Renowned local photographer Jill Reidy has recently launched a kickstarter campaign for her latest project, using her 40 years of Blackpool experience to now photo-document several other English seaside resorts. I caught up with her this week to talk about what the project involves, and how altBlackpool readers can get involved.
SD: Why seaside towns?
JR: I was born and grew up in London, so the seaside always held a special magic for me. Every year we used to visit our cousins in Margate and I can still feel that excitement as we came over the brow of a hill and saw the sea for the first time. I thought my cousins were the luckiest people on earth to have the sea at the end of their road. And now I have lived in Blackpool for nearly forty years, and have the sea at the end of my road – and I’ve never lost that feeling of excitement.
As a photographer, Blackpool fascinates me – it’s such a multi faceted town. It gets a lot of bad press but I love the variety. I’ve documented the town both in and out of season, and I’m interested to see how it compares with other seaside towns in winter.
SD: Why now? You mention a landmark birthday on your funding page, was that a factor?
JR: I’m trying not to notice birthdays since I turned sixty, but I suppose I’m aware now that life is short and precious and not to be wasted, so I try to cram in as much as possible. I’ve thought about doing a road trip for a few years now, but hadn’t really formalized the idea until a few months ago when I suddenly realised that I needed to set the wheels in motion (literally) before it was too late. I’m not very good at taking myself out of my comfort zone, so this will be quite an experience for me.
SD: How did you decide which places to visit? Is it coincidence they are all in England or is the English seaside resort particularly important to the trip?
JR: The English seaside resort is definitely my focus, I suppose because so many images have become iconic. It was hard to narrow down the list of seaside towns to visit. Everybody had a favourite that they wanted me to include, but I knew I had a time limit for this trip. Eventually, I chose the ones I really wanted to see, and didn’t involve excessive amounts of driving between each one. Several of these towns have nostalgic links to my childhood. As well as Margate, there’s Great Yarmouth where my grandma was born (and featured in most of my grandma’s conversations). I visited a few times, as a child, and I know the town has always meant a lot to my mum; Southend where my aunt and uncle and grandparents moved to – another place we used to visit, and the town of my grandma’s funeral; and Brighton which holds happy memories of visits from Art College in the ‘70s.
SD: How long will your road trip take?
JR: Originally, I’d planned to complete it in a week, but subsequently realised it might be a bit frantic. I’m now doing it over ten days with a short trip home in between to look after grandchildren!
SD: You mention in the crowdfunder video that you have documented many different aspects of Blackpool. What aspects of the other seaside resorts do you hope to capture?
JR: I’m hoping to see lots of different sides to the towns, focusing on the out of season aspect. I love the quirkiness of the seaside, and as a photographer with a big interest in street photography I’m also hoping to get some shots of locals in their own habitat. I’m drawn to the desolation of a seaside town in winter – bleak seascapes, shops at twilight, locked beach huts etc. I don’t really know what I’m going to get till I get to each town, then my camera will lead me – that’s what’s so exciting.
SD: You ask people in the resorts you are visiting to get in touch. Are you hoping to include their stories in your work?
JR: I’m a writer as well as a photographer, and I’m always interested in people’s stories, or the story behind an image. I’m hoping that people from the towns will contact me and arrange to meet to chat about what the town means to them, or to tell me something interesting about the town. I intend to include the stories in a blog I’ll be writing as I go, in a book and also as part of the exhibition.
SD: Where and when do you plan to exhibit your work?
JR: I’ve a few venues that I’m considering but nothing finalized as yet. I’m hoping the exhibition will be local, in keeping with the theme, and it will probably be sometime this Autumn. Ideally I’d love to take it round some of the other towns, but I think that would take a fair bit of organising. I’ll update everybody once I know the details.
SD: Do you have any advice for anyone reading this wanting to take documentary pictures of Blackpool?
JR: I’m art trained and my degree is in graphic design but I’ve no formal photography qualifications, I’ve always just loved taking photos and this has developed to the point where I have been doing shoots professionally for the past four years. I recommend a day out with a professional photographer, whose work you admire and can relate to. There are lots of great photographers around these days, and I can appreciate all genres of image, but for me an image needs to touch me in some way for it to be significant. You will learn an awful lot by experimenting with a camera, and making endless mistakes. So my advice would be to look at famous photographers whose style you aspire to and then just get out there and do it. My own turning point (and the point at which I realised my style of documentary photography was actually classed as street) came when I visited an exhibition by Martin Parr and Tony Ray Jones. I spent two hours in there and really didn’t want to leave.
SD: Is there anything I haven’t covered you would like altBlackpool readers to know about your project, or anything else you working on at the moment Jill?
JR: At present I have a print in the Grundy Open Exhibition, opening Saturday 28th January 14.30. I also have some photography workshops lined up with various schools and communities locally. I work with Claire Griffiths, photographer, on these workshops – we’re known as Whipper Snappers.
SD: How do people contribute to the KickStarter campaign, and what do they get in return?
JR: I’ve had a brilliant response to the campaign so far. I’m amazed at the support I’ve received, both in terms of pledges and also the supportive comments and sharing of the KickStarter link. If anybody wants to read about my project, or make a pledge in return for a reward, it would be much appreciated. Pledges can be any amount, and rewards include postcards from the trip, limited edition concertina postcards, limited edition A3 prints, printed tote bags, a personalized copy of the book, or a photography day with me, around Blackpool.
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