Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Gardening ..

 At the corner of our street in the UK was the home of an elderly man and woman and I'd see them in front of it, practically every day, working hard on a garden that must have been about six feet square. It was tiny yet there they were, weeding and trimming and tidying. Don't get me wrong, I was a very keen gardener in the UK but even I thought 'God, how boring' .. and now I am that couple. I'm retired and I spend every waking moment in our garden, weeding and trimming and tidying .. and digging and planting and transplanting and sowing and dividing and .. photographing.

You'll be aware of my Florescence flower photography series of course, but this is 'real life' photography - in situ - with the ever-changing light that our wide open garden offers up to my lens. It's beautiful and constantly evolving and I realise now that the elderly couple in Warrington weren't gardening, they were pouring their love into something that gives so much in return. I'm sorry I ever thought you might be boring ..  

Thursday, 30 May 2019

All hail, Bowdon Vale

Two packages have arrived in the post this week - a DVD in one and a magazine in the other - and I'm pleased to say they both feature some of my music photographs from Bowdon Vale Youth Club in Manchester. It was there in 1979 - aged just 18 - that I photographed Joy Division and The Freshies - two 'up and coming' local bands. The rise and sustained popularity of Joy Division is known to all - the 'oh-so-near' failure of The Freshies not so well documented ..

'Louder Than War' magazine features one of my shots on its cover and two other images of Joy Division in a celebration of the 40th anniversary of one of their albums, and I have several of my pictures of The Freshies used in a brilliant new documentary film about their lead singer. 'Being Frank' is a fascinating look at the life of Chris Sievey, the man inside the head of the comedy character 'Frank Sidebottom'. He turned to 'being Frank' after getting nowhere with The Freshies but it was whilst he was still trying to make it with the band that I set up a morning's photography with them on the sunny streets of Manchester. One of the stills is featured here - the lads running down the spiral car-park entrance to Tesco's in Sale. Gosh, what memories ..

The magazine article is really good and the DVD is incredible. I highly recommend them. Sad to think that Ian Curtis and Chris Sievey are now both dead but lovely to think my work is playing a part in keeping their memories alive. Thank God I went to that little club all those years back.
All hail, Bowdon Vale ..

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Ten years gone ..

It's the tenth anniversary of the death of my Dad. Funny, mad, daft, sentimental old Joe O'Neill. Miss him to bits. Now give me my camera back, you old bugger ... x

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The Woolworth's Fire ..

Hot on the heels of my blog about Maggie Thatcher, I was reminded of something else that happened forty years ago this month. In the light of the Notre Dame fire, it's a rather poignant memory, too. Does anyone remember the horrendous fire that killed ten people in the Woolworth's store in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens?..

I was a newby 18 year old on Messenger Group Newspapers when I heard the news on the radio. Myself and another photographer shot into 'town' and began to take pictures, self-importantly walking in and amongst the firemen as they went about their difficult work. What I didn't know was that, around the side of the building, those ten poor victims were trapped and facing the last few minutes of their lives. I still shudder when I think of the horror ..


Monday, 29 April 2019

Mrs Margaret Thatcher ..

Barely six months into my first ever job as a press photographer, I can still remember the day a lady called Margaret Thatcher hit the campaign trail in our little town, and we all know how successful she was with that! Now I read that next month will be the 40th anniversary of her coming to power.
Oh, my bloody God. Where did those 40 years go?..

As it happens, I was to photograph Maggie one more time, and this time it was in a much more intimate setting as she prepared to launch her autobiography. As she was in book-signing mood, I asked if she would add her name to my little autograph book, which she happily did and which I still possess to this day ..

I don't care what you think about her politics, but you have to admit she was a hell of a figure during the late 20th century and I for one am really proud to say I actually met her in the flesh ..

Thursday, 11 April 2019


Following on from my night of star-shooting, I sent some of the pictures to an old pal in the UK. John Fox is a former photographer at the Manchester Evening News and now gives talks on Astro-Photography. He very kindly emailed me back with the word "Wow!" and then proceeded to identify and caption everything in what, to me, was just a pretty picture of the night sky. I was amazed, I am in awe and, on the day that a Black Hole was photographed for the first ever time, I am absolutely gob-smacked by what my camera has captured. And the distances and sizes of everything out there! These star-clouds and nebulae are 5, 6 and 7,000 light years away, yet still within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Imagine that. So far away and yet light travelling for up to 7,000 years landed on my camera sensor for a mere five seconds and recorded an image like this!

John, I think "Wow!" sums it up nicely ..


Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Stars in your eyes ..

I find it very exciting that today we might be on the verge of seeing the first ever photograph of a Black Hole. Scientists have teasingly announced that they "may" be revealing an image later this afternoon ..

By sheer coincidence I was up at 4 this morning to take some 'sky' pictures of my own. We get some really clear skies in our part of France and I'm trying to interest astronomers in coming to stay at our gîte for some tip-top night-time viewing. I'm being helped in that by an old snapper pal of mine, who  is head-honcho of an astronomical society back in the UK. He gives talks on astro-photography and has actually already used some of my photographs in his talks ..

Now might also be a good time to tell you that I've written and illustrated a children's adventure story about a Black Hole. It went off yesterday into that dark unknown world of literary agents and I'm hoping that all these coincidences mean it's 'in the stars' that it'll find a publisher.
Watch this space (Ho ho ..)

One more coincidence .. and I swear this is true. As I finished writing this blog a track by Alan Parsons came on the radio.  Which track? Eye in the Sky. I kid you not!..

Anyway, for anyone interested, my shots show Acturus, with three shooting stars (Top left); Jupiter and a section of The Milky Way (Top right); Polaris (Bottom left) and the constellation of Lyra (Bottom right).