Bulmer, John. (2 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 2: Comments on how JB taught himself photography and the importance to him of using natural and soft lighting in photography and film, his dislike of the harsh lighting used in both in the 1970s. 00.04.53 Description of co-founding Image magazine with three fellow students, Peter Laurie, Adrian Bridgewater and Brendan Lehane while at Cambridge, his stories for it, handing it on when they left, their aims, continuing sending stories to them. 00.12.20 Discussion of the difference between news and documentary photography c 1960 using examples of Churchill’s funeral, the Daily Express and Life magazine. 00.15.34 Comments about the role of businessmen in magazines, JB’s role on the Sunday Times magazine, Don McCullin and the changes at the time when Hunter Davis became editor and the decrease in foreign stories. 00.19.00 Comments about people being visual or verbal and working in a verbal culture, the importance of telling stories visually, shooting a film about FM Sutcliffe in Whitby, meeting Ian Berry there, JB’s admiration for him. 00.23.51 Discussion of JB’s travelling, a comparison between his approach and that of Don McCullin and their relationship with the subject, the change of attitudes towards being photographed since the 1970s and a comparison of people’s reaction to Ian Berry’s Leica and JB’s film camera in Whitby. 00.31.57 Comments on meeting and talking to the mill girls he had photographed in 1965 as a result of the photographs being shown recently, that it was unusual to photograph on the streets then. 00.33.48 Comments on JB’s dislike of the Rolleiflex and square photographs, the difference with 35mm. 00. 36.45 On having a base in Hereford but also in London and the need to work from London, his need for a base, earning enough to buy it while in Africa, his comfort with the rural, horses. 00.42.15 Description of meeting his wife, Angela and working on a film about Van Gogh with Mai Zetterling who used artists, including Elisabeth Frink, in the film and JB as the cameraman 00.44.56 Comment that photography was not then seen as art, JB’s reaction to discussions about this and his feeling that the Sunday Times magazine raised people’s respect for photographs 00.47.03 On JB’s attitude to photographing the north and seeing it as exotic and wanting other people to sit up and take notice, being contented with his work at the Sunday Times magazine. 00.50.35 On the work of art editors, Tom Wolsey at Town magazine, JB’s prelimary edit and their further work, JB’s provision of captions, damage to transparencies, Michael Rand and David King at the Sunday Times and their ability to choose the right picture. 00.55.30 Description of the issues involved in travelling with film, getting it back to London, problems of heat and humidity, bureaucracy at airports with examples from Saudi Arabia and India and a description of wiring photographs back from Singapore about Brunei revolt, relationship with the British Embassies. On not carrying accreditation and being arrested. Description of being arrested many times in Egypt. [01.03.08] A story about how he got film back to Britain from Nigeria at the end of the Biafran war which caused his arrest and expulsion years later. 01.06.50 A detailed story about taking photographs in Biafra, travelling across the country, seeing officers from both sides who had been at Sandhurst together and being threatened with arrest. 01.11.05 Comments about working with writers and Francis Wyndham, whose ability not to judge differed from JB’s desire to make political comments as he did when he took a photograph of a white woman begging in Johannesburg which got the Sunday Times banned for six weeks; comment on not needing visas for South Africa, Cuba or Romania. His awareness of being watched while in South Africa, how the photographs would be read; on working in Taiwan with Tom Stacey. 01.19.42 A story about working in and smuggling film out of Cambodia in the Sihanouk period and smuggling film out of Tibet later. 01.23.10 Comment on problems with the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia. 01.23.52 The difficulty of working in Beirut. 01.25.16 Comments about JB’s style and composition, the influence of Eugene Smith and seeing contact sheets at Life magazine which taught him how stories were built up, how Cartier-Bresson could compose accurately in the frame in a second. On using colour and the necessity to cut down on the number of elements in the picture and simplify. 01.33.47 on depth of field and JB’s preference for wide angle lenses, using mostly wide angle and long lenses, watching Larry Burrows work using the same combination. 01.39.10 Further detail about the photograph of two young mill girls eating chips, how they were traced by the BBC recently. 01.42.35 JB’s early interest in the picture story and a difference between analogue and digital systems. 01.46. 40 A story about photographing in a steel foundry in the Black Country and going to one of the worker’s homes and local pub afterwards; his pleasure in the way poor people can make something out of very little and in being able to cross social divides and relate to people whether they worked in the steel foundry, owned Chatsworth or were part of a tribe in Africa or New Guinea. 01. 54.35 JB’s love of Victorian photography, comments on the lack of care in taking pictures which started in the 1960s and is perhaps changing again today. 01.57.45 Comments about the photographs of pit ponies in County Durham, his first use of colour to photograph the north, working in winter to do so, comments on the photographs of women washing their doorsteps, immigrants in the market and a man asleep in Hartlepool library and using bounced flash, a cigarette or pushing the film to get light. 02.12.21 Description of pushing colour reversal film. 02.15.09 Further comments on photographs of a teddy boy, shop fronts and a woman in clogs cleaning a gate post. 02.23.27 A description of JB’s recent exhibitions starting with the Lowry, then Paris Photo, the National Coal Museum, the Royal Exchange in Manchester and the Hereford Photography Festival.
Life story interview with photographer John Bulmer (1938-)