Above: ‘Girl in striped shirt, 1976’
Paul Hill has had a few watershed moments in his long career as a fine art photographer and educator.
He helped set up the precursor to student-centred higher education courses in photography. With his wife, Angela, he launched the UK’s first residential photography workshop. He was the first art photographer to receive an MBE for services to photography, and the first professor of photographic practice in a British university.
All that is history, though, as the 80-year-old focuses on his latest exhibition – the first he has staged in platinum palladium. The platinum printing process, invented and patented by William Willis in 1873, is still used to give photographs a sense of beauty and permanence that is much appreciated by collectors. The closely related element palladium was later introduced to the process, since the silvery-white metal was less expensive than platinum.
Hill has collaborated over 18 months with experts at the Studio of Light at Loughborough University who have united the platinum-palladium process with contemporary image-making.
“When they told me that the prints would last for at least 1,000 years it was an easy decision,” says Hill. “To think if a photograph was made by this process at the time of the Norman Conquest and it would still be okay today is phenomenal.”
They have given a fresh interpretation to some of the original 35mm negatives from Hill’s renowned series Prenotations (1974-1978). The result is Prenotations Remastered, an exhibition of ten platinum-palladium prints at Argentea Gallery, Birmingham. They include the work ‘Man against snow, Austria, 1974’, of which there was only one negative in existence.
Hill, who lives and works in Derbyshire with fellow photographer Maria Falconer, explains why this exhibition is a landmark moment for him.
Above: ‘Man against snow, Austria, 1974’
How would you describe yourself?
Photographer, teacher, writer.
You have seen many developments in photography over the decades. Why is this exhibition particularly exciting for you?
It gave me the opportunity to revisit a project that marked the best and most coherent body of work I had made at that point in my career. Also, to see the images printed much bigger – some 30x40ins – than I ever could in the 1970s, and in platinum too!
Thomas Joshua Cooper came up with the title Prenotations when we worked together at Trent Poly in Nottingham. It is about things that are about to happen. I loved the word and as the work was about anxiety it was perfect. I was also overtly exploring what we photographers deal with all the time – light, frame and vantage point.
Above: ‘Legs over High Tor, Matlock, 1975’
What have been the watershed moments for you in a long and prestigious career?
1965 – when I moved from newspaper reporter to becoming a professional photographer.
1976 – when my late wife Angela and I started the first residential photography workshop in the UK.
1982 – when I wrote Approaching Photography.
1990 – when my first monograph, White Peak Dark Peak, was published.
1996 – when I set up one of the first MA Photography courses in the UK.
2010 – when my first colour monograph, Corridor of Uncertainty, was published and when I met Maria Falconer.
What image is your all-time favourite and why?
‘Man against snow, Austria, 1974’ because it showed little but said a lot, to others as well as to myself. It is also probably my most reproduced image.
Above: ‘Astrobouncer, Shrewsbury Flower Show, 1974’
What other image-makers inspire you and why?
Bill Brandt because he was an original – and he liked my work.
What is your hope for photography?
That it becomes part of media studies, a subject I would like to see introduced into the [English and Welsh] national curriculum. Like economics, all young people should study the media. It’s as important as English, science and maths, and will inform them about the real world so they understand it better and get involved in changing things for the greater good.
Above: 'Josephine, Nottingham, 1974'