England, Scotland and Berwick

Almost as far North as you can possibly journey within the bounds of England lies Berwick upon Tweed, nestled just a couple of miles from the Scottish border.

On Saturday, I made the 65 mile rail journey north with a friend to see Paul Kenny’s latest show open at The Berwick Watchtower.

As we wandered the streets of this garrison town, the sensations we experienced were odd and uneasy, enough for us to discuss it regularly throughout the day…

The mouth of the River Tweed — Berwick on the left to the North East and Tweedmouth on the right to the South West...

The mouth of the River Tweed — Berwick on the left to the North East and Tweedmouth on the right to the South West…

On the face of it, Berwick is pretty. However, it doesn’t take too long to sense a melancholy and fatigue hanging over the town.

There are small pockets where this isn’t the case but, overall, Berwick certainly appears to be a very northern outpost burdened with a tangible raw edge, perhaps the bleeding edge of the ongoing economic crisis.

Buildings look tired with many high street shops closing or, indeed, closed down. Local estate agents, too, seem awash with property for sale.

There is, however, plenty to admire as some of the architecture is stunning, not least the beautifully named Royal Border Bridge — a vital artery carrying the East Coast Mainline, connecting this remote town at high speed with the rest of the country.

The Royal Tweed bridge over the River Tweed, joining Berwick upon Tweed with Tweedmouth

The Royal Tweed road bridge — an East Coast Mainline train heads to London over the Royal Border Bridge in the distance…

To my mind, Berwick’s outpost feel is largely due to its geography, eclectic history and confused identity where, in the modern era, one can still be left wondering, “Is Berwick Scottish or English?”

Embroiled in bitter, bloody border wars for so many years, it’s hard to know.

The Tweed boils beneath the Old Bridge at Berwick upon Tweed

The Tweed boils beneath the Old Bridge…

Technically, Berwick is English after the most recent capture in 1482 but that’s not always been the case.

In fact, it was even recently pondered whether or not Berwick was technically at war with Russia after it was ‘left out’ of the conclusion to the Crimean War in the 1856 Treaty of Paris!

Perhaps you can now begin to see why I describe an eclectic history?

Not helping matters, Berwick Rangers FC remains the only English football club in the land to compete in the Scottish Football League.

Railway Street, Berwick upon Tweed

My kinda street…

All-in-all, an unconventional day out and one to get the cogs turning.

Paul’s show, of course, look resplendent — his Seaworks so appropriately on display at the coast.

Ultimately, though, it was time to journey home and leave this very northern outpost behind, carrying plenty of feelings to digest and thoughts to ponder about this quirky nation of ours…

Berwick upon Tweed Railway Station

Home time — a train rushes through the pretty railway station at Berwick upon Tweed…

Sunday Touchline

A short tangent on a Sunday…

It may feel like a bit of a drag getting out of bed on a Sunday morning sometimes, especially knowing that I’ll be spending the first hour or two of the day standing on a cold touchline (albeit in support of one of my children).

However, as an added incentive, it’s worth me remembering that some of the football clubs are in pretty good locations.

I had a feeling that I should carry a camera with me today as we made the 40 mile journey north to Longhoughton — a small village in the wilds of Northumberland where the football ground nestles beside the East Coast Mainline…

East Coast Mainline Train Passing Longhoughton

An express train charges south towards Newcastle…

Longhoughton Winter Sun

Skinny winter sunshine over neighbouring farmland.

For those who like to know, these were shot on my much-loved Lumix LX3.

I inadvertently had the crop ratio set to 16:9, something I’m not used to but actually rather like on seeing these — very filmic, don’t you think?

Oh, my son’s team lost 4-0 by the way…

My Own Perfect Landscape

I’ve been looking forward to writing about Cambois (pronounced Kammus) for a long time now — in particular, introducing you to the photograph featured in this post.

A small Northumbrian coastal village born from the mining industry in 1862, Cambois is a wild, bizarre location.

Like many before me, I initially journeyed there to see the wind turbines mounted on the breakwater, as well as those planted out to sea.

The turbines were impressive enough and made lovely photographs but you’ve seen one turbine and you’ve seen them all, right?

On turning round to drive back home, I was overwhelmed by the scene that unravelled before me as I saw the same location but, this time, from the other direction.

Cambois, Northumberland, UK, Photography by Jack Lowe

Cambois (pronounced ‘Kammus’)

Stepping out from the car, my memory tells me that I was rubbing my eyes in disbelief but, in all honesty, that probably didn’t happen.

The scene looked splendid but wasn’t quite right for the kind of photograph I would like to make.  Some secret sauce was required.

The necessary approach was obvious to me, a neat tip to all landscape photographers that has made the difference to so many of my landscapes…

What is that secret sauce?  A step-ladder!

In this instance, those extra few feet gave me the elevation required to distinguish the elements of this landscape that, as a fan of infrastructure, holds everything for me — community, industry, power, road, rail, sea and air.

So many fundamental facets of modern living all featuring in one photograph, my own perfect landscape.

An Historical Document

To me, this photograph now has an added dimension, as the scene cannot be captured in the same way again.

A few years ago, on a frosty December morning, I drove back to the area to witness and photograph the demolition of Blyth Power Station’s four famous chimneys.

It was a moving, spectacular event and one that made my photograph of Cambois a particularly special and unique record of the area; a true moment in time.

Demolition of Blyth Power Station, Northumberland, UK, Photography by Jack Lowe

The demolition of Blyth Power Station’s chimneys, the backdrop to my photograph.

The Print

Shot on 5×4 negative film, I still enjoy poring over the details of Cambois

High Resolution File Detail of Cambois, Photography by Jack Lowe

A hole in a roof with Blyth Power Station looming in the background…

High Resolution File Detail of Cambois, Photography by Jack Lowe

The tracks wind their way to the aluminium smelter further along the coast…

High Resolution File Detail of Cambois, Photography by Jack Lowe

To the left, a lone figure stands in the distance on the jetty (a detail I only noticed after scanning the film)…

High Resolution File Detail of Cambois, Photography by Jack Lowe

The heavy plates bolting the tracks to their respective sleepers…

Printed signed, numbered and embossed by me, this release measures 12×8″ on 20×16″ paper.

Visit my Northumberland Print Collection to buy this print directly from this site (despite appearances, a PayPal account is not required to complete transactions).

Recently remastered for availability on this site, I was delighted that print No.1 sold within moments.

Signed and numbered print of Cambois, Photography by Jack Lowe

Signed, numbered and embossed print of Cambois by Jack Lowe

A Final Aside…

Paul Kenny spotted this postcard of the Cambois miners’ banner for me, which I now often show beside my print as a nod to the heritage of this small mining community…

Framed Postcard of Cambois and Bates Miners' Banner

Apple Meets Analogue

Yesterday, I drove the sixty miles or so north to meet up with my friend and client, Paul Kenny — he needed a hand (moving from the dark side) to install his first Apple computer.

Living in the wilds of Northumberland, Paul’s worked for many years as a photographer, now comfortably bridging his analogue craft with that of the modern digital era.

We often while away a pleasant few hours together here and there — this post is simply a collection of photographs of scenes I’ve observed at Paul’s home.

I hope you enjoy them…

Paul Kenny's Studio

Paul with some work in progress…

Paul Kenny's Noticeboard

Studio notices and a pair of vintage Volvo hubcaps…

Printmakers' Letterpress Tray at Paul Kenny's Home

Printers’ letterpress tray with knickknacks…

Paul Kenny's scanner

Lift the hood on Paul Kenny’s scanner and you’re sure to find interesting things…

Paul Kenny's Studio

Discarded hand-made negatives and a Heineken barrel…

The Cheviot Hills

On the way to lunch — the Cheviot Hills, a pylon and a tree…

Paul Kenny's new iMac

Apple meets Analogue…

Paul Kenny's Studio

Now comfortably installed…

Moss the Lurcher

Moss

Cloudscape between Lowick and Fenwick, Northumberland

On my way home — a cloudscape between Lowick and Fenwick, Northumberland

Paul will need no introduction to regular visitors of Jack Lowe Studio.

If you’d like to learn more about his incredible cameraless photography, do pay a visit where you’ll find material aplenty.