Back in the the spring we reported on a unique, online project by a village resident who was busy capturing the community spirit of Ruddington during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic by photographing individual householders and families on their doorsteps or at their front windows.
Peter McConnochie‘s acclaimed ‘Portraits Of This Time: Faces of Lockdown’ online portfolio, featuring almost two hundred images taken in Ruddington during March, April and May 2020, was really just a local ‘side project’ which the keen photographer achieved by utilising his periods of permitted daily exercise. However, it proved so popular with residents it has itself become an important pictorial archive of our village and its people.
Peter reveals he’s been taking portraits of strangers on the streets for almost 10 years: “It started as a hobby, and a way to get out and take photos to learn how to use digital cameras, but quickly became an obsession” he admits. “I used to walk the streets of Nottingham City Centre and even walk around the village I lived in looking for strangers that sparked my interest to add to my ongoing project that originally started out as trying to photograph 100 people for a Flickr photo project.”
Peter says that ‘street portraiture’ is now the way he connects with the people and the locations he is in to help him ‘get under the skin of a place’ by meeting the residents. Over the past few years he has set out to photograph a series of portraits, with short quotes from his subjects, for a glossy new book called ‘Faces of Nottingham’ which is published today (October 15th).
“I wanted to focus on a local project to draw attention to the city and surrounding area where we live” he explains. “I have spent a lot of time making portraits in the streets of London and was really keen to show how great the people are locally so wanted to focus my camera and attention in the place I call home. I usually met people in the streets, often spending hours standing on a street corner or walking around the city hoping to find someone who caught my eye. Sometimes I found people through Instagram – much like my lockdown portrait series in Ruddington.”
As you can see, Peter managed to photograph a couple of Ruddington locals as part of his ‘Face of Nottingham’ series: “I was really keen to bump into our very own Dave ‘The Cockleman’ as I remember photographing him with a polaroid camera many years ago in a pub in town” recalls Peter. “Dave was really happy to get involved, I spent a few hours with him talking about his life, his business selling cockles and seafood around the pubs and looking at old pictures he keeps. I made a few portraits of him that are really special to me and I was able to give him copies of them. But later I spotted him in town doing his rounds and knew that was the portrait for the book – the one where he is out there doing what he loves!”
Peter also photographed a Ruddington based tree surgeon, Mike Mellors, as part of his project. “I had been following him on Instagram (@timber_mike) and loved his style. One day I was sitting outside a bar when I saw him walk past and I took the opportunity to introduce myself and ask him if we could shoot a portrait. I think at first he thought I was a bit mad, but he agreed to get involved!”
Because Mike was a bit pushed for time, rather than take a street portrait there and then the two arranged to meet up in Ruddington to make some portraits outside his home instead, one of which (below) ended up in the book. “It was another wonderful opportunity to meet another local character and hear his stories of his life as a navy submariner and to hear about and see some of his many tattoos and travels” says Peter.
“Both of these encounters, like the many others featured in the book, make me realise how fortunate I am to be part of this community here in Ruddington and the wider area. It’s the people that make place and I hope that you will enjoy the book and the chance to meet some of the wonderful, interesting and sometimes colourful characters who live, work and visit here.”
Appropriately, hot off the press, one of the very first copies of Peter’s new publication has been handed to ‘The Cockleman’ himself, in Ruddington, this morning: “I just bumped into Dave and gave him a signed copy of the book as a gift – fittingly just as the Number 10 bus with his name on it went past!” laughs Peter. “He was pretty delighted!”
‘Faces of Nottingham’ is published by Amberley Publishing and costs £14.99 (or less). It is available from Amazon, Waterstones, direct from the publisher as well as from many other book shops. You can find out more >>HERE<<.