Can you elaborate a little bit about what motivated you to first try photography?
My parents gave me a Woolworths ‘toy’ camera when I was about six. But it worked, taking 120 film. I was fascinated and continued in a modest way with other cameras. I was taken seriously ill when I was 12, had to leave school, and spent the next 5 years in and out of hospital. I was left with life-long physical problems and, I now know, mental health issues. My camera became a lifeline, something I could do myself and was a way of connecting with a world I did not feel part of.
What was the inspiration to open a gallery in Ludlow and to share your passion with others?
Serendipity. I retired mid-2016 and expected to be repairing antique fountain pens, for which I had trained. One day I noticed a ‘business for sale’ sign and went in for details. The business was on the ground floor of a 16th century building, the other three floors not used for about 30 years. It was in need of much TLC and I agreed with the landlord to take on the building to restore it to life. As this happened, I thought about using part of it as a photography gallery and somewhere where, in a corner, I could repair fountain pens. I did not expect the gallery to be successful. How wrong I was. There are few places for photographers to show their work and I was suddenly inundated by photographers and photography lovers from far and wide. A series of impressive exhibitions also helped to put the gallery on the map, with artists like Boyd & Evans, Martin Parr, Peter Cattrell, Herman Cater, Paul Hill and others more local to Ludlow.
What is the driving force behind setting up a charity and tackling mental health in particular?
Many visitors to the gallery spoke about similar experiences to my own, whereby a camera and photography was a “lifeline” during difficult times in their lives: illness, loss of a loved one, loneliness, mental health problems. This set me thinking. If photography has been such a help to them, and me, can it help others? The charity is a result.
How did your paths cross with Paul Sanders, Jim Hawkins and the Caravan Gallery and why have you chosen to address the issue of wellbeing a this time?
I met Paul Sanders at a photography event in Bath where he talked openly about his own mental health problems and the role that his own photography played. Also he showed his resulting work. We kept in touch and, when I put a plan together for the charity, he offered to help.
Jim Hawkins, a broadcaster for BBC Radio Shropshire, recorded on his website his love for photography. This was when I was preparing for the Martin Parr exhibition and an evening with Martin at Ludlow Assembly Rooms. I asked Jim if he would interview Martin on stage as part of the evening. He was delighted to do so and, afterwards, we were chatting and Jim mentioned a similar experience with photography; how it had helped him during difficult times of illness. We have kept in touch since.
Jan and Chris, who are The Caravan Club, I met via Martin Parr and Paul Hill. They are a fantastic couple and do wonderful things all over the UK, using photography as a base for community activities. I am talking to various authorities about running one of their ‘Pride of Place’ ventures in Ludlow in autumn 2019. It will involve communities from all over Ludlow and, hopefully, conquer barriers and bring our people closer together.
Peter will be officially launching the Photo Space Charity at PHOTOGRAPHY AND WELLBEING at Ludlow Methodist Church on Wednesday 17 October 2018 from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Entry is free.
The evening is of interest to anyone involved in the mental and physical wellbeing of our community – health care professionals, therapists, service providers, carers, people receiving or needing help, volunteers and photographers.
Guest speakers include Paul Sanders, previously Picture Editor of the Times; Jim Hawkins, BBC Radio Shropshire; Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale of The Caravan Gallery
For more information on The Photo Space, visit: http://www.thephotospace.co.uk/fr/accueil.html
or follow Peter on Twitter: https://twitter.com/thephotospaceuk?lang=en