Essence of the North


What is the “Essence of the North?”

That is what is being asked by The Northerner Blog in the Guardian today. They are asking for contributors to post an image that captures the essence of the North.

Whose North? There is always the chocolate box image of Dales and Moors, unbroken wilderness, apart from James Herriot careening across them in his old car. Hills and lakes, unspoilt beaches and little stone villages shimmering in the sunset.


There is the Christian North, the North of Cathedrals, Saints and Holy Islands. Pilgrimages across the land, fleeing from Viking pillagers, writing works of illuminated art and deciding the way forward for the catholic church.

Or there is the smashed North, the North of Thatcher’s cruelty and industrial decline. A once proud heritage of steel and chemical works, pit villages, ship building and union activity. The Jarrow marchers and Quaker sensibilities. The first locomotives and the crucible of Britain’s industrial revolution.

Book of Kells
Book of Kells

The North I know is an area where people live in great diversity and try to get on with their lives, but has time to commission some of the best public art in the country and has made a feature of regeneration through art projects such as The Sage, The Baltic, Temenos, Hepworth Gallery and The Angel of the North. This large scale development mixes well with the industrial heritage of the area and sits well, all of the above is the North I know and to try and distill an essence is not really needed, just celebrate it all, in images, words and imagination.


I was in Skinningrove for a course today and took the opportunity to take some photographs as it was quite misty making the area look quite sinister and I just don’t get to Skinningrove that often as it’s off the beaten track (unless of course you’re on the Cleveland Way).

There is an old quay used for loading ships with ironstone from the works above the village and this has become quite derelict and has some great textures and lines.

Some of the shots had a very post-apocalyptic feel, or flavours of the Eastern Bloc before the fall of the Soviet Union, this wasn’t helped by the lack of people around. The only people I saw were fishing but they were all dressing in combat clothing so giving strength to the feeling of a bleak post-apocalyptic landscape.


I’ve been thinking about this process for a while as it seemed more straightforward than silver-based development at home and possibly I would be able to use the loft as an area to process the chemicals and the paper as it doesn’t need the absolutes of darkness that silver-based photography requires.

The other factor is that all it needs is tap water to fix the process once the paper has been exposed to sunlight, rather than the different trays of chemicals and fixes of traditional silver-based photography.

So I’m going to be ordering some chemicals from Silverprint once the loft has been cleared and sorted 🙂

Nel and Mark’s website