Episode 1 - the early days
The history of the After Alice Project
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Everything starts somewhere!
Where do we start? Well, there was this small bunch of friends who got together in Hebden Bridge to take photos and talk about photography. We didn't want to do camera club competitions and we didn't want to sit quietly looking at pictures in the dark. We mostly liked talking and taking pictures and fixing gadgets and drinking tea and trying to get better at whatever we did. Quite often, though, the weather was so awful whenever we planned our monthly field trip that we ended up in the pub, which led to more talking, and talking in pubs inevitably leads to making grand plans... And so, one day in January 2015 when we were once more weatherbound and this time in the White Lion, Hebden Bridge, one of those "grand plans" started growing...
We live in a fabulous part of the world, and a place that lots of people talk about - but there's so very much more to life in the Upper Calder Valley than just the usual postcard images. Wouldn't it be a thing to do to make photographs of all the unseen bits and pieces that you have to live here to know about? The way the light catches a certain tree at just the right time of year, a paint-peeling doorway that loves the setting sun in autumn, the view from an attic window that only the caretaker sees. We planned to go out and take those photographs - and then considered how we were only few in number and how countless were the ordinary magics of everyday...
And then that fellow from Google, Vint Cerf, popped up in all the newspapers and on everybody's newsfeeds, and labelled us "the Digital Dark Age" - the age that has created so many different ways for every one of us to capture and label our memories, but in the inbuilt frailty of digital files has gifted us with an uncertain heritage to preserve and pass on.
So that's when we started talking about film, and the grand plan became After Alice.
Saturday 7th March
H Gregg, Sooze Hodgin and Jo Hirons from the old photography group met up in the workroom of Word of Mouth, Hebden Bridge's fantastic supplier of all things arts and crafts on Valley Road.
The first new After Alicer was Darren Pardoe - Darren had been spotted operating the crane that fitted all the new non-return valves to the outlet pipes on the river along Stubbing Holme Road. Those new valves are supposed to help stop flooding cellars in Eton, Oxford, Cambridge and Trinity Streets, and it's just those small pieces of history that the After Alice Project is setting out to record. Darren's crane also helped capture some eagle-eye views of the narrowest part of the valley - sights almost none of us have ever seen before.
Today was our first official meeting - and quite by accident it also turned out to be the 250th anniversary of the birth of Nicéphore Niépce, the Frenchman credited with the invention of photography, which did seem rather auspicious! (Niépce also helped invent the bicycle and the internal combustion engine and has a lunar crater named in his honour!)
Our first exhibition.
Held at Word of Mouth Arts and Crafts in Valley Road, Hebden Bridge, this was an exhibition of a series of portraits of local artists and craftspeople. We had been commissioned by Hebden Bridge Arts Festival to produce 20 portraits.
As well as the framed prints, larger versions were on display around the town in the windows of various shops and businesses. It worked out very well for both the Arts Festival and for us. We completed the commission on time and on budget, and the artists were all very pleased with their portraits.
Here's one of the portraits from the commission
John the barber has his shop in Bridge Mill. In between customers, he's usually painting (oils) at the back of the shop.
Following on from our appearance on Heb Web came an invitation to visit the Pennine Heritage Digital Archive, which looks after the Alice Longstaff Collection amongst other photographic treasures at the Birchcliffe Centre in Hebden Bridge.
It was a great opportunity to learn how the Upper Calder Valley's existing picture archive is being preserved and to meet some of the people who have worked so hard to protect our past history.
Ever since that first contact, we've worked very closely with Frank and Ann at Birchcliffe. It's obvious really - the two projects complement each other so well.
Another Steering Group meeting
Before we had our own premises, we'd meet up at each others' houses. This was at Tom's place in Old Town. As usual, Bruce was taking the photo - we begin to suspect that he's camera shy!