Stories from the archive - an introduction

Each time I lift a box of negatives down from the shelf above my desk - attempting to get some order into my life and the works that I have made - I find that, as sheet after sheet slowly moves across the face of the lightbox, memories of past times well up. They involve: the people I have met and worked with; the cameras, the chemicals and the technologies I have deployed; the places where I have lived and the institutions in which I was employed; and the evolving condition of photography in Britain during the past fifty years.

It has been, and continues to be, a wonderful journey and the stories which follow are a random selection of personal reflections of the times, random because each story is stimulated by my coming across a picture, a negative, a poster, a catalogue, a letter, a piece of paraphernalia or a book. The stories will appear as and when such a find jolts a memory.

However, it is clear that some structure is required to help me frame, and put into perspective, each narrative. A first attempt at this led me to think about a historical approach, how a sense of purpose and direction gradually emerged from the early muddle. Looking back, I can see a series of phases: the early days with the medium; studying at college; the years of confusion afterwards; finding a path; the first resolved works; family and the middle of life; the later years.

This picture comes from some time after I left the London College of Printing in 1972 and during the period when I was rather lost - there were no roadmaps outlining how one might become an artist.