A Life in Photography, Phil & Gwen Charnock - Tuesday 6th March 2018.

On Tuesday 6th March, Morpeth Camera Club hosted their Annual Event with speakers Phil and Gwen Charnock (both)
FRPS, MFIAP, whose talk was entitled ‘A Life in Photography’, Phil explained that it was a one off talk which they would
like to dedicate to their good friend and Lifetime President of the Morpeth Camera Club, Vince Rooker, who sadly passed
away last year.


In the early days, Phil said, he sold advertising and Gwen worked in a chemist shop, with photography as their hobby,
and at the onset of digital photography they gave tuition and wrote for magazines. In 1984 he won a prize to spend a
weekend with Patrick Lichfield, a turning point in their lives which led to them leaving their jobs and pursue photography

Converting their spare room, they approached record producers, album cover designers and travel magazines which led
them to be commissioned by Eurocamp to design their travel brochures. Luckily, Phil said, thirty five years on and they
are still doing it. Taking photographs, leaving space for wording, keeping colours simple but effective was the key, and
the audience enjoyed seeing holiday shots of children, camp surroundings, food shots and the scenery of the regions
they were commissioned to cover. Their perception of their surrounding became even more acute, capturing the detail
in a simple glass sparkling wine, candid shots of fellow diners, approaching local market traders to pose for a colourful
shot; everything which highlighted the characteristics of the holiday destination. Travelling miles to find a perfect shot
of poppy fields, photographing castles and chateaus in the Dordogne, visiting medieval towns, capturing flowers and
lakes in the Jura Mountains, Venetian coffee shops, alpine regions, together with learning about the history along the
way, they are happy to go that extra mile to get the shot they want.

Next we saw beautiful examples of combination photography, merging elements from several photographs; a swirling
dervish set against an old bank door, miniature ballet dancers dancing on giant hands and elements from photographs
taken at a Pink Floyd tribute concert, with merged lighting, musicians and performers with great effect. Poignant
images followed of postcards received from and old photographs taken of Phil’s great uncle who perished on the Titanic.

Asking the audience how one could take interesting photographs on a cruise, the question was answered with humorous
images of deck life, glamorous stage shows, shore breaks in exotic places with colourful, busy street markets, tango
dancers in Las Ramblas and beautiful scenic shots of the fiords.

Following on Phil showed the photographs he submitted to gain his MFIAP (Master of the International Federation of
Photographic Art) award. His theme was the Lancashire Police Force, a documentary of monochrome images taken
when they both joined drug squads on raids and arrests. With armed and dog divisions on assignment we saw gritty
and raw images of dangerous operations using shields and helmets. Gwen said, although this assignment gave rise to
massive adrenaline rushes, they both agreed that it was the best job they had been on.

Gwen’s MFIAP award pictures followed, her theme being Marrakesh, and we enjoyed colourful images of Moroccan life,
with portraits of the old and young, street life, families, rubbish strewn alleyways, poverty, schools and markets. Gwen
explained how they had been invited into a family home where they took interesting shots of family members, only to
find that before they could leave, their hosts demanded money for each of the very large family gathered, much to the
amusement of the audience.

Gwen & Phil then showed an audio visual piece on their own interpretation of a Venetian Carnival. Silhouetted gondolas
set in glorious sunset, striking masked figures appearing in eerie hallways, alleyways and against a golden crenulated
spiral stone staircase made for a hauntingly beautiful lead into the interval. Refreshments were served during which the
audience could enjoy the photographic exhibition of work from club members.


Part two continued with caravan holidays, where, together with their beloved Tibetan terrier, "Barney" they travel in
comfort to scenic parts of Great Britain and Europe. Beach scenes in Western Scotland, moody Dungeness huts, and
crystalline hoar frosted woodland contrasted with dramatic waves at Whitley Bay and huge foaming waves seemingly
engulfing Tynemouth lighthouse. Images of pub characters in Ireland, cottage interiors and horse groomers in Dublin,
welcoming farmyard pigs and railway tracks in Krakow followed. A visit to Auschwitz, with acquired permission to take
respectful photographs in restricted areas, we witnessed stark towers, old signage, gas chambers and personal effects.

A project on Oradour sur Glane, the site of a WWII massacre with stories of execution and reprisal came next, which
contrasted with scenes of London’s New Year fireworks on the Thames, artistically blurred bridges & silhouetted buildings.
Then to Sport; noisy atmospheric scenes at darts championships, FA cup finals, dramatic and gory boxing matches, shots
at Wimbledon and fur flying racing Afghan Hounds. Creative shots used mainly for competitions followed with eerie shots
of galloping white horses, a haunting bride in snow and Dali like characters. Observational photos came next with straight
black and white shots which caught a moment in time; old chess players, shoppers and shadowy figures using light,
movement and composition with great effect. A visit to Crufts, behind the scenes, the photographs showed emotion,
tiredness and grooming with the paraphernalia necessary to show the dogs at their best.

Phil and Gwen stressed that their photography is no longer about one off images but of forming memories. They no longer
store their photographs on their hard drive but save them in book form, as treasured memories. Their presentation then
concluded with a calming, thought provoking audio visual entitled ‘Through Seasons of Tranquillity’. Set to soft Irish music
and with the addition of poetry, the audience were treated to soothing sounds, pastel woodland, vibrant poppies, aqua blue
seas and amazing sunsets, with words which conveyed the message to stop to smell the roses, appreciate all the beautiful
things in life and to live life at a gentler pace.


With their seamless interactive commentary, together with their excellent photography, the Charnocks provided the
audience with a truly memorable evening. Vice Chairman, John Barnes thanked Phil and Gwen for a superb presentation.