Negative Thinking

by Mark Pinder

A bit less than twenty-four minutes of my life

Like many in my industry, I currently find myself in a state of enforced semi retirement with lots and lots of leisure time.

Now that I have this time, I’ve finally decided to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, which is finally pull my analogue archive out of the eaves and get it digitised.

There are still a couple of boxes to retrieve, but the above photograph of the archive taunting me in the corner of my office represents probably 70% of everything I shot between 1980, as a 13 year old schoolboy and 2001 when I shifted to digital. The other 30% is colour tranny stuff, which I’ll probably never see ever again, (regrettably),  and the other couple of boxes I need to retrieve.

Balmbras, The Bigg Market, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1990.

I guesstimate at having shot maybe 5000 rolls of film in that time, which equates to 180,000 frames, let’s say at 1/125th second each. That relates to erm about……24 minutes of my life.

Let’s not forget, though, about the several years of my life spent weeping into the fixing bath at 3am because I wanted to go to bed, but had a deadline to meet or months of agitating that tank of Tri X in D76, 1:1 for 10 minutes at 20C………..

Having a quick glance through some of the boxes, is a bit like having your life flash before you, (without actually having to die afterwards), and is both interesting and depressing.

Apart from being signifers to different periods of my life, lost loves, friends I’ve not seen for many years, the many varied experiences I’ve had and interesting people I’ve met, the main emotion is that of nostalgia for a period when I used to shoot real photojournalism and the north-east was, (like the past), a ‘foreign country‘, rather than just a post industrial landscape occupied by the corporate homogeneity of the retail park or the industrial estate which could, now, just as easily place you in Swindon as in Sunderland.

A place where a Chav in Chatham shares the same cultural references to MTV and Jeremy Kyle as his counterpart in Jarrow, the only real difference being football team and accent.

There is also documentation of a lot of grassroots political and social engagement too.

Last shift ending, Vane tempest Colliery, Seaham, 1993

The Tories were still in power, largely, and whilst most of the major social upheavals of the period such as the race riots of the early 80’s and miners strike were over, the struggles against the consequences of economic liberalization, de-industrialization and attacks on the working class and public sector were still being fought and of course we had the campaigns against the ‘Poll Tax’, which was to be the undoing of Thatcher.

Anti Poll Tax protest at the North Tyneside Council meeting to set the rate, Wallsend Town Hall, 1990

Margaret Thatcher, Scottish Tory Conference, Perth, 1989

The other stark difference between then and now, is the sheer number of photos of people just going about their normal daily business and of children and young people too. This is probably the saddest difference between then and now. The way that the securocrats and social engineers in some parts of the social welfare and social engineering professions have created a pernicious culture of suspicion and distrust, whereby the act of photography has been linked to the activities of the paedophile or the terrorist, when in reality, the use of a camera by the vast majority of users in the public sphere, bears the same relationship to the paedophile or terrorist as the average car user does to the hit and run driver or the average carving knife user to Norman Bates.

Grangetown, Teesside, 1992.

I plan to scan perhaps 15 or 20 neg’s a week, hopefully with the aim of creating and promoting a fairly comprehensive, (and hopefully high quality),  archive of a no longer existing north-east which will also hopefully have some commercial value too.

It won’t be going on Alamy though!!