Location: Skegness / Lincoln. Date: 2009 / 2010
The SEAS international festival was the catalyst needed to persuade Byford to present his long awaited public exhibition, something that he has always been so reluctant to give.
“Black/North SEAS is an arts adventure that reveals in story, song and image a vision of Europe drawn from the experiences of the communities that live on its shoreline.”
How better to portray our corner of the world than through the camera of a photographer who has passion for the locality and people coursing through his veins. This is apparent not only in his art, but in the relentless manner he encourages the preservation of history whilst also promoting the importance of embracing future opportunities within Skegness and surrounding areas to residents and visitors alike.
Byford bestowed on me the enviable, but daunting, task of selection and categorisation of the photographic material. This unashamedly became completely self-indulgent!
Temptation aside; my goal was to present a cross-section of respectfully honest and glamorously quirky images in comprehensive form, giving candid sampling of John’s style, albeit moderated, (no sex please we’re British) without cauterising the elements essential to building a portrait of the artist himself.
We are under attack!
“John Byford Shoots...” – cheeky – I can cope with that – but hang on a minute “...he’ll even shoot your wife?!?” – photographically only of course!
Are the subjects of John’s long-term “shoot first ask questions later” mantra ready for this exhibition – who knows?
Is Skegness ready for this – yes, yes, yes!
“Heaven is dull. Go to hell.”
These are some of the milder words captured in stunning photographic form in an insightful exhibition I had the privilege of seeing in 2010 at Lincoln’s Sam Scorer Gallery.
Hailed as “capturing the essence of personality”, John Byford’s “A Daily Dose” certainly offers an intriguing perspective into the human psyche and interaction with the world around us. Whereas some styles of photography can seem strangely empty, this is definitely not the case here. Unlike some more clinical exhibitions, Byford’s work is largely unstaged. This produces a strong sense of realism that adds a splash of colour to everyday life. The most striking aspect of this artist’s work is colour, intense, vibrant colour that adds an almost child-like energy to each composition. People also feature strongly, to bring a highly-expressive human element into each piece. Even when the people themselves are not in the frame, humanity remains fully intact, an example being a pair of shoes thrown over an electricity line, a piece of buttered toast smothered in strawberry jam, or a set of two chairs awkwardly opposing one another. You can easily imagine a young child, overcome with excitement, throwing his shoes and cares into the air. What’s interesting about this exhibition is that a large amount of the photographs are shown in pairs. “I tried to create a relationship between the two images,” explained Byford.
Although this intention is not always obvious in every pair, there is a suggestion of a connection just beneath the surface. The themes of each combine to form a short storyline. While simplistic, it somehow manages to capture an idea, instead of a mere moment in time. A favourite among gallery viewers seems to be a photograph of a bride, dressed in her finest, caught smoking a crafty cigarette after the ceremony. Whilst unflattering, the image is arguably more real than any typical wedding photograph. Stripped of the glamour and the rosy sentimentality, this portrait of a worried woman is a perfect example of Byford’s ability to capture an image as candid as the man himself. “I tend to pick out things that are missed by many”, he said. His quirky and expressive style foregoes idealism to produce something that is utterly and unquestionably real. This is the world as you see it, but in a way most of us never do.
Washington DC USA
Over my many visits to John's photo blog, I have developed a growing appreciation for his talent in capturing "people" pictures. With an unerring ability to sense the "prime moment" he captures the essence of his subject's personality. John also has a "fine eye" for seeing strong pictorial possibilities in everyday situations. His photos of novel patterns and street scenes filled with action and people speak for themselves. Byford’s photos show a consistently high level of excellence rare in today's photo blogging.
Darlington, Co. Durham
John's work is full of stories about the people, communities and sub-cultures who inhabit our odd, quirky and eccentric little island, but above all else his work is about us all. His work speaks about how complex and at odds life in the UK can be. He doesn't aim to show us everything, but constructs only fragments or partial views, documenting our customs, landscapes, characters, beliefs, triumphs and failures. Photography is an Art form and Photographers are Artists- they select, record and present us with slices of life that they want us to see. John's images stand alone by themselves but they are also steeped in memory, dialogue, celebration, anecdotes and sometimes plain ordinariness. His photographs are narratives of who we are and where we are, they speak volumes on a grand scale.