Sutcliffe’s Whitby

When I was a school in Whitby, several eons ago now, there was a wonderful shop half-way up the hill that is Flowergate, selling prints of one of Whitby’s most celebrated local photographic artists, Frank Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe was a world famous photographer, one of the first to elevate the new-fangled medium of photography into an art form with his many pictures taken in and around the Whitby area from about 1875 to 1910. He became an honorary member of the highly prestigious Royal Photographic Society in 1935.

His images are stunning, especially given the significant challenges that pioneering this particular art form presented. He chose his subject matter with great care, focusing on composition and lighting so effectively that, for the first time perhaps, people could look into his photographs and see more than a straightforward capture of a moment in time. His images are evocative of a simpler time, telling visual tales about the characters depicted, their lives shown realistically yet often rather whimsically.

I loved looking through that shop window, for they changed the displays very frequently and I saw many of his wonderful images as they were meant to be viewed – mostly about 10 x 12 inch photographs in simple wooden frames. I found myself drawn into his world, stepping back in time to those idyllic days, feeling the spray from the sea, gaping in awe at the wonderful schooners in the harbour.

I’m also in the middle of a photography course given by my friend , Jeff Anderson, whom I have mentioned before is a magnificent exponent of the art of photography. I think he would have got on well with Sutcliffe; if time machines ever become a reality, then that’s a pair of people who I think should meet for an exchange of ideas! This course has a number of assignments for participants to undertake, share their attempts and learn from each other and from the Grand Pooh-Bar himself too.

One of the assignments is to consider the dramatic effect of shooting into the sun, which  is normally a photographic no-no. I’ve had  several attempts at this one and then yesterday, on a trip up to Whitby, I found myself inspired by the memory of Sutcliffe’s images whilst taking these shots for this assignment.

I hope you enjoy seeing the results!

This old-fashioned lamp on the harbour wall is probably Victorian
This old-fashioned lamp on the harbour wall is probably Victorian
The lookout tower that sits on the harbour wall, bathed in evening sunlight
The lookout tower that sits on the harbour wall, bathed in evening sunlight
Sunset on the sea
Sunset on the sea
The Ship is one of Whitby's oldest pubs
The Ship is one of Whitby’s oldest pubs

Thanks for reading!


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