Dean O'Brien's Blog

Bradford National Media Museum & Impressions Gallery visit …Truly inspiring

with 10 comments

Since starting University back in September 2009 I have been inspired to look at more work from different artists.  Ranging from painters, sculptors and photographers.  It is very easy to see how the paths cross and how many images are influenced by the work from other mediums.  A trip to Bradford was just what I needed.

First stop off was the Impressions Gallery in Bradford.  This was a superb, modern looking building with a brilliant exhibition area.  I was privileged to see the current work there being exhibited by Max Kandhola titled Flatland: A Landscape Punjab.  In all honesty I half expected some images of poverty in a ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ style.  Please forgive my ignorance here but I’m trying to be as honest as I can.  However, I am pleased to report that this was not the case.  This body of work focussed on the themes of memory, migration and Sikh diaspora.  Punjab now straddles the borders of India and Pakistan.  Birmingham born Kandhola found himself in unfamiliar territory yet informed by memories from his family.  The images comprised of fields, landscapes, rivers and skies.  No people, and you could almost feel the silence within them.  Definitely not what I expected but I’m glad that I had the pleasure of viewing this excellent work.

I particularly enjoyed the ‘Field Notes and Explorations’ display.  This was a collection of field notes, drawings, paintings and polaroids which he made during his visit to the Punjab between 2003 and 2006.  Max explains that these are an integral part of his thinking and working process and that they create an important starting point.  It was great to be able to look at the Polaroid image and then wander over and see the final print.  He states that one of the inspirations for Flatland was European landscape paintings by artists such as Turner, Constable, Rubens and Monet.  This made me reflect on my own work and that I need to look further afield for influences and not just from photographers.  I’m still trying to develop my own style.

Next stop was the Bradford National Media Museum and straight up the stairs to see the ‘We English’ body of work by Simon Roberts.  I have always been a great admirer of the work of photographer Simon Roberts.  I first came across his work a couple of years ago when I purchased his book ‘Motherland’.  Having the chance to view his latest body of work supported by a book ‘We English’ was an opportunity not to be missed.  Greg Hobson curator of Photographs gave us a brilliant insight into the narrative behind many of these fascinating images and if there was one image that left me dumb struck it had to be ‘Camel Estuary’.  For those that are not familiar with it then let me explain.  It is a fantastic massive image showing a very empty beach.  There are however two groups of people passing each other with dogs.  At the exact moment when they pass each other, the dogs try to go towards each other (as they do) and both groups look towards each other as they pass.  It is at that exact point that Simon clicks the shutter.  Although this image is included in the book it really does not do it justice and it really does need to be seen in its entirety for you to real feel and sense what his happening at that exact moment in time.  I’m sure Bresson would agree that it was a ‘decisive moment’.  Greg also gave an excellent talk regarding the role that the museum plays in the preservation of media history.  Superb stuff.

After viewing Simon Roberts exhibition we were then treated top a tour of the archives which are stored in temperature controlled rooms to preserve the precious images and negatives.  This was followed by a tour of the museum of vintage media.  This included everything from vintage Kodak signs to an old Commodore 64 computer.  To say that it took me back a few years would be an understatement.  I still remember purchasing a  Halina 110 camera from Argos.  Yes, if you want any reassurances that you are getting old then take a quick gander down here.  Definitely worth a visit though.

One great thing to come from all of this exhibition is the fact that after a chat to lecturer Jonathan Shaw I was given the go ahead to contact Simon Roberts and invite him to talk at the University.  Simon has agreed and we should be amongst the first to see his latest body of work ‘The Election Project’ which will be ready in the autumn.  I did manage to upload some images of my own on-line to the ‘Election Project’s’ public gallery so I’m looking forward to speaking about this with Simon.

I understand that due to what can only be described as ‘piss poor’ attendance by some of the pupils on our course it is a big gamble for the lecturers to organise such excursions.  However, we desperately need these visits for our knowledge to grow and develop.  I’m glad this was well attended and hope that future trips are in the process of being planned.


10 Responses

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  1. As usual Dean a good informative post. What always worries me is comments like yours ( This made me reflect on my own work and that I need to look further afield for influences and not just from photographers. I’m still trying to develop my own style.) I don’t have a problem with reflection I think that is good practice, However, feeling one has to look at others to inform ones own judgement and inspiration can lead to impasse. Not for everybody I know, George would probably disagree as would our tutors. Me, it is an open mind and develop your eye. There lies your style.

    Food for thought.

    Rick Medlock

    May 23, 2010 at 9:24 am

  2. Thanks Rick. Its early days for me yet so still finding my feet. Being more open with the way that I view things is a major priority at the moment. I used to be more obsessed with the more technical side of things so I’m trying to change this. I know that you have said in the past that you draw your inspiration from music. MIne mainly comes from viewing other peoples work. Not to copy, but to spark an idea that may come to fruition.

    Thanks for the comment though

    Dean O'Brien

    May 23, 2010 at 9:34 am

  3. Sounds good, sorry I missed it.


    May 23, 2010 at 10:09 pm

  4. Great posts Dean, I’m a Bradfordian, used to go to the National Museum of film and photography & Central Library as a child, then Bradford Uni in ’96/99.
    We were the 1st to get IMAX in UK t, quite magical in the 1980’s.
    I feel proud you enjoyed it so much! They have spent quite a bit on it, I too was very Impressed last year after the transformation to ‘NMM’.

    You might like, Jason Scott Tilley’s work, who gave a talk at ICE.

    As 3nd Gen. Punjabi, will try to make this trip to Bradford to see the exhibition, you’ve convinced me!

    Forget about other students, you can take a fish to water and all that.. If any more trips like this come up, let us know.


    Harpreet Khara

    June 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

  5. Yeah thanks for the comments Harpreet. I’m glad that I have convinced you to take a trip up. Its well worth seeing. Will check out Jason Scott Tilley’s work. Thanks

    There were quite a few spare seats on the coach so I will let you know when we have got our next trip booked.

    Dean O'Brien

    June 1, 2010 at 11:47 am

  6. Dear Dean
    Hope you are well, glad you are enjoying life at coventry university, it has a good programme.

    Good to know he caught the show in Bradford, We English and Flatlands. Looking at your blog I was interested in your photographs of the Flatlands show. I am always keen to log as many iamges taken from my show from other photographers.

    I would be grateful if you could email me the images that specifically show the paintings and drawings.
    I will only use them within a research content

    max kandhola

    July 17, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    • Hi Max
      Thanks for your comments. It was a great show and has given me great inspiration for my own projects.

      The images are hi res and would take quite a while to email across. Do you want to email me your address and I will pop them onto a cd for you and get it in the post? If so, email me at

      Dean O'Brien

      July 17, 2010 at 5:58 pm

  7. This blog has made me want to go to the Bradford National Media Museum & Impressions Gallery only
    money is stopping me.

    The photographs of Max Kandhola are very vernacular
    which is now increasingly popular like holiday postcards.

    Do you use sketchbooks at uni? If so, are they crucial in how projects are marked?

    I cannot understand the’bad’attendance on your course. I’m desperate to get into Coventry University and they throw away that opportunity.
    So ungrateful and I understand why you find it unacceptable.

    Chris Alford

    January 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm

  8. I find sketchbooks essential whether in Uni or not. They are great for getting ideas together for clients etc.. and mind mapping ideas.
    They are crucial for grades as your lecturers need to know where you got your ideas and that they were properly researched.

    Dean O'Brien

    January 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm

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