Photographer profile - JJ Waller
PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 September 2019
Street photographer JJ Waller turned his lens on Blackpool and found he loves the resort, writes Paul Mackenzie
Everyone has a view of Blackpool and a story to tell about a visit there but JJ Waller has more than most. The photographer was initially commissioned to visit the resort for a week but loved it so much he returned again and again over the course of a year.
The result was his latest book, an affectionate and humorous collection of photographs which show the town for what it is: sometimes seedy, sometimes glam, often odd and always fascinating.
'It's often a case of waiting for something to happen but you don't usually have to wait long in Blackpool - it doesn't usually take long for something interesting to come along,' he says.
'Blackpool is out on a limb but it's a wonderful place. I like places that are on the edge. Blackpool is on the edge geographically, but in other ways as well.
'I think there will be a huge transformation in Blackpool, but I don't know when. It's not had it easy and there are troubled parts of town, but it is a very beautiful place.'
JJ was born and still lives in Brighton and he added: 'I did a book of photos taken in Hastings. I spent nine years going back and forth to Hastings to get a portrait of a town in transition. It was on one those visits that I met Michael Trainor who was then with the Blackpool arts organisation Left Coast. He told me there was a chance of a commission in Blackpool.
'The commission was for a week and having been there for that week I saw so much going on; Pride, the air show, various conventions, loads of events and lots of people.
'I fell in love with the place and I thought it'd be great to make a book so I made seven more visits over the next 12 months. 'Through a weekend I would probably walk something like 20 miles backwards and forwards. I would be discovering things that I thought might make an image in the right conditions or the right light and returning time and again until I got it, or just seeing things that captured my imagination.
'I think Blackpool gives people a sense of escapism and fun. They can do things there they wouldn't do at home. I met one woman who visits Blackpool from Glasgow and goes to bingo dressed as Elvis.'
After leaving school JJ trained as a drama teacher but a spell working on a community arts project in Liverpool in the 1980s convinced him he'd rather do that than teach. While in the city he developed a comedy act which he would perform at street parties and events and then developed it to become a street entertainer, working all over the world.
In his 40s he decided he needed another change of direction and took an evening class in photography where the tutor was so impressed by his efforts he recommended JJ take it further.
Once he had completed his degree he found work photographing comedians for their tour posters and took a lot of shots on the streets of his home town. They eventually formed the basis of a series of five books of his photos of Brighton.
'It takes time for photography to develop - pardon the pun - I was shooting stuff around Brighton which was being used by the tourist board,' he adds. 'I was just walking the streets looking for images that might work.
'I'm a chatty person and I think it's great fun to talk to people and find out about them and their lives. I've never had a problem with people not wanting me to take their picture, they're usually just interested. I've experienced no cynicism or suspicion. People are generally very interested and engaged ion what I'm doing.'
To buy JJ Waller's Blackpool, or to see more of his photographs, go online to jjwaller.com.