Book Blog #3: Collaborating with Joe Cornish and Dom Conlon

During book blogs 1 & 2 I’ve covered the various aspects of prototyping books and also how I went about pricing the standard edition of Healing. In this blog I just want to talk about the two people that I’ve have contributed words to the book, Joe Cornish and Dom Conlon. For most, if not all landscape photographers who will read this, Joe needs no introduction. For others of you, Joe has been a working photographer for over 30 years and I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that he is amongst the most highly respected of landscape photographers, not just in the UK but in the world. Joe has had a number of books published, including First Light: A Photographer’s Art and the more recent This Land and is owner of the Joe Cornish Gallery in Northallerton. Having never published a book before I wasn’t really sure what to look for when compiling a ‘wish list’ of people I might ask to write a foreword for this book. Someone whose photography I respected? Someone who had both a love of the Lake District but also an appreciation of photographing a local area? Someone who would be able to advise on preparing work for book printing? Someone who can put into words that which I can only put into photographs?


Joe, of course, smashes all of the photographic boxes but It may seem odd to place a very high weighting on that last item. Given Joe’s towering strengths and incredible reputation as a landscape photographer it is perhaps ironic that it was my confidence that Joe would fundamentally understand, and be able to articulate, the concept of the book in words that made him my number one choice for writing the foreword. Once I’d visited Joe in his studio in North Yorkshire I knew that confidence was not misplaced. For a couple of hours we talked though the book, using one of my prototypes as a guide, covering topics as varied as my photographic methods; processing for print; the history of the various locations covered; environmental disruption; environmental protests; the role of the poets and artists in opposing industrial work. We also touched on my own ‘story’ and how landscape photography has played a part in my own life. Driving home from that day I was so pleased that Joe had agreed to write the foreword, I felt sure that he would be able to pull the threads together and articulate the nuances of what I was trying to achieve.

When I received the first draft of the foreword I was in awe at the way it covered the many aspects of the book, words that touched my inner-self and I’ll be honest, I was a little choked at how it made me feel. Like someone holding up a mirror to my inner thoughts.

In my initial notes for this essay I scribbled, “…a book of immersion, a healing baptism of the modern soul, reconnecting us to the Romantic poets who strode this land two hundred years ago…” I think it not unreasonable to equate artistic photographs with poems. The distillation of ideas, of light and shade, life and death, time and memory, which glow with their own energy; this is the objective of both poet and photographer, At its best art is an exchange between artist and subject, a conversation and a relationship. In Healing it is clear that through his photographs Colin Bell has given back – in love and feeling – every bit as much and more as he has taken with his camera. Joe Cornish April 2017


I’ve known Dom Conlon, a poet, for over 20 years now, being a colleague from the video games industry. He and I have talked about a collaboration for quite some time and it seemed perfect to approach Dom when I wanted some contemporary poetry to sit alongside the few excerpts of poetry from the late 1800s that I have included in the book. At the end of 2016, I met with Dom over a coffee and left him with one of my early forms of the draft book. Like with Joe, we talked about my motivations and what I was trying to achieve but rather than prescribe what I wanted Dom to produce I simply waited for the poetic reaction. Over the following months Dom has sent me various poetic responses to the images. And what responses! I adore the way that Dom has gone about this, taking time to understand my methods and thoughts when producing the work and putting that into some really beautiful words.

For helping me produce something that is not just a ‘book of photographs’ but something that has the potential to strike a chord in more ways I can’t thank Joe and Dom enough. I’m hopeful that the book is more than the sum of its parts, but those aspects that Joe and Dom have contributed are beautiful in their construction and powerful in their message.

I know my limitations as a writer therefore I’m even more grateful for these additions to the book.