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Monday, 27 October 2014

Luton Airport, x-rays and Blue Peter

I write a lot about photobooks on this blog. The photobook world is small, a few thousand people, but it is dynamic. Sometimes it's too small and it gets too self-congratulatory. When it becomes most interesting is when it looks out of itself, That's when you get great photobooks that are great books - that touch on the world at large, that tie in with a bigger picture, and touch hearts and souls beyond those of the 10,000 people in the world who regularly buy photobooks. 

But there are other worlds in photography. What is amazing is how self-contained they seem to be, how if you are happily floating around in one world (photobook, documentary, fashion, food, car, wedding etc etc), you rarely come into contact with another. 

That's when things become boring.Good work extends outside one generic comfort zone and goes beyond photography. It has guts and opinions and is never, ever easy.

Last Friday I had a day where photography went well outside my comfort zone into worlds that were far beyond my ken. The deal was I had to write about x-ray artist Hugh Turvey for the RPS Journal. He was being filmed by the BBC for Blue Peter  (if you're not from the UK, Blue Peter is a children's TV institution - that's the presenter Barney Harwood smiling at the camera. Hugh is in front).

So off I went to Turvey's offices near Luton Airport, the only airport in the UK to have a song made in its honour. The office was in a lab where they do non-destructive testing of aircraft parts. And there in the middle of it were Hugh and Artemi Turvey making a series of 20 x-rays of a 1961 Lambretta which would then be stitched together into one giant image. 

One of Hugh's friends, an expert in tomography (CT scans) was there just to watch, there was a guy called Dave who brought in the x-ray scanner (like an Imacon for x-rays) which was making the scans that Hugh and Artemi would then stitch together into one 3GB file, and photographing everything was Paul Stuart (who took the picture at the top of me by the x-ray developing tank - did you know unprocessed x-rays are white?).

It was the weirdest mix of image making I have had the pleasure to witness and completely fascinating, a different world but somehow connected. And isn't that what makes things interesting and where the magic comes from, when you have those unexpected links happening between different fields; in this case between different areas photography, art, science, food and industry.  

You can watch Hugh Turvey on this Thursday's Blue Peter. Now all I have to do is write this up in coherent form. Here's one I made earlier. 

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