Tim Smith, documentary photographer. Nov 26, 2021

On Friday November 26 Ilkley Camera Club was given a Zoom talk by the highly accomplished documentary photographer Tim Smith. As well as being a professional photographer he is also a writer, researcher, and Yorkshire resident.  

Tim is known for recording the social and cultural journeys of minority communities adjusting to their new lives in Britain.  He is a member of Panos Pictures, the London-based photo agency that represents photojournalists worldwide who “bring an unparalleled understanding and awareness of the sensitivities and ethical dimensions of the issues and areas they document”.

Tim Smith now lives in Settle having been in Bradford for 35 years.  Previously he’d lived and worked internationally including in Barbados and the United States, and has moved around the UK including Newport and Sheffield.

Tim said, “I didn’t want to settle in Newport because there were too many photography students and London was out because I didn’t want to join the rat race.”  Bradford appealed to Tim because of its international, multicultural communities. “It gave me an interest in other cultures. The older I get the more I realise we are shaped by the places we grow up”.

In the 1980s he lived in Newport near the docks which was a big gateway for exporting coal.  In his talk he explained the connection between the ports and Yemen which was a steamer refueling area for ships on the way to the Far East.   One of his early projects was to take photos of Yemeni people who had worked in Sheffield’s steel industry but who had now retired back to Yemen.

His more recent project shown at the Bradford Media Museum was ‘River of Tea’, a series of photographs exploring how the early tea trade sparked the migration of people from Bangladesh to Britain.

In his advice to documentary photographers Tim said, “Find someone who understands what you are trying to do who can give you access. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are as a photographer, if you can’t get in somewhere you’re not going to get decent pictures”.  “Try to produce pictures that have content and tell a story. The best pictures are the simplest pictures which focus on the story.”

The next meeting of Ilkley Camera Club is on December 3 and will be the Annual Print Competitions, ‘Nature’ and ‘Architecture and Record’

Ilkley Camera Club is currently meeting via Zoom on Friday evenings at 7.30pm. For more information visit the Club website at wwww.ilkleycameraclub.online or their Facebook page, facebook.com/ilkleycameraclub

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