Then I must make your portrait…

I told this story a few days ago on my favourite social medium, Instagram.

It received a great response, so I thought I’d tell it here too:

I’ve been working a lot on the finer details of my wet plating technique lately.

I had a beautiful afternoon tinkering on Sunday, testing my tweaks and refinements on 12×10 inch glass plates as I move ever-closer to starting The Lifeboat Station Project.

My friend and neighbour, Carole, came wandering round the corner, shopping bags in hand.

She’s very loving and enthusiastic, is Carole.

“Look at you!” she said, “…in your apron, creating wonderful things.”

“Ah, thank you, Carole. Anyway, how are you?”

She replied, “My brain tumour’s back. I’m dying now. I can feel it. It’s time for me to go.”

Obviously, that took me aback. I gave Carole a kiss and a hug and I could only think to say one thing:

“Then I must make your portrait.”

She told me she would adore that. So that’s what we did.

It was a beautiful moment and the kind that seems to keep happening in and around this process.

It engages people and that’s what I love about it. And that’s what I also love about photography…


12x10 inch Ambrotype of Carole, Newcastle upon Tyne, 23rd November 2014

12×10 inch Ambrotype of Carole, Newcastle upon Tyne, 23rd November 2014


Sunday 15th November 2015

I’m so sad to hear that Carole died in the night, almost a year since we shared this precious moment together.

Unfortunately, the photograph above is the only record of this plate as it was irreparably damaged whilst being washed afterwards — a photograph that turned out to be as ephemeral as life itself.

Even though we didn’t see each other so often, I’ll miss our colourful neighbour very much.

She was a truly special person, a character who really brought something to the party and enhanced the world for all who knew her…

Crombie’s Last Stand

I didn’t know Keith Crombie.  I’d been to his famous Jazz Café once, a long time go.

If nothing else, I gleaned this much about him — everyone seemed to have an opinion about Keith and he certainly seemed to have an opinion about everyone.

Keith Crombie's Jazz Café, Newcastle upon Tyne, on the morning of his funeral

The closed doors of Keith Crombie’s Jazz Café in Pink Lane, Newcastle upon Tyne, on the morning of his funeral…

Over the last year or so, I’ve been keeping tabs on a beautiful documentary my ol’ pal Duncan Davis has been been making about Keith (you might remember Duncan from this post).

Duncan had an acute awareness that making this film should be a priority, not least because Keith was knocking on in years.  Then, on 29th December 2012, Keith passed away at the age of 74.

News soon started to filter through that there was to be a horse-drawn funeral procession through the city.

There seemed to be a gentle buzz of excitement.  Everybody seemed to know about it (apart from the police, it would seem).

A fitting farewell seemed imminent for Keith, to stop Newcastle in its tracks as he slowly passed through with a jazz band and dedicated crowd following behind…

Photographed from the top of Earl Grey's Monument, Newcastle upon Tyne, Keith Crombie's funeral procession passes through the city centre.

As seen from the top of Grey’s Monument on a snowy day, the horse-drawn coffin, jazz band and crowd makes its way along Grainger Street…

A fitting end for Duncan’s documentary too and I was flattered that he asked me to help film the last sequences of Crombie’s life.

While Duncan worked in and around the crowds, the perfect perching place for me this morning was surely atop the 130ft Grey’s Monument, smack bang in the city centre.

So, with the necessary permissions gained, I was allowed to climb the 162 spiral steps to capture a unique perspective on the procession.

Photographed from the top of Earl Grey's Monument, the snow descends on Newcastle after Keith Crombie's funeral procession.

The procession is over and the snow descends on Newcastle…

The views were extraordinary, of course, and the weather was icy.  The memories of seeing Keith’s horse-drawn coffin pass slowly through town to the tune of the accompanying jazz band, along with hundreds of folk, will stay with me for a long time.

I can’t wait to see the final film, which is being cut by Duncan as I write — I hope to be able to share it with you here some day soon…

— More Views from Grey’s Monument

North view towards St. James' Park from Grey's Monument, Newcastle upon Tyne, by Jack Lowe

North view towards St. James’ Park from Grey’s Monument

South East view towards BALTIC and the Millennium Bridge from Grey's Monument, Newcastle upon Tyne, by Jack Lowe

South East view towards BALTIC and the Millennium Bridge from Grey’s Monument

South West View from Grey's Monument, Newcastle upon Tyne, by Jack Lowe

South West View from Grey’s Monument

A Perfect Sunday on the River Tyne

The River Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Six bridges over The River Tyne, Newcastle

A perfectly cold and crisp Sunday on the River Tyne in Newcastle.

I’ve now lived here for twelve years and remain constantly in awe of the beautiful views in around the city I now call home.

I thought you might like to see this photograph I posted on Instagram this afternoon, depicting six of the seven bridges that cross the river.

So, where’s the seventh bridge? I’m standing on it — the Millennium Bridge.

For those who like to know, this scene was captured on my iPhone 4S and processed using Snapseed.