Spinningfields and Brownsfield Mill, Great Ancoats Street

The new Co-op building, One Angel Square (2013) and the Albert Memorial (1865)

The north east corner of the Corn Exchange (1905) and the Urbis building (2002)

The corner of the Athenaeum, Princess Street (1825) and Urbis

Manchester town hall (1878) and the CIS tower 1962

The Corn Exchange and Urbis image is the only real life juxtaposition. In all the other images I placed the two images together in Photoshop.

I produced a larger set and a smaller set. This larger set measures 1 metre 30 by 40 centimetres. After keeping the canvases in storage for a year, I put them on sale in mid-2014.

I am very proud of this set of canvases but they are not suitable for the average home! They would look stunning in a large home or office.

For the price and purchase details go to www.aidan.co.uk/canvasprints/

Obscure fact about photography: There were cameras in the Middle Ages!

We may think of the camera as a modern invention, but not many people know that cameras were used in the Middle Ages.

View from the Window at Le Gras

It’s speculated that they were used secretly, as those who used them didn’t want the wider world to find out about them.

These cameras were used to make amazingly detailed and vibrant images, many of which can be seen today.

Just like today’s cameras, these ‘secret’ cameras of the past consisted of a light-tight chamber, with a lens or pinhole at one end and a surface at the other end on which the image was captured.

What sort of camera am I talking about? Okay, I’m not telling the complete truth here, actually, these cameras didn’t use any film, light sensitive materials or image-fixing agents.

The only light-sensitive agent was the artist.

The camera I’m referring to is the camera obscura, a device used by artists in the Middle Ages to make accurate pictures.

And actually, they were used beyond the Middle Ages, up to and beyond the invention of photography and they are still used today.

There is a camera obscura at the museum of the same name in Edinburgh and the world’s largest is in Aberystwyth.

In Latin, the word ‘camera’ means ‘room’ or ‘vaulted chamber’ and obscura (ending with an -a to agree with the feminine gender) means ‘dark’, let’s say ‘darkened room’.

The large size one was the size of a room, a kind of light-tight tent, and could be set up to look out onto a view. Inside, a picture would be projected from the small hole or lens at the front onto the rear wall at the back.

The artist would then trace over the image and obtain remarkably accurate – almost ‘photographically accurate’ – sketches that could be used as the basis for a large scale painting.

Artists like Canaletto used this method to do paintings of Venice in the 18th century.

There were also small sized ones that could be carried when out and about. Joshua Reynolds used a camera obscura concealed as a book.

I have always been fascinated by the paintings of Vermeer, which seem to have a photographically accurate quality combined with a painterly softness.

It is speculated that Vermeer used a camera obscura in the making of these paintings.

David Hockney and Charles M Falco came up with the thesis that artists of the past secretly used a camera obscura and that it changed the course of art. That claim is disputed.

I haven’t investigated it but in the case of Vermeer, it seems to be to be entirely plausible.

The artists probably would have kept their use of the camera obscura secret, so as not to be accused of ‘cheating’ and to preserve an aura of wonder.

Around the 1820s, inventors Henry Fox Talbot and Joseph Nicéphore Niépce adapted the camera obscura using light sensitive chemicals and so the modern camera was born. The picture at the top is the world’s oldest surviving photograph, taken in 1825 on an 8 hour exposure.

I estimate that 95% of people don’t know that the word ‘camera’ comes from Latin, ‘camera obscura’. It’s amazing how ignorant we are of the origins of such a basic and universal word, a word used to denote a device we use every day.

I’m a linguist so I’m interested in words! Deciphering obscure words – jargon – is one of the keys to learning photography!

That’s all I’ll say for now but I have decided that I am going to acquire a small camera obscura and try it out as an aid to drawing. I’ll see if I can pick one up on eBay!

A new way to learn English: A TEFL workshop using my short film drama with subtitles

People learn languages in all sorts of ways – by reading books, listening to the radio, chatting to people.

I have developed an interesting way to help learners with their English. I’ve made a short film drama that aims to be both entertaining and educational and I present it as part of a TEFL workshop. (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). I’ve found that it is a very powerful vehicle to help people learn English.

It’s a 19 minute short film called The Train to Funky Island. It’s a nostalgic story about a 12 year old boy who is unhappy at home and departs on an imaginary journey.

What's the matter Michael?

I developed the story and wrote the script, including all the dialogue, over a period of a few years.  I created it with learners of English in mind, especially foreign learners.

Thematically, the story raises questions about: childhood, domestic problems, British attitudes to food, foreign travel, weather and family, the effect of music on our lives, the power of the imagination, bullying.

The language is authentic – there are mainly northern and working class voices. With subtitles it’s not too difficult for most learners to understand. I’ve included many phrases – often repeated over and over again – for students to learn:

Are you listening to me?

Have you ever been to…?

What’s the matter?

Tell me… tell me.

No, I've never been to Nassau.

Foreign learners of English often say ‘He listen me’, ‘I never went in London’, or ‘What is problem?’ and ‘Tell to me’.  The film aims to help them move beyond these errors and produce correctly formed English. There are many more like this in the dialogue.

In one scene, a phrase spoken in a northern English voice is repeated alongside standard English.

There’s a station be’ind the ’ouses.
There’s a station behind the houses?
Yeah, there’s a station be’ind the ’ouses.

This helps to clarify local the accent. There are other interesting words and phrases, but not too many. In much of the film there is very little dialogue.

So what happens when I use the film with a class?

Stage 1) I play the film – with or without subtitles, depending on the level of the students. I might pause between scenes to check they understand.

Stage 2) I play the film through scene by scene, we read the subtitles, the students repeat them, I explain vocab and correct pronunciation and we discuss the situations and characters.

Stage 3) We do follow-up work, which can include the students doing role-play, improvisation, reading excerpts and – at home – downloading and reading the short story version of The Train to Funky Island, which has some extra scenes.

Are you listening to me?

Reactions have been positive! The first time I showed the film, the class applauded and on the feedback forms, they said that they found it enjoyable and useful. With another class, the 19 minute film led to over two hours of useful discussion and language learning.

At the end of another course, a student remarked that it was a ‘new way to learn English’, which I suppose it is. Very few teachers of English language have made a short film drama for use in the classroom, but I have!

A screen drama has lots of elements to help language learners: Spoken dialogue, written language presented as subtitles, moving images that can be paused, a wealth of visual detail, sound effects, special effects and of course a story with characters that people can empathise with.

sound of thunder

Most films and TV dramas are too long to be used in a lesson and are often unsuitable due to content and level of language. My short film, tailored for teaching, works in many different ways to engage students and help them to learn.

I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with The Train to Funky Island, and I look forward to using the film with lots more students in the future!

The film can only be seen in my classes and presentations. It’s not available to view online. Please contact if you’d like to find out more.

Where to go and what to see on a three hour bike ride around Berlin

I was asked where is the best part of Berlin to visit on a three hour bike ride. I came up with this short tour around the historic central part of Berlin. The route starts at the Brandenburg Gate and follows a ‘crooked rectangle’ along Federal routes 2 and 1 marked in yellow on the Google map below.

We start at the Brandenburg Gate, once inaccessible behind the Wall, now the top tourist attraction in Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate 1982

Brandenburg Gate 1998

Nearby is the Reichstag, home of the German parliament, the Bundestag.

We continue through the Brandenburg Gate onto Unter den Linden with its magnificent buildings on both sides.

Soon we cross onto the island formed by two arms of the River Spree. This is the historic heart of Berlin.

To the left is the Museumsinsel – the ‘museum island’ with several major museums.

The Cathedral with its large dome stands nearby, and just across the wide avenue is the site of the GDR’s demolished 1970s style ‘Palace of the Republic’. Now, the Kaiser’s Palace is being rebuilt.

Berlin cityscape with TV tower

We continue further and we see the Television Tower built in 1973 and nearly 1200 feet high.

In the middle of the gardens is the statue of Marx and Engels and the Neptune Fountain

Alexanderplatz station is up ahead. Here you can take your bike on suburban train to all corners of Berlin, but there’s no time for that today!

Alexanderplatz Berlin 2004

The Alexanderplatz is a wide square that retains the architectural style and atmosphere of the GDR. In the corner is the World Time Clock, built during the GDR period.

We continue round onto the wide Grunerstraße. Now we are on Federal route number 1 and heading through the Fischerinsel district and onto Leipziger Straße. Soon we are at the intersection with Friedrichstraße, and turning left here, we come to the site of Checkpoint Charlie, the famous pedestrian crossing point between West and East Berlin. The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum is a must-see.

Berlin Potsdamer Platz 2004

From here we can follow the line of the Berlin Wall. There are metal strips in the ground marking its path. We pass Martin-Gropius-Bau – venue for the 2014 David Bowie exhibition and onto Potsdamer Platz (Square), once a wasteland caught between East and West, now a busy traffic intersection again, overlooked by office towers and a shopping centre.

A short distance from here is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews. It’s a rectangular plot of land with large stone squares.

Berlin Jewish Memorial 2004

We can see the Brandenburg Gate from here and in just a couple of minutes we are back there again after a very quick tour on two wheels.

To see all the sights of Berlin you’d need more like three days or maybe three weeks – or years but these three hours will have to suffice for now!

A longer version of this article will appear in the articles archive section

Has digital damaged Photography?

My answer to this question would be: Yes, in some ways, but from another point of view, maybe it’s for the best.

Digital transformed my own experience of photography and there were two key years: 1995 and 2000; more about those later.

But going back to the late 70s and early 80s when I first became fascinated by photography, I loved the inherent quality of photographic materials and equipment, black-and-white negatives, colour slides, high quality prints. I loved the Hasselblad camera and bought this one second hand in 1991.

Hasselblad 500C film camera

I particularly loved Kodachrome transparencies, they were like tiny richly coloured stained glass windows set in a cardboard frame. I had a fascination with the expensive, exclusive cameras used by professional photographers, that were beyond most people’s reach. Now you can buy them cheaply in second hand shops.

At that time most people seemed to use a camera only for holidays or family shots. I went to music concerts in the late 70s, and hardly anybody had a camera. Sadly I didn’t either. Otherwise I would have a prime collection of early photos of U2, Joy Division and Buzzcocks.

Around 1993 when I was working in Abu Dhabi teaching English, a colleague mentioned this new type of photography called ‘digital imaging’. I was sceptical. I never imagined that the quality would be as good as film, but soon after, on the work computer during a free period, I discovered a program called Adobe Photoshop (version 2.5). That was on 18 October 1994.

It was a liberating experience. I could do things in Photoshop that took me ages in the darkroom such as improving contrast, burning in and dodging. Previously I had tried hard with black and white developing and printing, but had become very frustrated with it.

Digital image enhancement set my creativity free. I could do things that were never possible with film and ordinary prints. Being able to combine photography and art was one of the great attractions of Photoshop. I bought my first Apple Mac PowerPC and Photoshop 3 in 1995, and a Nikon film scanner soon after.

For five years I took photos on a hybrid basis: I captured the photos on film SLR cameras, scanned them in the film scanner and enhanced them in Photoshop.

I created thousands of photographs in this way, and then around 2000 I got my first usable digital camera the Nikon Coolpix 990. Since then I’ve taken photos digitally.

When in 1996 I first started taking pictures of Manchester I was only one of a few people doing it. In the meantime nearly everyone seems to have a camera and is taking pictures of the city around them.

Photography has become a hobby and pastime for people who previously would never have picked up a camera

Wherever you look nowadays, people are taking photos with digital cameras. Young people at school are using them in art and are studying photography too.

I once did a photo walk in Manchester city centre with a group of special school pupils, along with their teachers. They were taking scores of images of everything around them. I complimented the most disruptive looking one of them for a photo he had taken. At the end he thanked me politely for the tour.

Thanks to the popularity of digital photography, people contact me all the time for help in understanding the camera, and how to use it more creatively. That’s a main element of my photo walks.

I am very happy to help but there are some things I am not so happy about.

Nowadays we have a deluge of photographs. Millions and millions of them are uploaded every day to various websites and are shared among millions of people.

But often they are uploading them without choosing the best ones! Photographs seem to have lost the value that they used to have. There is something fascinating about the treasured family snapshot, one of only 12 black and white prints from one film or a rare colour photograph taken on holiday by the seaside.

And at a more arty level, I’ll never forget in an exhibition at a gallery in Mayfair, a Polaroid by the Italian photographer Carlo Molino which sold for £20,000. Can a digital photo ever have this value?

Digital has also brought about the demise of many media which I think are unique in their own way, like Kodachrome. I wish that it was possible to have the advantages of digital and also hold onto all the various types of media in traditional photography, but it seems that’s not possible.

We need to remember that today’s digital cameras are a hybrid of technology inherited from film, that is to say the lens, the shutter and also the shape of the DSLR camera, but nowadays the capture and storage medium is electronic and digital.

Digital photography, digital everything, is unstoppable. We can’t rewind time. We can’t go back to those days in the past when photography was a more exclusive affair.

We need to make the most of digital – I certainly have – though I do wish people would be more selective! For instance, they should imagine they had a commission and must choose the 12 best photographs.

All in all it surely can’t be a bad thing if lots of people find fulfilment and self expression in photography as I first did when I first began taking photos on film.

So weighing up the pros and cons, I would say in conclusion that we need to make the most of digital whilst keeping the best aspects of film.

To conclude, here’s one of my first photos taken on Kodachrome, a test shot to try out the aperture settings on my Fujica STX-1 SLR camera, taken 1981.

Gitanes and Ketchup, test photo taken on Kodachrome 1981

Victoria Baths Photography Workshop

The Victoria Baths Photography Workshop is a three hour guided visit, giving you VIP access to take photographs inside this magnificent building.

Victoria Baths Photo Workshop
Photo taken on the Victoria Baths photo workshop by Andy Kilmartin

The photo workshop takes place on some open days, when the Baths are open to the public. Open days are on the first Sunday of the month during the season. Check the Victoria Baths website for exact dates.

The photography workshop is suitable for people of all levels in photography from those with just a tiny compact and not much technical knowledge to veteran photographers with top rated cameras and lenses.

It runs from 10am to 1pm, and during those three hours, you will get VIP access to the interior of this amazing building. During the first hour there are very few people around. Visitors don’t usually start to come in until eleven or after.

I don’t usually do any group teaching, I’m just there as a guide, to offer positive feedback, to give you tips and information, and if you are an advanced photographer I might ask you about the techniques you’re using and why.

We usually start in the room at the front with the amazing restored stained glass windows. You could take hundreds of different photos by zooming in to different parts of the glass, or just standing back and capturing it from different angles.

A tripod can be useful but isn’t always necessary. A monopod is a more portable alternative.

On some workshops a model will be present. Some people prefer just to photograph the building, others take the opportunity of working with the model and come up with some fantastic images.

The Turkish Baths next door have fascinating visual properties, with their shiny tiles and ornate arched doorways.


The pools, though empty of water most of the time, offer many visual possibilities and have a unique atmosphere. On special occasions the main pool may be filled with water.

We can also take a look at other interesting features inside the building, including the aerotone, forerunner of the jacuzzi, and we climb a set of narrow stairs to visit the rooms at the top of the building, which are not normally accessible to the public. At the moment you will find peeling wallpaper, crumbling plasterwork and mememtos of the past, including an old rocking horse. There are also interesting views over Chorlton-on-Medlock and the city beyond. The rooms may not be like this for much longer so best to photograph them now!


It’s a sociable event and the people who come chat to each other. We get to talk about cameras, photography and lots of other stuff besides and we might go to the cafe the end of the workshop.

I think I can confidently say that everyone who has been on the Victoria Baths Photography Workshop has thoroughly enjoyed it. Some have even attended twice!

To book just contact me and I will put your name down. The fee is £20 in cash on the day. This amount includes your admission to the Open Day so you can stay on for the rest of the day if you wish.

More information on the Victoria Baths website http://www.victoriabaths.org.uk

Review of photos by Manchester photographer Jon Parker Lee

Jon Parker Lee has been active as a photographer in Manchester since 1993. An exhibition in November/December 2013 at the basement venue 2022 in Manchester’s Northern Quarter celebrated his 20 years in the photography business.

I went to the opening night and was really impressed with the variety, style and high technical quality of the photographs. He told me he had picked them at random using a pin, but to me these photos look like they have been carefully chosen

I’ve singled out ten of them and I’m going to write a critique on each one. Hopefully this will inspire photography students to learn from Jon’s work and to go out, experiment and develop a style and flair of their own.


As I often say ‘try to capture the intrinsic quality of the subject’ and the here, the portrait of the late Seamus Heaney seems to do just that. The poet stares with narrow eyes into the camera, white haired and dressed in a suit and tie. He has gravitas and the photo reflects that, with its dramatic lighting from the upper right, casting deep shadows.

Attention is concentrated on the face by the use of a wide aperture – the camera was set to f1.4 – throwing the background out of focus. The wide aperture is probably essential as the light is low, and the background is almost, but not quite black. It’s just a series of blurs that could be a wall or a wooden cabinet. The setting is Manchester University.

Most interestingly, the subject is placed off centre to the right. The empty area to the left leaves space for the poetic imagination.JON_PARKER_LEE_EXHIBITIONA similar attitude towards space can be seen in the portrait of the author Martin Amis. He stands on the left with a serious expression set against a striped wooden background . The light is coming from the right, casting deep shadows to the left. The picture is not very sharp. The aperture was f1.4. Only the eyes are in focus. As no flash was used, there are no catch lights in the eyes, giving an enigmatic quality.JPL-Millibands

The photo of the Miliband brothers at the Labour Party conference was taken under difficult circumstances. This was just after the moment when Ed was voted party leader. The photographer had to act quickly in order to be in the right position to get shot. There was no time for composition or lighting but the photo still catches something very important. The hands are more expressive than the faces. To capture an image like this you have to be able to move quickly and you must be on top of the technical side of photography. The aperture was f4 and shutter speed 1/80th of a second.JON_PARKER_LEE_EXHIBITION

To capture the essence of the subject you often have to capture the essence of their working environment. Jon photographed music stars Amadou and Mariam at the New Century Hall before their Concert in the Dark at the Manchester International Festival in 2009. Jon has pictured them small in the frame, placed against an almost totally black background. Only a small amount of light shines on them. They are both wearing dark glasses, and most of the picture is black. A paparazzi style photo taken outside the venue with a flash would not have captured the essence of the subject, as this image does.


The photo of the lead actor in the Manchester Passion play 2007 was also taken under difficult circumstances. It was near the end of the rehearsal, actor and crew were tired, but the photo is still very successful. The subject is illuminated from above by flash and the crucifix behind ls lit up from inside, providing some rim lighting on his hair and shirt. Again John has placed the subject off centre, and look how the left hand side of the head is placed midway over the left hand side of the crucifix. Even with a shot taken in the space of a couple of seconds, composition is all important. There is just about the right amount of light falling on the ground. The control of light in this image is very good indeed.


George Best tribute image from 2005 shows the potential of a ‘a photo within the photo’ but what really gives the image a lot of power is the use of diagonal shadows at the top and the bottom. The piece of chewing gum – or is it a squashed piece of Blu-Tack – is in keeping with the improvised nature of the subject.


I’ve picked out the photo of Gill Wright, project manager at Victoria Baths because I know her. Ths setting is actually quite untypical of the Baths as the changing cabins don’t normally look like this. A single light is set up inside a cubicle in the main pool. Gill sits inside, maybe a little self-consciously, with a smile on her face. She is very slightly off centre which could be said to break the rules of composition. Actually they are not rules, they’re guidelines. Overall, the image works well.


I love the photo of road markings on the Mancunian Way from 2004 This is the closest subject matter to mine. The viewpoint is from above, making the road look like a wall and turning the letters into graffiti lit up by the orange street lamps. The line on the right looks like an exclamation mark without the dot. Without doubt, a strong statement about Manchester,


The vigil to remember the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is lit by just a few candles and little else. John has managed to achieve a picture that is sharp and without any blur due to movement. There is just the right amount of lighting on the faces of the three people in the foreground including Neville Ball and Betty Tebbs. Compositionally, they make three points of a triangle. Betty Tebbs, who is wearing the antinuclear necklace, is the central focus of the image. A point-and-shoot photographer would probably have just used flash. This photograph shows why you often have to use available light to capture the true essence of a scene. It is not easy to achieve but Jon has managed it here.

So those are my thoughts. If you’re serious about photography there is no substitute for going along to an exhibition and studying top quality framed prints by a skilled, experienced and imaginative photographer – like Jon Parker Lee! The exhibition finished in early December 2013, but you can keep up to date with Jon Parker Lee by going to his website www.jonparkerlee.com.

Ian Wylie @ianwylie London
@AidanORourkeCP Thanks Aidan. Great photos enhanced by really interesting comments.

Liverpool Then and Now – photos by Aidan O’Rourke

Book cover LIverpool Then and Now

The changing face of the city has been a dominant theme in my photography since the early days.  It was fitting therefore that I was commissioned by Anova books in 2011 to take the ‘now’ photos for the book Liverpool Then and Now.

I was presented with a list of ‘then’ photographs drawn from various sources including the Liverpool Records Office and Anova’s own collection of heritage images. My task was to find the locations and take the ‘now’ photo from as close as possible to the viewpoint of the old photo.

Soon I had embarked on a fascinating journey of discovery through the Liverpool area as far as Southport in the north to Speke in the south.

I also crossed over the River Mersey to visit locations on the Wirral, and in the first half of September I took photographs from Seacombe ferry terminal of visiting cruise liners docked by the Pier Head. One of these images appears in the opening pages of the book.

Liverpool Pier Head and Mersey Ferry

Locations featured in Liverpool Then and Now include: the Royal Liver Building, the Albert Dock, Lord Street, Lime Street station, the Anglican Cathedral, Bold Street, The Strand and many more.

I also discovered many lesser known places including the former observatory on the Wirral, now a private residence, the Liverpool Institute, now LIPA, the Florence Institute in Toxteth, and the exact point where the East Lancs Road begins. The old photo depicts the opening ceremony. It took me a while to discover where it had been taken but eventually I found it.

Some of the places depicted in the old photographs were impossible to locate and had to be omitted.

And I can reveal one location is wrong! The fountain I photographed in Sefton Park is not the one in the old photo.

About three months after publication I was walking in Sefton Park and discovered that the fountain I should have photographed is the one next to the Peter Pan statue in the middle of the park. No one has noticed so far!

One of my favourite views was from Everton Brow I did the panorama and the editors decided to include it even though that old photo wasn’t a panorama.

View from Everton Brow

In many places I found the people I met to be very warm and friendly, for example the man who lives near the ‘Florrie’ or Florence Institute who saw me taking a photograph,  came out to tell me all about it, and gave me some leaflets.

The staff at the Town Hall were also very welcoming and helpful, and I was given a guided tour around the Liver Building and the former Speke Airport terminal, now a hotel.

Photographing Liverpool Then and Now was a great experience and I really got to know Liverpool very well indeed.

I was very proud when in mid-2012 I found the book, ‘my’ book, on the shelf in the bookshop at Lady Lever Art Gallery. I have also seen it on sale at the Walker Art Gallery, Waterstones, in the Albert Dock and at the Museum of Liverpool.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Liverpool Then and Now from Amazon.co.uk, please follow the link to the right. If you’d like a signed copy for yourself or as a gift please get in touch.

Part way through the project, local author and historian Mike Royden was commissioned to write the text. His descriptions are very interesting, and demonstrate his deep knowledge of the city. The team at Anova Books in London – editors Frank Hopkinson and David Salmo – did a great job. The layout is excellent and the quality of reproduction of the photographs is very good indeed.

I am very proud to have helped to create this visually fascinating book on what is arguably the UK’s most visually fascinating city.

City Photo Walks – Photographic Walking Tours in Manchester and Liverpool

Photography tours in Manchester and Liverpool city centre with Aidan O’Rourke

My Photographic Walking Tour is now a well-established event that has been enjoyed by scores of people from north west England and beyond. Come on a leisurely walk around the city, benefit from a photography lesson ‘on the hoof’, learn about photography, get constructive feedback, meet new people. The cost of the three hour photo walk is £35. This includes your ‘goody bag’ with handouts and a copy of my ‘should-be-patented’ photography crib card.

Here’s what we will cover:

  • We will go on a short walk through the city centre stopping at a few points
  • The photo walk lasts three hours
  • Get my concentrated lesson on aperture, shutter speed and ISO
  • Learn how you need to use only a handful of controls on your camera
  • Pester me with questions as much as you like (on photography!
  • I dislike jargon and always try my utmost to explain things carefully.
  • If you learn one new thing it will be worth it. Actually I can guarantee you will learn at least several new things.
  • Get ‘over-the-shoulder’ feedback from your friendly and dedicated photography tutor
  • Get tips on composition and what makes a good (and bad!) photo
  • Pick up basic but useful tips on how to take better photos
  • Take photos of architecture, statues, trees, flowers, anything, discover new photo opportunities, impress me!
  • You will receive information sheets and my exposure crib card, which you should keep with you at all times!
  • We will Look critically at so-called ‘pro’ photos on display in the street and learn from their mistakes!
  • Meet nice people! The ones who come on the Photo Walking Tours are very nice!

If you’re more experienced, you can help someone less experienced and in doing so, reinforce your own knowledge of photography.

  • Link up with me on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus and I will highlight and write positive feedback on your best photos.
  • The meeting point is at the front entrance to the station: Lime Street in Liverpool (top of the ramp, not near the taxis), Piccadilly in Manchester (top of the Approach, not near the taxis).
  • Make sure you have my mobile number 07779 290082 on your phone. Please text me on the day or the day before to confirm your attendance. Also check my Twitter feed to confirm all is okay.

Many people have been on the walking tour and the feedback has been very positive:

Dilys Thompson ‏@DilysBT
@AidanORourkeCP Thanks Aidan – really enjoyed it and promise to try and steer clear of my auto setting from now on!

Important practical points

    • I usually run one walk a month in Manchester one in Liverpool. Dates on the aidan.co.uk home page
    • Meet at Piccadilly or Lime St Station, front entrance – easy to find and get to.
    • Tour starts at 2pm finishes around 5pm (some tours may have alternative times)
    • Before setting off, text me!
    • Bring any camera, whether a tiny, cheap compact, or a high end DSLR, or even no camera at all!
    • This is an all-weather event! Come in suitable clothes wearing a good pair of shoes.
    • A tripod is not usually necessary but bring one if you like, and especially if it is going to be dark by the end of the walk
    • Wide angle lenses may be better for buildings but telephoto will be useful too!
    • We will watch out for each other, but remember I am not responsible for your own safety.
    • If you become separated from the group, please phone or text me. Make sure you have 07779 290082 on your phone
    • I will try to keep to a max of 10 to 12 people though occasionally it might be more
    • To book, choose a date from ‘Upcoming Events’ then email, text or phone me
      Pay in advance or on the day
    • Cost: £35 per person
    • Special offers and discounts are available from time to time, please enquire.

Thanks for such a great walk. It made me look at the city with new eyes.
We both had an interesting and informative time.

Edward Kilpatrick

Voucher holders please note: Your voucher will run out on a certain date. However, as long as you contact me by that date, redeem your voucher and make a booking, you can come on any walking tour. Just get in contact using the Contact Form. You can also e-mail me or phone or text 07779 290082