John Blakemore was born in Coventry. He discovered photography during National Service with the Royal Air Force in Tripoli in the 1950s and is self-taught. Wartime childhood experiences and Edward Steichen’s The Family of Man exhibition inspired him initially on his return home to photograph the people of Coventry and its post-war reconstruction as a freelance, working first for Black Star, and then in a variety of studios. He later became Emeritus Professor of Photography at the University of Derby, where he taught from 1970 to 2001, being influential on the younger generation.
Characteristically, Blakemore worked in black-and-white on landscape subjects, making use of the Zone System and much darkroom work on his prints. He has also worked in still life, including a series on tulips.
Blakemore has been the recipient of Arts Council awards, a British Council Travelling Exhibition and in 1992 won the Fox Talbot Award for Photography. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in 1998.
John Blakemore’s Black and White Photography Workshop quote
What Kind of Journey?
It only remains now to reconsider the images that were made during a period in which I photographed tulips so assiduously; to question the nature of the tulip journey. At the conclusion of any extended piece of work, one inevitably questions the results. What have I learned during this journey? What has this intense period of activity been about? I learned little about tulips, not much – less perhaps than I could have learned in a few afternoons at the library. My search then was not a botanical one, nor, though I learned a little history (I hadn’t previously known of the period characterized as ‘tulipomania’), a historical one. I looked at images that might not otherwise have engaged my attention – obscure flower paintings, botanical illustrations – not however, as an art historian but as an image-maker seeking ideas and correspondences. The tulip journey, then was ultimately a visual journey, an investigation and discovery of visual possibilities. The tulip became an object of attention and fascination. It became both text and pretext for an activity of picture-making. The photographs are not finally, or not primarily, about tulips: they contain tulips. To say this is not to diminish the role of the tulip. Had the vase of flowers on the table when I made the first tentative exposures exploring the space of my kitchen been, let’s say daffodils, then the journey, if it had ever begun, would in all probability have been shorter. The daffodil, although it is a delightful flower, exhibits a stubborn rigidity of form; it lives and dies at attention. The tulip, however, is a flower of constant metamorphosis; it stretches towards the light and gestures to occupy the space. I spent much time just contemplating the flowers, with the camera far from my thoughts. I delighted in the tulips’ voluptuous presence. Such periods of contemplation, of visual pleasure, are always a necessary part of my work process. It is a deepening of my experience of, and of my relationship to, my subject. One cannot photograph experience, but to have lived it can change and develop habitual ways of seeing and of knowing."
- John Blakemore. British Image 3. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1977. Edited by Barry Lane, introduction by Gerry Badger. ISBN 0-7287-0107-3.
- Spirit of Place: Photographs in Wales, 1971–78. Welsh Arts Council, 1979. ISBN 0-905171-40-3.
- Inscape: Photographs by John Blakemore. London: Zelda Cheatle Press, 1991. ISBN 0-9518371-0-9.
- The Stilled Gaze. London: Zelda Cheatle Press, 1994. ISBN 0-9518371-6-8.
- John Blakemore's Black and White Photography Workshop. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 2005. ISBN 0-7153-1720-2 (hardcover), ISBN 0-7153-1721-0 (paperback).
- PHOTOGRAPHS 1955-2010 Stockport: Dewi Lewis, 2011. ISBN 978-1-907893-12-4.
- McCabe, Eamonn (2005). The Making of Great Photographs: approaches and techniques of the masters. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. pp. 54–5. ISBN 0-7153-2220-6.
- "The Stilled Gaze: audio interview, with still photography by John Blakemore". lensculture. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- "John Blakemore". Duckspool. Retrieved 2009-05-20.
- "The John Blakemore Archive, an article and video about John Blakemore's work". Source. Retrieved 2012-04-15.