Thursday, 18 August 2011

Blitz Ghosts - The Interview


Cast you memories back. Back... back.... baaaaaaaaaaaack to my post about Sergy Larenkov and his art work? 

Well. There is another like him. On home turf. Oh yes. And he is good. VERY good.

Nick Stone has bestowed upon me the delight of an interview. It is long, insightful and a real treat.  

So, grab yourself a cup of something warm, sit back and scroll down. Here it comes....


 
George Swain collection/NCC

1) What first made you interested in this subject?


Family experience really. My mum and dad were very old when they had me. 
My dad was in the RAF & experienced both "Operation Aerial", the forgotten evacuation after Dunkirk via Cherbourg and Brest for those stuck underneath the German thrust, and was based in India and what is now Pakistan until about 1946. My dad's family were bombed out of the East End and his dad was a fire watcher on the Docks. My mum was a midwife, and generally feisty old bird living in both London and Cambridge during the war with small kids. Her dad had died near Ypres during WW1, which generally made a great impression on me in between the Airfix models and Warlord comics of my childhood.


I've always loved photography and history, particularly social history and things related to my family. Coincidentally as a Designer, I'd worked on a couple of projects in the 1990s which covered the Norwich Blitz, art working a book, 'Norwich at War' by Joan Banger, which really fired up my interest in the effect it had had on the city and it's people.Then I just started to 'spot' the gaps or 'missing teeth' in the city and to catalogue them gradually. 


©Nick Stone original photos ©Archant


2) How long have you been creating your “windows to the past”?

I started doing the Blitz Ghosts in February this year, a friend pointed out Sergy's work, which is pretty inspirational. I'd already got a catalogue of sites from my previous work, the technique just works perfectly achieving exactly what I'd wanted to do without having to display two "then and now" style pictures.



©Nick Stone original photos ©Archant


 3) What is your creation process? Is it started by an old photo that catches your imagination or a particular event, for example?

 It varies, sometimes I'll find a photo and just know exactly how it will work, so I'll go and shoot it and put it together quite quickly, at other times I'll have a specific set in mind, like the one in Rampant Horse Street of the Fireman and round the old Buntings store and Curls, which I think is probably still my favourite. I usually go out with photocopies and a bag of camera kit, and try and put myself as close to the original spot as I can. Some work, some don't.  Some require a lot of research and wandering around with old maps, some don't. I do like ones where there is a sense of interaction between the then and the now, where people are involved, or where the change is huge, but there's a large visual clue still there, it's all about re-discovery both for me and for the viewer.


©Nick Stone original photos ©Archant

4) What is a typical response to your art?

I'm not entirely sure if it's art, or even science. It strikes me as pretty weird thing, sort of a side affect of two interests. The response has been pretty amazing, incredible even, particularly after the EDP and Evening News covered it. The hit rate on my Flickr stream was unbelievable for a week or so.

The results have been interesting too. I've had quite a few stories of people who either do live or have lived in some of the buildings, and even one, "that's my grandad!" email. The best ones are where people have commented and actually given me some context. In particular a story relating to one in Waterloo Road in Norwich, which was actually, at the time it was bombed, being lived in by their grandmother, who had already written down the story. Just fabulous!

The other thing it has opened for me is access to some real social history stories. I should be interviewing two couples who lived through it soon. Also so many people just didn't realise the damage done, why the city looks how it does and what had actually happened. I've also had a lot of comments about how they now see Norwich with a new perspective and actually look at it rather than it just being there. If people have a better understanding of what happened as a result of this series, then it's worked for me.


©Nick Stone original photos ©Archant




5) What image that you have created has the most significance for you?

 Probably the ones in the places I know well, particularly Aylsham Road, which I walk past virtually every day. That and some of the city centre damage.


George Swain collection/NCC

 6) Have you ever publicly exhibited your work?


 It's all available online obviously and I've had a two small exhibitions of it. One at the YMCA in Norwich and one in support of some talks given at City Hall on the Baedeker Blitz. I'm working towards two more exhibitions, which if they work and I can secure funding, will be larger scale at two city centre venues. One will hopefully coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Baedeker Raids on Norwich in April 2012. I've also hopefully got some of the work going up as part of a fixed exhibition in the future, I should know more about that soon.


George Swain collection/NCC

7) Have you thought about doing more work, outside of Norfolk?


 Indeed I have! I have a slight but persistent case of 'Trench Fever', again due to family links although this time with Ypres in Flanders and Northern France. We've just been to The Salient where I completed a few test shots which have worked pretty well and are now up online. The plan is to try and go back and do a longer series of these, hopefully later this year -  funds and time permitting.

The research will be different though as the damage was so much more profound and the areas are much harder to identify as it's changed dramatically over the last 100 years. It would also be nice to bring in a local link, so I'd like to try and find some original shots of the Norfolk regiment in situ if possible, and maybe some of the 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers, who my Grandfather served with.  Generally I think the Ypres Salient is an extremely fertile and worthy subject, I'm full of them already in my head having had a taster I can barely wait to do some more.


©Nick Stone original photos ©Archant


How fantabulous is that little lot then? I love things like this and if you want to see more -  please pop over to Blitz Ghost's FaceBook Page and have a butchers at his other work on Flickr.

His recent WW1 stuff took my breath away.

Over and Out!




16 comments:

  1. Ah, that's amazing! I featured these on Vintage Norwich and I keep meaning to do interviews with people but I never seem to have the time to get questions together!

    Nick's brilliant isn't he!

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  2. Wow what an amazing post! The pics are fantastic!!!

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  3. What a talent... incredibly powerful images.....x
    Nattie x

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  4. Thank you for such an intresting post, very moving and incrediably powerful images, amazing talent.

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  5. How fascinating. It's always so interesting to hear about the artists who create amazing images. These are particularly amazing, seeing places I know then-and-now.

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  6. Very clever. They should use images like these to teach history at school, would really help capture interest. Thanks both for sharing this fascinating collection.

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  7. Wow - absolutely amazing! What a great idea to mesh the two pictures together - really gives a great insight into how the bombing affected certain areas. Fantastic post.
    Liz & Shortbread & Ginger

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  8. Brilliant post. I love these works...they're so evocative.xxx

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  9. This has been SUCH a fascinating read and his photos are so thought-provoking. Great post - thank you.

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  10. Amazingly creepy, breathtaking interview.

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  11. I find these very poignant and completely fascinating.

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  12. Wow, the work is really unique and thought-provoking!

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  13. Wow what an amazing man and you did an excellent interview LG. These works are historical treasures and my favourites are the ones where current day people look like they're about to step into the past, such as the one with the two men pulling the unexploded bomb out of the road. Incredible!! Thank you so much, I have such a fascination with WWII photography. xo

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  14. So pleased you like Nick's work as much as I do!

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  15. I love these pictures - they're so moving

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I'd love to hear what you think so feel free to comment away!

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