The North By John Bulmer at The Third Floor Gallery

May 26th, 2011

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I was recently in Bristol for a few days so I made an improvised detour and I went for a visit to the Third Floor gallery in Cardiff (one hour by train) in order to see the photo exhibition The North by John Bulmer. It was worth it.

During the 60′s, John Bulmer started to use colour film at an early stage, working for the Sunday Times Magazine and later Town Magazine, a fashion magazine. He collaborated with other photographers like David Bailey and Don McCullin. He now lives in Herefordshire and has catalogued his huge collection of still photographs, many of which have never been seen.
The pictures exhibited in the gallery show an England and a culture that have now disappeared from the British landscape except for the big industrial architectural heritage for some buildings all over UK. An England still living in its industrial era but on its way to the pre Thatcher economic revolution. Most of the photographs show scenes of everyday life of working class people in their surrounding environment. There is a lot of character in these images. It is The North and what you could expect from it at this time: toughness, misery, hard life, a good sense of community and friendship. I especially have in mind a picture taken in Manchester. The photograph shows children playing in the street in what looks like a bit of a miserable area. The dark and isolated building in the corner intensifies this feeling. I just wonder what happened to the rest of the building in this place. Why is it there standing on its own?
Another great scene is the one with a lady hanging out some white linen on a wire. You can feel the wind and the dampness. But what is more noticeable is the strong contrast between the linen and the dark building. It is almost a black and white picture, having the same effect on the elements and the materials.
John Bulmer was well inspired by the character of the North. An area that is perfectly captured through its people. If you live around Cardiff you should really pay a visit to the Third Floor Gallery (The exhibition is until 12th June 2011). The series can also be seen in John Bulmer Collection.

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