am a native Brit who for over 20 years pursued a career in Human Resources, initially
domestic UK work and then progressively more international. In 1996 I had the
good fortune to marry an American and one of us had to move in order to shorten
a 3500 mile commute and it made sense for it to be me. Since moving over here
I have been building up a small practice in executive search, doing a combination
of US and overseas assignments.
My interest in
stained glass and in photographing it also dates from the period around 1996.
I had always noticed and greatly admired stained glass art from my early days
in Carlisle which has a fine gothic cathedral with some original glass dating
back to the 14th century. I had also been a keen photographer since getting my
first camera, an old Brownie box camera, when I was about 9. However, it wasn't
until the mid-90s that I put the two things together and discovered that stained
glass can be extremely photogenic, albeit requiring more than a little luck and
judgment in order to get good results.
that time I took some pictures of windows in the church of Lanercost Priory, near
Carlisle, and achieved some very pleasing results. I did not realize it at the
time but the windows which I had photographed were designed by two very famous
designers - Edward Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, and Evie Hone, a great
20th century Irish artist.
the ensuing years I took occasional shots of glass, some in Cambridge and others
in the church in Scotland where my wife and I had married but it was really not
until in 2000, on a vacation trip to the UK, that I began to study the subject
in detail and it was at this time that I 'discovered' the work of William Morris
and the Pre-Raphaelites from an excellent book entitled "Stained Glass in
England" by June Osborne. This work not only covers the history and techniques
of glass-making but also includes a gazetteer detailing important works by county
that enabled us to track down some further examples of Morris glass in Cumbria
where we were staying. At that time I undertook fairly comprehensive shoots of
St Martin's church in Brampton, a magnificent example of Pre-Raphaelite work which
is the only church ever designed by Philip Webb, the architect, who was part of
the Morris 'school', and also Jesus Church at Troutbeck. Both of these resulted
in good work.
Early in 2001 I did a shoot of the
windows at the Church of The Incarnation in NYC. What drew me there was that I
had discovered that there were 2 Morris windows but when I was able to see the
church it was clear to me that the Morris glass was not (in my view) their finest
and they were hugely overshadowed by the magnificent examples of Tiffany glass
as well as other fine work by La Farge and Henry Holiday. Some of those windows
proved especially tricky to shoot because they have no natural light and are lit
by undiffused spots or floods resulting in 'hot spots' which are a challenge.
However, despite this I think that I was able to produce some good work much to
the surprise of the Pastor who had seen others try and fail before me.
mid-year I was able to take a few pictures in St Paul's church in Richmond which
also is home to some fine Tiffany glass and then in early November I was able
to pay another visit to some Cumbrian churches to almost fulfill my goal of having
good coverage of all the 19thC Morris glass there. The year was rounded off late
in November by a trip to Saugerties, NY and Hudson Falls, NY to take the shots
which now appear at my website.
In the case of
Saugerties I was interested in seeing the window because it is the earliest recorded
commission of a Morris window here in the US. In the case of Hudson Falls I was
responding to an earlier enquiry from them in the course of their trying to prove
that their windows are by Tiffany for grant purposes.
have some very strong feelings about stained glass. Firstly it is relatively inaccessible
to all but a few. In the UK this is because much work, for example the churches
in Cumbria, is so 'off the beaten track' and so (relatively) unpublicized that
even when visitors are in the vicinity they may not know of it's existence and
when one looks in global terms how many New Yorkers (for example) will get the
opportunity to see a little church in Brampton, a small market town which can
barely be found on a map?
However, at least in
the UK most of these small churches are open more or less all day and every day
whereas here in the US most are open only for strictly limited times and in many
cases only on Sundays except by special appointment. This is quite limiting in
that it simply is not possible to go 'walkabouts' and look in churches on the
spur of the moment.
Lastly I honestly believe
that, given the right equipment and film, I can produce pictures which include
details which simply cannot be fully appreciated by the naked eye when one is
viewing a window in situ. This is not rocket science and there are many many examples
of similar work by other photographers. I do not claim to have a unique skill
or talent but I do believe that my work is good and I would like to do more.
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