Calder Navigation

Jim Souper

Let’s go for a walk along the Calder and Hebble Navigation!

This week, Sam is chatting to Jim Souper, one of Curious Motion’s volunteers. He helps run our walking sessions, and is an avid nature photographer – perfect fit for a walk along the canal!

So join us for this week’s episode, where we take a mindful walk through nature and talk about the importance of noticing the small things.

A photo of Jim Souper over the watercolour logo for the Calder Navigation podcast. Jim is a white man. He is standing in front of trees, with lots of green leaves in the background. He is wearing a bright blue tope under a grey raincoat.


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A photo of Jim Souper over the watercolour logo for the Calder Navigation podcast. Jim is a white man. He is standing in front of trees, with lots of green leaves in the background. He is wearing a bright blue tope under a grey raincoat.

About Jim Souper

In recent years, Jim has discovered a new dimension to his photography. A calmer, more mindful approach has influenced his work. He has learned to embrace the art of stillness in the midst of nature’s grandeur. For Jim, it’s not merely about the perfect shot, but about immersing himself in the sights, sounds, and scents of the world around him.

Jim also volunteers with Curious Motion on our monthly walks in Elland, where we enjoy a stroll along the Calder and Hebble Navigation itself!


[00:00:02] – Samantha

Welcome to Calder Navigation, the podcast that embarks on a transformative journey through the lives and stories of the incredible people of Calderdale. I’m your host, Samantha McCormick, artistic director and founder of Curious Motion, and I’m thrilled to have you join me on this adventure.


[00:00:20] – Samantha

Calder Navigation invites you to open your hearts and minds to the tapestry of everyday moments and significant events that shape our lives. Through authentic and relaxed conversations, we’ll delve into the complexities of what it means to be human, celebrating the diversity and resilience of our community. This podcast is not just a collection of stories. Each episode is a unique exploration, a tribute to the rich tapestry of our shared experiences. So come and join us on this journey and let’s celebrate the remarkable individuals who call the Calder Valley home and let’s uncover the depth and beauty of the human experience together.


[00:00:59] – Samantha

Today we are joined by landscape photographer, Jim Souper. Jim’s lens captures not just scenery, but stories. From Scotland’s untamed beauty to Iceland’s winter landscapes, his passion shines through. Currently, he’s exploring our relationship with the River Calder, offering unique perspectives on our surroundings here in Calderdale.In recent years, Jim has discovered a new dimension to his photography. A calmer, more mindful approach has influenced his work. He has learned to embrace the art of stillness in the midst of nature’s grandeur.


[00:01:33] Samantha

For Jim, it’s not merely about the perfect shot, but about immersing himself in the sights, sounds, and scents of the world around him. Jim also volunteers with Curious Motion on our monthly walks in Elland, where we enjoy a stroll along the Calder and Hebble Navigation itself!


So, we thought, why not take our chat outside too – Jim joined me on a walk for this episode, taking in the sights and sounds of the canal as he shared his story. So, get ready to embark on a journey with Jim as he reveals the heartwarming stories behind his photographs. Let his experiences guide you through the beauty of landscapes and the profound connections we share with the environment. This is a podcast episode that will surely leave you feeling inspired and connected to the natural world…




[00:02:27] Sam

Hi, Jim. Thank you for joining me on this little stroll on the canal and for the podcast.


[00:02:33] Jim

My pleasure.


[00:02:35] Sam

It’s really nice to have you. And thank you for being a bit of a guinea pig with exploring whether we can record this outside and we’ll see how it goes. But yeah, I thought could we start with just a little bit of background?


[00:02:47] – Jim

Right, well, background, I suppose, in photography goes back to the first camera my dad bought me when I was six. So I suppose I’ve always taken photographs, usually with a camera set on automatic, until not actually that long ago, probably till 20 years ago. But I always took pictures, mainly of places rather than of people. My first photographs that I really remember were of taken of some of the Welsh castles built by Edward I, so Caernarfon and Conwy and places like that. I got a better camera when I was about 21, but then I’ve mainly taken photos when I was out walking with friends. Good excuse to stop for a rest halfway up the mountain.


[00:03:39] – Samantha




[00:01:54] – Jim

It wasn’t until the early 20-, or the noughties, I suppose we call them now, don’t we?



[00:03:46] – Samantha




[00:03:47] – Jim

That I started to take it a little bit more seriously when I got my first digital camera and I started to take a bit more interest in how it actually worked, partly because being digital, I had to learn bits of it. So then I started to learn the rest. Ended up doing a degree course in photography at Batley School of Art and Design and then took it from there, really. Alongside that I’ve had various careers, I suppose, I started life as, a working life, as a careers officer, worked for the Halifax in IT, which is how I first came to know Calderdale. Joined the Halifax in 1987.


[00:04:33] – Samantha

Right, okay.



[00:04:34] – Jim

Was there best part of 19 years. And then subsequently, to my degree, having tried for a year to make a living out of photography, decided that wasn’t going to pay the bills. So I’ve done various part time jobs, mainly at the Media Museum in Bradford, although now I’ve quit there and I’ve the luxury of a company pension, which allows me to indulge myself a little bit more in the photography in the way I want to, rather than-.


[00:05:13] – Samantha

Yes, it is quite a challenge, isn’t it? Having a creative job, hobby, whatever you want to call it, when it’s something that you really want to pursue, because it is a challenging thing, financially, to manage, I’ve had my own experiences with that. But it’s really nice to hear that you’ve been able to now indulge yourself in it, finally, because it sounds like it’s been a thread through most of your life then, really, hasn’t it?


[00:05:37] – Jim

It has, yeah. I suppose bit off and on at times, but I suppose I’ve always had that underlying interest. I’ve always come back to it at some point.


[00:05:55] – Samantha

And where were you before you came to Calderdale?



[00:05:58] – Jim

Well, I was born, I was born and brought up in Warwickshire.



[00:06:04] – Samantha

Right, okay.



[00:06:05] – Jim

I came up to Yorkshire for the first time to go to Leeds University in 1976 to do a degree in history, initially. And then apart-, aside from two or three years, where I moved away to train as a careers officer and spent my first couple of years as a careers officer near Birmingham, a place called Walsall, and then as soon as I could get a job back up here, I moved back up to Leeds. So I lived in Leeds and Calderdale for all but three years of my adult life.


[00:06:45] – Samantha

So it’s home now, then, really?



[00:06:47] – Jim

It is, yes. Very much so.



[00:06:50] – Samantha

So I know your approach to photography. You touched on there about how naturally the kind of technology around photography has obviously developed and changed over the years. But I know your own personal approach to photography, you’ve explored a range, haven’t you, in your experience?


[00:07:06] – Jim

I have, yes. And in a sense, what I do now is I use the technology as a tool, whereas I think there have been times when I’ve got sucked into trying to use it for its own sake. So I’ve now-, I don’t buy quite as much kit as I used to. It’s very easy to go and buy a new-, or if you can afford it, it’s very easy to go out and buy another camera. But I think certainly when I went to college, having got sucked into it by digital photography a little bit more, the first year at college, at Batley, I did almost exclusively film, which we were encouraged to do, and we were sort of experimenting with sort of large sheet film and some quite old cameras.



[00:08:02] – Samantha

And that’s a different approach, isn’t it?



[00:08:04] – Jim

Very different approach. Because if you’re using sheets of film that are five inches by four inches, and they go in the thing called a dark slide, which I suppose are the size of a thin paperback, you can probably only carry half a dozen of those with you easily. And each dark side has two shoots of film, so you’re restricted to not that many shots. Whereas with digital, you’ve got big enough memory card, you can just go mad, take as many as you want, which isn’t particularly-,


[00:08:44] – Samantha

It’s not the same, kind of, I suppose, focus, is it, on what you’re taking.


[00:08:47] – Jim

I’ve learned from the work I did with Phil to slow down a little bit. And some of the work I’ve done with workshops I’ve attended, along about what you might describe as mindful photography have also encouraged me to take a lot more time over the photography. So if I’ll look at the number of pictures I’d have taken in a day, say five years ago, and the number I take now, it’s significantly smaller, unless I’m attempting to photograph wildlife that’s moving, in which case you end up with a lot of picture-, well, a lot of shots, but maybe one or two pictures at the end of the day that are actually in focus.


[00:09:40] – Samantha

Yeah, I can imagine that must be a really time intensive thing.



[00:09:48] – Jim

Although there are-, wildlife photography isn’t my speciality.



[00:09:50] – Samantha




[00:09:51] – Jim

I’m sure there are wildlife photographers who are a lot more successful in that.



[00:09:57] – Samantha

Tell us a bit more about the mindful photography. And I know that nature has become a real theme for you as well, within that, hasn’t it?


[00:10:06] – Jim

Yeah, that’s right. I suppose I found it as much as anything about being still, allowing yourself to take in the moment and just taking time to notice the beauty of the world around you. I’ve come to realise you don’t need to be in some kind of sort of spectacular landscape to do that. You can find it along the canal. You find it-, I quite often, I’ve been doing a lot of work along the whole length of the river Calder, and you find all sorts of-, I suppose even little pockets of beauty. It’s just noticing. And if you spend time, you know, it’s the smaller details. So I try not to-, I quite often-, and woodlands is another place, so I just go and spend time in the woods, try not to get the camera out too quickly.


[00:11:09] – Jim


I remember the first little workshop we did on mindful photography. They actually took us to a location and locked our cameras in the van for 20 minutes and we were just sent out with a notebook and a pencil to write down what we saw, what we smelt, what we heard. And so I quite often do that now for my own benefit. And that just can start to get a feel for the place and that sort of can have an influence on how you photograph it or how I photograph it, I think.


[00:11:45] – Samantha

Yeah. I think that’s really nice and becoming something that people are really valuing is the time to be still for a little while and actually use your-, have a sensory experience.


[00:12:01] – Jim

Well, that’s it. If you can actually have that stillness, patience, calmness, and you’re just focused on the moment, everything else, sort of, for a time anyway, washes away.


[00:12:17] – Samantha

Indeed, it is that thing with mindfulness, isn’t it? We’ve only got the moment that’s happening right now. That’s all there is.


[00:12:23] – Jim

Yeah. I think that gradually, gradually sort of seeps into other aspects of your life as well, hopefully.



[00:12:33] – Samantha

Yeah. How have you found that it’s done that for you? How does it sort of benefit you in your broader well being?


[00:12:40] – Jim

I just get generally, I think, a lot of just being grateful for what you’ve got, the friends you’ve got, the places you can go to. I just feel it, a feeling of wellbeing, a feeling trying to generate a feel of gratitude for what you’ve got and less worry about what you haven’t got. That’s easy for me to say because I’ve got a decent pension, I live on my own, I have actually paid the mortgage off. So I don’t have the worries that a lot of people have at the moment. Obviously, it’s not going to help anyone pay a bill or anything like that.


[00:13:35] – Samantha

Perhaps it is that sort of stillness. I mean, there’s scientific evidence around gratitude and how it supports our physiological well being and mental health to cope with the stresses of life. And I suppose it’s sort of


one of those things where you can find the stillness and what you said about beauty and finding that really anywhere.


[00:14:00] – Jim




[00:14:01] – Samantha

You don’t have to go to a place that’s got the title of Place of Outstanding Natural Beauty, for example. You could be anywhere and notice something that’s beautiful for you.


[00:14:13] – Jim




[00:14:13] – Samantha

And it’s very personal, I imagine.



[00:14:15] – Jim

No, it is. For some people, it won’t be nature. It might just be, I don’t know, spending time taking pictures of your kids. I did a series of workshops during lockdown and we couldn’t really go out, so I ended up-, we had assignments. I spent the morning photographing a guitar and the sort of the shapes and the curves of a guitar. So you sort of find beauty in sort of what you might initially think, well, that’s actually quite an ordinary object. I even ended up photographing the inside the washing machine.


[00:14:49] – Samantha

Oh, wow.



[00:14:51] – Jim

Which, when you look at the again, you look at the curves and the light on it, there is a certain-, you get quite close up, there’s a certain beauty, even in something as simple as that.


[00:15:06] – Samantha

Absolutely, absolutely. It’s kind of everywhere, isn’t it, really? And I suppose the time that you give yourself to notice it is the essential bit, isn’t it? And maybe-, I suppose you’ve got to keep a really open mind as well, especially in a situation like a lockdown, where you aren’t in your-, where you might choose to be, or very different circumstances to what you’re used to.


[00:15:29] – Jim

So a lot of the photographs I took outdoors were simply along a very short stretch of railway embankment that runs behind the estate I live on, but because it was that really nice spring, so every day you saw something slightly different, sort of followed the growth of various plants and flowers through a period of two or three months.


[00:16:00] – Samantha

That’s lovely. And is there-, just off the top of your head, any moments that have really surprised you, where you’ve noticed something that you feel like you might never have seen or found? Big question.


[00:16:16] – Jim

It is a good question.



[00:16:17] – Samantha

Take your time.



[00:16:20] – Jim

This is going to sound daft, but I love watching the flow of water. And I was walking along the river, it was further, further down towards Brighouse, and I saw these little eddies in the water and I was particularly drawn to a slightly different colour in the water. And then I realised that it was actually an old compost bag that got trapped against a rock and the water was flowing over it. So I actually ended up-, there’s a strange beauty about-, I mean, obviously you don’t want to see old plastic bags in the water, but equally strangely, it had a kind of beauty to it as well. And that’s not something I’d normally have photographed.


[00:17:16] – Samantha




[00:17:18] – Jim

And I think even in lockdown I find myself taking pictures of-, I think about one walk I did, I found myself taking pictures of I don’t know, it was a thing about being locked in, but I was all locked down, I was taking pictures of bits of fence and barbed wire in the frost. Which, again, they made interesting quite to my eye, anyway, quite beautiful photographs, albeit I would never have dreamt of photographing them before then. I do more of that now. So yeah, I think during lockdown, I suppose everyone started to see the world a little bit differently, but.


[00:18:03] – Samantha

Yeah. I think there’s something kind of really interesting in that openness to maybe go out and find, rather than have a preconceived idea of what you’re looking for.


[00:18:22] – Jim




[00:18:23] – Samantha

Do you find-, because I know you have exhibitions and you work on a range of-, contributes a range of other projects and things, are they quite varied? Do you get asked to do very specific things or is it quite a scale?


[00:18:37] – Jim

To be honest, I choose what-, I don’t tend to ask, very often ask to do things very often.



[00:18:42] – Samantha

Well, you know.



[00:18:43] – Jim

I suppose they are there, I still do workshops, run the occasional workshop run by another photographer. Usually now someone whose approach I’m interested in used to be about where they’re going to go. Now it’s about what I’m going to learn in terms of how I can improve or change my approach to how I photograph. So a lot of the stuff I do is simply-, I love just going into the woods and making photographs in the woods. I love being by the-, by the water, whether it’s a river, the sea, so that’s quite calming. That tends to be more, I suppose, purely nature photography.


[00:19:34] – Jim

Some of the stuff I’m working on more locally at the moment, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been taking photographs along the River Calder, and what I’m doing along there was partly triggered by the compost bag I mentioned in that I’m interested in the natural beauty along the river, but also I’ve always been interested in landscape history and our sort of human relationship to landscape. And I think following the river as a kind of narrative spine and is a good way of exploring our relationship with the landscape, whether that’s some of the history. So if you take Elland Bridge, which I think I think there’s a bridge-, there’s been a bridge there since the-, let me get my numbers right, the twelveth century at least.


[00:20:29] – Samantha





[00:20:30] – Jim

And I know it’s been rebuilt two or three times, even before the more recent.



[00:20:36] – Samantha

2015 one.



[00:20:38] – Jim

Yes, the 2015 one. So if you go further downstream to, bit of Calder, I ended up going through Wakefield. So you’ve got 13th century chantry chapel there, chantry chapel and bridge, which was a medieval toll bridge and I think it’s only four of its kind left in the country.


[00:20:59] – Samantha




[00:21:00] – Jim

So they’ve got that. And then you’ve got something like Stanley Ferry, which is quite an impressive engineering achievement. Well, very impressive engineering achievement, but then you’ve got all the other stuff I find in the river, which is slightly less-, how should I put it, pollution, plastics, the sort of result. There’s a broken weir down here which I don’t think is the result of flood damage.


[00:21:34] – Samantha

Right, yeah.



[00:21:35] – Jim

Although I don’t think the weir is particularly important anymore, but it’s changed dramatically over the two or three years I’ve been visiting it. So there’s a project like that. So that’s looking, I say landscape history, environmental issues, as well as the natural world. I’m contributing to another project, Halifax based project at the moment, which is running for the course of this year, which is part of something called the Halifax Grid. And we’re exploring taking photographs of loads of photographers and even writers involved in this, but taking pictures of districts of Halifax, paths around Halifax or into Halifax, or out of Halifax. I think the current stuff I’m working on last month and this is photographing various landmarks, loads of other people doing other ones, and then there’s two more phases to come, which I can’t actually remember what they are off the top of my head.


[00:22:47] – Samantha

No worries.



[00:22:49] – Jim

But all that, once it’s done, is due to culminate in an exhibition at Dean Clough next year.



[00:22:57] – Samantha

Oh, great. So I was just wondering, Jim, while we’re having a little wander and because people are obviously just listening to us, or they might be reading this on a transcript, I wondered if-, let’s see if it works. If we just stop for a moment and I don’t know how doable this is so just say if it’s not and we won’t do it. But I just wondered if you could talk through what you might notice when we’re in-, because where we are at the moment, we’ve got a lot of lush greenery, haven’t we?


[00:23:24] – Jim

Yes, we’ve got the greenery here, got some trees, not particularly good at identifying plants unfortunately.



[00:23:32] – Samantha

No worries, just colours and textures, I suppose.



[00:23:34] – Jim

A bit of a tumble down stone wall here with some quite nice moss on it. The light-, there’s not really any light on it at the moment, which-, I’ve got the camera, but I haven’t got the tripod, which-,


[00:23:52] – Samantha

I suppose if you were just going to spend time here.



[00:23:54] – Jim

If I was going to spend time here, and I would just sort of spend five minutes, I might just walk slowly. You’ve got the-, if you start looking across the river, you got reflections of the tree opposite, which is quite interesting. Not sure, I don’t think I could-, there’s sort of the bits of long bits of reed and grass just floating on the surface, which could possibly do something with, little family of ducks there.


[00:24:29] – Samantha



[00:24:30] – Jim

I’m not really a great duck photographer, to be honest. But then you’ve got these sort of plants leading out over the river, and those do offer a little bit more contrast, even with what limited light there is. So I’m sort of quite interested in those. The trick there is to get an angle on them without falling in the river. See, I quite like that one, for instance. And then you got the one with the blue of flowers, which you can’t really get out from this angle. There’s some down here as well.


[00:25:15] – Samantha

So when you’re looking at the plants, are you looking at things like light, colour, texture, shape.



[00:25:27] – Jim

Colour, yeah, shape, form, that kind of thing. I quite like when I’m in the woods. I quite like looking for ferns. Quite often you get just like a fern that’s curving nicely with the curve of the base of a tree, for instance. I can spend probably longer than we’ve got on this podcast photographing. If something takes my fancy, I can spend an awful long time on it.


[00:25:54] – Samantha

Yeah, I was going to say, do you do a lot of editing afterwards or anything?



[00:25:58] – Jim

I do if I’m working in colour, I’d do it if it was possible.



[00:26:03] – Samantha




[00:26:05] – Jim

I do convert a lot to black and white. I do tend to work a lot in black and white, probably more so than in colour.


[00:26:13] – Samantha




[00:26:14] – Jim


So that takes a little bit more processing.



[00:26:17] – Samantha

What is it about black and white that draws you to it?



[00:26:20] – Jim

I’ve always liked black and white. I am slightly colourblind, so I do occasionally find when I’m printing in colour, I’ll have a print I’m happy with and I’ll show it to somebody else and they’ll tell me there’s a colour cast in it, which I haven’t spotted.


[00:26:35] – Samantha

Right, right.



[00:26:39] – Jim

Once you’ve made a decision to convert, to work in black and white, that in itself is a creative decision. And having made that creative decision, it opens up a few more possibilities. Whereas if you’re working in colour, you have to be a bit more careful, because if you go away from the natural colour, you can end up-, well, I end up in all sorts of trouble.



[00:27:07] – Samantha

Let’s turn around. Otherwise we’ll end up in Brighouse and then have a very long walk back.



[00:27:11] – Jim

I like to walk a route both ways.



[00:27:17] – Samantha

Right, okay.



[00:27:18] – Jim

Because I’ve now spotted that.



[00:27:19] – Samantha

Yes. So we’ve got-, are these tree stumps?


[00:27:27] – Jim

Yes, so I think they’ve been chopped to be some kind of marker, by the way.



[00:27:31] – Samantha

Yeah, they look very almost-, not sculpted, but they’re definitely been made into a shape, haven’t they?



[00:27:36] – Jim

Those make, to my eye, a more interesting photograph.



[00:27:41] – Samantha




[00:27:44] – Jim

What we just did, it’s only because we’ve turned around and gone the other way that I’ve actually really spotted-, so I always find if I walk back along the route that I’ve just walked, you see things.


[00:27:55] – Samantha

Of course, changes your perspective.



[00:27:57] – Jim

Yes, quite differently.



[00:28:00] – Samantha

The sound in this part as well is beautiful. Those birds.



[00:28:03] – Jim

Yes. And I think a lot of the time I could do this. I could come out of the camera, I could end up I won’t say I’d ever go back without any photographs because I’ll probably just take one or two, if only to experiment with something. But these days, for me, it’s much about actually just being outside in nature. I could just sit and listen to the birdsong.


[00:28:37] – Samantha

Yeah, that in itself is very valuable, isn’t it?


[00:28:39] – Jim

I remember I did a walk along-, near a brig house a few weeks ago, and there’s some-, loads and loads of wild garlic. Just the smell of that was enough to keep me happy, to be honest.


[00:28:56] – Samantha

Yeah. It’s sort of waking up all our senses, isn’t it?



[00:29:02] – Jim

But I had actually gone out with the intent of taking some pictures for a little-, I still do the group that we’ve got together for these online workshops in lockdown. We’re still meeting every month or two, and we get a little assignment to interpret any way we want.


[00:29:24] – Samantha




[00:29:25] – Jim

And I think seven of us are still doing it, and one of whom is dialing in from Boston, Massachusetts. But we all invariably interpret the same topic in a completely different way. It’s really interesting to see how people-,


[00:29:50] – Samantha

I think you get a glimpse into other people’s experience, don’t you, when you all get to interpret the same thing. Because you do see there’s all sorts of endless possibilities, I suppose. It’s very peaceful just walking with you.


[00:30:05] – Jim

It is, yes.



[00:30:07] – Samantha

Just watching how you’re noticing things.



[00:30:13] – Jim

You tend to notice things where there’s a little bit of contrast or where there’s some particular pattern of light falling on things tends to attract me. I love photographing trees, though. I can’t-, no, it’s further.


There’s a beautiful-, well, there’s a tree further down I remember photographing, and it’s always got one of the marks on it is like an eye, but it’s almost like an eye with a tear falling from it.


[00:30:45] – Samantha

Oh, gosh. And is that along the canal?



[00:30:53] – Jim

I can’t remember if it’s the canal or the river.



[00:30:55] – Samantha




[00:30:55] – Jim

It’s somewhere near Cromwell Bottom.



[00:30:57] – Samantha

Right. Yeah.



[00:30:57] – Jim

I do a lot. I do, I mean, I come up this end, but I do an awful lot. I really love spending time in that area of Cromwell Bottom, which sort of sits between the river and the canal. And there’s all sorts. There’s a little bit of industrial heritage. There’s an old abandoned lock, a lovely old stone bridge, very overgrown, which I think is where something used to come into the river.


[00:31:28] – Samantha

Right. Yeah. So I know you’ve spoken a little bit about some of the projects you’re doing. You ventured into a little bit of writing, is that right as well?


[00:31:38] – Jim

A little bit, yeah. As I say, when I started doing sort of the mindful stuff, I started just writing stuff down.



[00:31:46] – Samantha



[00:31:48] – Jim

And then occasionally that sort of led me into sort of what shall I got all these words written down? Can I do a little bit more with them? So I sort of dabbled a little bit. Then more recently, I’ve started, rather than just printing photographs, I’ve started making little handmade concertina books. And the two little workshops I’ve done recently have encouraged you to not just have photographs in, but to put some words in.


[00:32:26] – Samantha




[00:32:27] – Jim

So might only be a few lines, which I hope is-, I’m not sure I’d call it poetry, but I like to think they are, in their way, poetic, if that makes sense. And I’ve started reading a bit more poetry after many years of not reading very much. And then I went to a poetry reading. There’s a bookshop in the Piece Hall in Halifax by a book called, I can’t remember the poets, but they’ve produced this book called Offcumdens. They both originate from outside of the area, but these were juxtapositions of this chap’s photography and a poet who’d written in response, which in turn reminded me of-, one of my favourite photographers is a photographer called Fay Godwin. And she did a series of photographs in Calderdale with the poet Ted Hughes, Remains of Elmet, many years ago now, obviously.


[00:33:40] – Samantha




[00:33:41] – Jim

Neither of them is with us anymore. A little poetry workshop which runs every two weeks. So I’ve been to about four or five of those now, which I don’t-, where it will lead, I honestly don’t know, but I quite enjoy it.


[00:33:56] – Samantha

Yeah. What do you do at the workshop?



[00:33:57] – Jim

Well, she basically reads a poem. We have a very brief chat about it, then we get an exercise to write something in response to it. She gives us a few clues as to how we might get, as to how to start it. And to my amazement, she gives us about ten or 15 minutes, I’ve always managed to come up with something.


[00:34:20] – Samantha


Yeah. When you first did it, did you feel like it’s tricky to get it on the page or did it just flow?



[00:34:28] – Jim

I think once it’s-, I find I have five minutes, first five minutes, I’m thinking, lots of stuff going through your head.


[00:34:38] – Samantha




[00:34:40] – Jim

And then although somewhere along the line, some kind of idea comes in and I write a bit down. And then while everybody else is reading theirs out, I end up crossing bits out and changing words.


[00:34:57] – Samantha

So does everybody-, they read them out loud as well.



[00:35:00] – Jim

You’re not compelled.



[00:35:02] – Samantha




[00:35:03] – Jim

In the same way as the photography workshops I do. No one’s going to force you to show your photo, your work and in a sense, part of the mindful thing is having the freedom to make a photograph for you or yourself without having to worry about what anybody else is going to say about it.


[00:35:24] – Samantha

Sure. Because I think that’s a big thing with anything creative or artistic, often it is shared with others but that’s a really vulnerable feeling, isn’t it?


[00:35:34] – Jim


In a sense that’s why my approach is-, and I felt that came to a point it was actually just before lockdown I thought I have to change my approach because I was getting frustrated because I was chasing the competition winning image.


[00:35:48] – Samantha




[00:35:48] – Jim

Rather-, I think I was trying to take the photograph that other people thought I ought to be taking rather than one that had some-, actually really resonated with me in some shape or form. And I was going to, I mean, I’m fortunate to have been able to go to places like Yosemite and Yellowstone, but at times when I was there, I was feeling more like a tourist than a photographer. Because, I mean, Yellowstone, Yosemite in particular, we were spending at least 2 hours a day in a traffic jam trying to get from one part of the park to another.


[00:36:30] – Samantha

Yeah. Wow.



[00:36:31] – Jim

So for all the pictures you take that give this impression of wilderness, well, I mean parts of it I suppose are still a wilderness but it’s a wilderness full of people.


[00:36:46] – Samantha

That’s interesting, isn’t it? A wilderness full of people, yeah.



[00:36:40] – Jim

Yes. I feel a little bit dissatisfied with that kind of photography right in the end.



[00:36:54] – Samantha

Yes, I can imagine that’s where the kind of wellbeing aspect I suppose is when you are doing something creative that’s for you and is about your experience and process of that as much as it is about what you produce.


[00:37:10] – Jim

Yeah and I think I realised I wasn’t actually being very creative.


[00:37:15] – Samantha

Right, okay.



[00:37:16] – Jim

I think it was almost a need. How do I actually become creative, more creative?



[00:37:24] – Samantha

Yeah. So did that sort of frustration with the competition and what other people might expect you to take, that sort of led you to maybe rethink and explore?


[00:37:35] – Jim

Yeah, it’s one of the-, I got to a point where I actually wasn’t enjoying photography as much as I thought. I used to love doing this. Why don’t I love it anymore?


[00:37:51] – Samantha

And now is the writing helping to just compliment that and explore things even more with your creativity?



[00:37:59] – Jim

Yeah, I think there’s ways of-, photography I see is a way of telling a story hopefully reasonably fairly subtly and in the sense if you’re writing poetry, it’s possibly a better way of adding a bit of verbal communication to it without being too-, what’s the word I’m looking for? Didactic?


[00:38:27] – Samantha




[00:38:27] – Jim

Is that too long a word? Being too-,



[00:38:36] – Samantha




[00:38:37] – Jim


Yeah, literal. I don’t want to ram my views down people’s throats. I want to produce work that makes people think and come to their own conclusion.


[00:38:46] – Samantha

Yes, I know what you mean. I suppose everybody with art, I mean, this is the thing, isn’t it? Even when you make a piece of art and share it, what you see in it, other people will find other things.


[00:38:56] – Jim




[00:38:57] – Samantha

And that’s just the nature of it, isn’t it? Yeah, I know what you mean.



[00:39:00] – Jim

I think, in a sense, once you get to a point where you have to accept that as the case.



[00:39:05] – Samantha

Yeah, that’s quite tricky. Personally, I found that really hard because you put something out in a certain way and you hope people will get from it what you get from it. And sometimes it can be very different.


[00:39:19] – Jim

Sometimes it’s quite enlightened, sometimes-, once or twice, and I can’t remember a specific instance, but somebody’s responded to something in a certain way and I’ve thought, I quite like that.


[00:39:32] – Samantha

Yeah. Opens up other doors.



[00:39:34] – Jim

It sort of made me think.



[00:39:35] – Samantha

Yeah, I think that’s the thing. Art is an exchange, isn’t it, between anybody experiencing it, doing it, and everything in between that, it’s an exchange between people and experience and can offer us things all of the time, even when we’re not expecting it.


[00:39:53] – Jim




[00:39:55] – Samantha

Well, it’s been really nice hearing about how you approach your photography and how it benefits you personally in your life as well. Because this is the thing, isn’t it? It’s much more than just the photography, I suppose.


[00:40:10] – Jim

No, it is.



[00:40:11] – Samantha

For want of better words. And I think the next time I’m out and about, just having that time to notice, that’s a nice reminder to whenever you can, pay attention, use your senses where you can, and you never know what you might find.


[00:40:29] – Jim

Yes, I find a world where the pace of life is fairly frenetic these days.



[00:40:38] – Samantha




[00:40:38] – Jim

Anytime you can spend just slowing everything down and appreciating the world around you, is time well spent.


[00:40:50] – Samantha

Absolutely. Yeah. Let’s all slow down where we can. Thank you, Jim.



[00:40:56] – Jim

That’s okay.



[00:40:58] – Samantha


It was really nice chatting to you.



[00:41:00] – Samantha

And that brings us to the end of another captivating episode of Calder Navigation. Thank you for joining us on this voyage through the stories that shape Calderdale. We hope that these conversations have touched your heart, inspired your mind and reminded you of the power of human connection. As we navigate life together, let’s carry these stories with us. Cherishing the lessons they teach us and the bonds they strengthen. Remember, colder navigation is just one part of the Welland Activator Project, a collective effort to combat loneliness and isolation in our community. We encourage you to explore the various classes, workshops and walks offered through the programme and join us at our special showcase event, Welland, where we can come together and celebrate the magic of Elland and Calderdale. You can find out more about the project at curiousmotion.org.uk.


[00:41:50] – Samantha


We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Calderdale Council Reaching Communities from the National Lottery Community Fund and Arts Council, England for their invaluable support in making this podcast and the Welland Activator possible thanks to Untold Creative for production support. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to Calder Navigation on your preferred podcast platform so you never miss an episode.


[00:42:13] – Samantha

And please help us spread the word by sharing the podcast with your friends, family and anyone who might find solace, inspiration or a sense of belonging in these stories. As we conclude this chapter, we invite like you to keep exploring, keep connecting, and keep navigating the currents of life with curiosity and compassion. Remember, the journey continues and together we can make a difference. Until next time fair winds and warm hearts.

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