Jonathan Chapman
18th September - 30th October 2020

My camera is my dog, it changes me from sad loner to purposeful flaneur. When I returned to this region, like a dog, I wanted to be outside exploring this new familiar place. I didn’t want to be in my studio sniffing oil paint, stuck inside the genre of still life. I wanted to move across landscapes, cut across genres; photography let me do this. Forty years ago, I didn’t know Middlesbrough had manufactured a third of all Victorian iron or that little Port Clarence had a large enough workforce to deserve its own transporter bridge. I’ve now photographed where they laid first tracks, found the
first ore and built the first house. Photography feels like hunting. You don’t create an image like a painting, you have to find it. It’s like trying to catch butterflies in a rectangular net. And if the light is too flat and foreground blurred then no amount of photoshop can turn your cabbage white into a painted lady. The man who runs this gallery kept telling me that I photograph like a painter. It felt like being told I cook like a waiter. I wanted to be considered as a
proficient photographer not as a bowler who can bat a bit. But I think he was right, if these images are interesting it is perhaps because they are photographs taken by a painter. The circle of images that I see the world through are paintings not photographs. The lamps and signs tessellating the sky between the towers of Dorman Long remind me of Cezanne’s tree boughs blocking the space above Mount St Victoire. It is this that encourages, and for me validates, the taking of the shot. But I want the best of both worlds. I want the formal DNA of such paintings and photography’s ability to document the melancholy narratives of empty docks and lost trades. I try to classically order the visual chaos of this region, organize its
bricolage of tired buildings, peeling paint and stunning views.

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