Bulmer, John. (1 of 3). Oral History of British Photography.
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2010-02-03, 2010-02-04, 2010-02-05
Interviewee's home, Monnington near Hereford
Bulmer, John, 1938- (speaker, male)
Read, Shirley (speaker, female)
Part 1: Description of a childhood shielded from the [Second World] war by being on a farm, one of five children, schooling, parents. 00.02.35 Description of the founding of the Bulmer cider business by JB’s grandfather and great-uncle and the development of it by his father. 00.07.52 Description of JB’s childhood interests, the assumption that he would go into the cider business, his interest in photography, the influence of the Family of Man exhibition, Life magazine and books on Cartier-Bresson; his mechanical rather than artistic interests, making an enlarger, printing and developing. 00.14.30 Further comments on his family, summer holidays in Anglesey, the farm, JB’s schooldays at Kings College Choir School in Cambridge then at Rugby, his dislike of Rugby. 00.20.41 Remarks on leaving, going to a London crammer, following his father and grandfather to Kings College, Cambridge, working for Varsity as picture editor and doing stories about Cambridge for magazines such as Queen and Vogue and for the Daily Express. Further details on working for Varsity, the darkrooms and being sent down for the ‘night-climbers’ story, comments on his belief in the ‘decisive moment’ and on digital technology, just missing National Service, meeting Burt Glinn and Larry Burrows at Cambridge. His work at the Daily Express, being expected to cover any sort of story, his first credit, Princess Margaret’s wedding rehearsal, managing to use 35mm rather than the Rolleiflex, the advantages of 35mm, detail about his work. Working for other magazines including Town and starting at the Sunday Times magazine in 1962, detail about this and working in colour, working with writers and different editors and staff, brief descriptions of various assignments, his contract and keeping copyright, setting up in business with Philip Jones Griffiths, the other photographers, his working methods and equipment, on understanding how to use colour. 01.31.33 Description of his earlier work with local Hereford free-lance photographer Derek Evans during school holidays. 01.35.16 Description of photographic assignments including covering the Queen’s visit to Ghana, learning from Ian Berry, fellow feeling between photographers such as Terry Fincher in Ghana and working with Don McCullin in Cyprus in 1964, on not wanting to become a war photographer 01.43.08 Finding interest in the exotic and new elsewhere and in places like the north of England and the importance to him of photographing before the newness of the place wears off. Comments about photographing in the north in colour and re-thinking how to approach it and his subsequent difficulty in doing both colour and b&w. [01.50.43] Detailed description of his use of colour, his and Philip Jones Griffith’s method of storing film, preference for soft lighting conditions. 01.55.08 On being given assignments by Tom Blau of Camera Press including the Queen’s visit to Ghana, JB’s photograph of her with her shoes slipped off was not well received. Mention of meeting Ian Berry for the first time, who was an iconic figure after Sharpeville and knew Africa and had the ability to be in the right place at the right time and Paul Schutzer from Life magazine, who was subsequently killed in the Six Day war, the end of the colonial era and understanding Africans differently. 02.00.20 Description of how covering a royal tour would work. 02.03.06 Comments about how busy he was and the number of countries he travelled to in a ten year period, having three round the world tickets in 1963/4 when airlines were opening new routes, being in Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia and photographing Prince Sihanouk. 02.06.28 Comments on the role of chance in photographic stories and on doing commissioned and uncommissioned stories in Indonesia, New Guinea, Japan, Hong Kong, on the Indian film industry and in Romania using interpreters and guides or working solo. 02.11.00 Comments on enjoying living in London, being away a lot, preferring to take photographs away from home and on assignment, continuing to see photographically, not being a tourist or enjoying looking when he could be making a film of what he’s looking at, how big and exotic the world was in the 1960s as compared to today, how few airlines there were, not wanting to travel without a reason. 02.19.11 Comments about photo-journalists and magazine photographers seeing themselves as outside the world of the Royal Photographic Society [RPS] and London Salon in the 1960s, the attempt and failure to found the European Magazine Photographers Association and meeting in Cologne. Brief comments on his membership of the NUJ and resignation and membership of the ACCT. 02.24.22 Further detail on the RPS and London Salon though JB thought that the Photography Year Book edited by Norman Hall was the only real photographic outlet. Comments on the impact of Lord Snowdon on the outsider status of professional photographers, on European and American attitudes and the influence on JB of photographers from both cultures.
Life story interview with photographer John Bulmer (1938-)