Ebrington Installation Begins

It’s been a very hectic few weeks but we’re delighted to announce that the first of our billboard pictures are finally up at Ebrington Square, Derry-Londonderry!

We’ve worked closely with the guys at Pakflatt printers who did a great job printing the 12 foot x 8 foot billboards at a very high quality, then with the help of the Portrait of a City, we installed 3 of the 6 pictures today. It was a long day, up and down ladders, hammering and drilling and chatting to lots of people that have come up to chat about our work, but it was an amazing feeling, stepping back and seeing the work finally up on the walls.


City Hotel and Peace Bridge Installation

City Hotel and Peace Bridge

City Hotel and Peace Bridge

                                                   One of the many things we love about seeing the work up is that everyone we’ve met has a story to tell, either because they remember buildings in the pictures that have long since gone, or that they recognise people walking down the street in our contemporary pictures. So if you’re in the City of Culture, take a wander through Ebrington Square for a look at the pictures, you might recognise a familiar scene like the old Arch Bar by Bishop’s Gate, the shop selling high quality artificial teeth on Carlisle Road, or the lovely old City Hotel next to the Guildhall.

We’ll be putting the remaining 3 billboards up around the old barracks’ walls in the next couple of weeks, and they’ll stay up through the Turner Prize and into the New Year, so come and have a look for yourself!

Bishop's Gate

Bishop’s Gate

Bishop's Gate Installation

Bishop’s Gate Installation


Carlisle Road Installation


Carlisle Road. Can you spot the shop to get your high class artificial teeth?


BBC Interview

So it’s been a mad few days, especially since our work for the BBC went online last week. It was great to see it out in the wild and all the feedback that we’ve had has been really positive, so it’s doubly good that people are enjoying the pictures. Apparently the BBC page has been shared over 1800 times in 3 days which is amazing, and with over 500 ‘likes’ on the City of Culture Facebook page, we’ve been overwhelmed.

We had a great time the day after the launch, being interviewed on BBC Radio Foyle on the Pure Culture program. We chatted about our work and our plans for the exhibition at Ebrington in Derry~Londonderry and although it felt like we had lots to say, it was over in a flash. Next stop, the exhibition next month!

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Out and About

Men at Work

Men at Work

Occasionally, rephotography involves standing in some rather awkward spots, which can be a bit disconcerting when you’ve got your head under the black cloth and you can hear the traffic rumbling past. So it was handy when we found this ‘men at work’ sign that we could hide behind last week, at the Bishop’s Gate.

One of the great things that we’ve noticed whilst we’ve been out in the city with the camera, is how people come up to chat. Sometimes it’s about the camera and they pop their head under the cloth to have a look through the viewfinder at the upside-down, back-to-front image. We have a chat about what we’re doing with the City of Culture, and sometimes people even tell us that they’ve got their own collection of photographic glass plates in their attic that would rival many museum collections, which is what happened last week. If anyone reading this has similar collections of photographs from around the city, at home, however big or small, then I know the guys at the Derry-Londonderry Portrait of a City offices would love to hear from you.

Everyone has great stories about how the area has changed, the buildings that have been taken down, the new ones that have been put up in their place, the shops that come and go and the ones that have stood the test of time. It’s those stories that we love to hear and they are what we try to capture in our images, showing the passage of time and the changes that have occurred over the past 100 years, in one single photograph.

The City Walls

The City Walls

Modern wet plate pictures of the Afghan conflict

We’re always keen to explore new ways of capturing images and one of the reasons we use the large format 5″ x 4″ camera is that it slows us down, it makes us contemplate what we’re photographing (an hour of having your head under the black cloth in the summer heat can do that to you!). Of course, it also helps to connect us to the past, to understand what photographers 100 years ago were thinking and what they had to contend with. All of this is particularly important when we’re doing rephotography which we feel gives us a truer feel to our images.

So it was especially exciting when we found this article on the Guardian blog about a photographer who’s based with the US Army in Afghanistan. Ed Drew is taking pictures of soldiers using a wet plate 5″ x 4″ camera, reminiscent of the Civil War images taken by the likes of Mathew Brady. Anyway, it’s given us food for thought, maybe it’s the next stage in our City Revisited project!

Enjoy the article:


Andy & Paul

Okay, so after doing some reading around the large format cameras in the last post, I stumbled on what looks like a fascinating project to document the use of box cameras in Afghanistan. Completely manual, with no shutter (the lens cap is used instead), the film is ‘developed’ inside the box. The camera’s use is now dwindling and the project’s aim is to record it’s use before it disappears completely. It’s well worth a read:


Our Camera

The Large Format Camera

The large format camera

It’s about time that we told you a bit about the camera that we use on both projects. It’s a large format camera, which uses 5″ x 4″ film.  It’s based on the technology used by photographers 100 years ago, though it’s actually a new camera and has the same beautiful combination of wooden frame with metal hinges and bellows that photographers such as Robert French and R. J. Welch would have used in Ireland at the turn of the last century. The only difference is that we use film rather than glass plates that are difficult to source and process.

The reason that we use this camera is simply because it uses the same technology that French and Welch used.  Re-photography is all about putting ourselves in exactly the same position as the original photographer.  Understanding their process, what they were thinking when they clicked the shutter, what they wanted to include and what to leave out of their shot are all things we consider, just like with any camera.  But using a large format camera involves a lengthy process of examining an image upside and back to front with a lupe, under a black cloth, and given that it can cost £10 every time you take a picture, we tend to do everything quite slowly!  If we take 3 pictures in a morning, we’ve been very busy.

We’ll describe more about our actual process in later posts, but hopefully this gives you an idea of why we use such a beautiful piece of equipment. The couple of pictures that we’ve attached to this post show you the camera itself, as well as shot taken under the hood during our BBC project.

Under the hood

Under the hood

Birmingham’s Brewery Blacklist

Whilst looking at some old pictures I just came across this interesting blog. Looking at how the Victorians used photography to document criminals is a fascinating topic, especially seeing how it evolved over time. Good examples are those pioneering pictures taken by Alphonse Bertillon at the turn of the last century, or these 1920s police shots of criminals http://scan.net.au/scan/journal/display.php?journal_id=67 . So it’s lovely to see these pictures of some Victorian women offenders listed here, with some great background details.


So much of the history of crime focusses upon the interaction between the legal apparatus of the state – the police, the court room, the prison- and the behaviours of those acting outside of social and legal norms. For historians and enthusiasts of crime history alike, it can be refreshing and rewarding in equal measure to take a brief diversion and consider some of the extra-legal methods used to control and counteract offenders and deviants.

An intriguing collection recently released on the genealogy website ancestry.com The Holt Brewery Co. Ltd., Black List at the turn of the century shifts our focus briefly from the capital and ‘second city’ of Victorian England’s thriving empire, to another no less bustling but often historically neglected industrial hub of the country – Birmingham.

The 1902 amendment to the Licencing Act made it an offence for those identified as ‘habitual drunkards’ (those with three…

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