In my last post about John Bignell I tried to make the argument that he was much more than a working photographer and that we should take him seriously as an artist. Now I may be undermining my own argument by presenting a set of photographs which at one level are just quick snapshots of what he might have seen on a day out, like you or I might. I came across these pictures while trawling through the Bignell collection for “strange” photos but found myself charmed by these pictures of an ordinary summer day.
These pictures taken on or near Wimbledon Common were taken about 1970, a comparatively idyllic period in London life after the tumult of the 1960s and before the complications of the 1970s. I was 15 then and I would have enjoyed walking on the Common on a summer day. Many years later I used to like walking across Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common to Wimbledon village and getting the bus back to Putney. It’s a part of London that makes me feel calm and relaxed. Above is the famous windmill.
I don’t know who this family is, or whether Bignell knew them. Something about the casual nature of the pictures make me think he did. The dog of course is perfectly placed for the composition, which Bignell can’t have arranged.
Bignell is particularly good at photographing children. In this period it was still possible to wander around with a camera and take pictures of children playing.
Or by water.
Bodies of water of course are particular attractive when you’re 9 or 10 or 11. (Remember that scary public information film about its dangers?)
Wading through shallow water
Poking around from a distance, with soem help from your parents
Taking a few minor risks
And getting a bit of help from the grown up kids.
There were not quite enough pictures here for a full post, but rather than do a short one I’m adding a few related pictures.
This is Putney Heath, a little further north than Wimbledon
I think this is the cricket pitch. It’s another special spot on a sunny day.
This picture is back in Chelsea at the St Luke’s playground in Sydney Street in 1975 when it was rather more unstructured than it is today.
A vintage piece of playground equipment from the same day.
And another view of some play with balls. Many girls from the 70s will recall games of two balls. I’m not sure of the date of this one
So, John Bignell then. Not just an artist but a master of the commonplace and capturing the moment.
Perhaps a bit of an inconsequential post this week, but I wrote four posts in one week when I was preparing to go to my mother’s funeral. It was pretty cold that day, and now we come to publishing the post it’s pretty cold again with more of the same promised. So this is a good time to remember sunny days from past decades when some of us were younger and as close to carefree as you can get after childhood.
Postscript to the postscript – from the department of Corrections
I’ve been delving deeper into the Bignell collection recently looking for some specific negatives but along the way I came across a box of pictures I hadn’t seen before which contained other pictures from the same sessions as the ones in this post. So it is now clear that the final picture is not of St Luke’s playground but features a playground next to a church in Clapham. When you look closer this is pretty obvious. Oops. (Substitute a stronger expletive if you wish.)
On the plus side, we now have a set of pictures which Bignell kept together under the theme of “rural London” some of which you can expect to see soon.