John Bulmer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John Bulmer (born 1938) is a photographer, notable for his early use of colour in photojournalism, and a filmmaker.

Life and career[edit]

Bulmer was born on 28 February 1938 in Herefordshire,[1] the grandson of the founder of the Bulmer cider company.[2][3] He started photography when young. Although his earliest interest in it was primarily as a technology (he even built his own enlarger),[4] he was a great admirer of Henri Cartier-Bresson as a teenager.[5]

Bulmer studied engineering at Cambridge, where his interest in photography deepened. While still a student he had photographs published in Varsity as well as a magazine he co-founded, Image;[6] and did photostories for the Daily Express, Queen, and (on night climbing) Life. He also worked as an assistant to Larry Burrows and Burt Glinn. The Life story led to his expulsion from Cambridge six weeks before his finals.[4][5]

On his expulsion, Bulmer attempted to get a job with the Daily Express; after three days of repeated attempts, the newspaper gave him one. He stayed for two years.[5] After this he worked on assignments for a number of magazines: first in black and white, for Queen, Town, and Time and Tide.[4][7] His ambition then was photography as journalism:

I wasn't interested in art photography, I was interested in photography as journalism, the last thing I wanted to do was put my photographs on the walls of galleries; I wanted them in magazines.[4]

Thanks in part to a wave of creative people from the north of England, the north was at the time enjoying a vogue in the south.[5] Bulmer's first assignment there was in 1960, for Town, to spend three days photographing the fast-declining Lancashire town of Nelson and compare it with the fast-growing Watford. He found the experience eye-opening and enjoyable.[7][8]

By this time, Bulmer had evolved his own style:

intimate close shots of people on the streets and public places done with a wide-angle lens interspersed with compressed views of architecture, industry and townscape with a longer lens. The long lens was also used to isolate a figure on the streets.[5][n 1]

In addition to Cartier-Bresson, Bulmer admired the work in black and white of Bill Brandt, Larry Burrows, William Klein, Mark Kauffman, and particularly Eugene Smith;[4] but he was asked to work in colour for the Sunday Times Colour Section from its launch in 1962.[9] At the time, most photojournalists looked down on colour photography as commercial;[4] and colour film was difficult to work with as it was slower than black and white and had less exposure latitude.[5]

In 1965, Bulmer first photographed the north of England in colour, for the Sunday Times magazine.[n 2] Colour photography was "a medium in which Bulmer was the British pioneer", far ahead of such photographers as William Eggleston and Martin Parr. Using colour for the north of England was Bulmer's idea, as was the choice of winter or wet weather, when colour film was yet harder to use.[5][n 3]

Grant Scott has described the results:

Saturated but muted colours combined with [Bulmer's] compositional talent to create images which are time capsules as contemporary today as they were then.[4]

The priorities of the Sunday Times Magazine changed in the 1970s; its then-new editor Hunter Davies explained them to Bulmer as "crime, middle-class living and fashion". These were of little interest to Bulmer, who left in 1973 after a final story about North Korea.[4][5][10] However, he continued photography for other publications, making his last story of the north of England in 1976, for the British edition of Geo.[5]

Bulmer later photographed celebrities.[3]

The editor of Town, David Hughes, introduced Bulmer to his wife, Mai Zetterling, with whom he then occasionally worked as cinematographer.[7] For some time, Bulmer combined photography with work in film, which was refreshingly different and also promised an escape from the increasingly limited interests of the news magazines. His start in television documentary film came suddenly. When he managed to obtain a visa for Burma, the Sunday Times was uninterested in any story there, and so he

went to the BBC and said, "I've never shot a film in my life before, but I've got this visa, will you give me some money?" And they said yes and that's how I came to make my first film.[11]

As well as the BBC, Bulmer also filmed for the Discovery Channel. For the latter, "Bulmer focused on little-known tribal groups, but treated them as human interest stories rather than exercises in the exotic": a perspective that can also be seen in his early photography.[5]

As Bulmer moved away from photography to film, his earlier photographic work was overlooked. Martin Harrison credits a 1983 exhibition at the Photographers' Gallery, British Photography 1955–65: The Master Craftsmen in Print (curated by Sue Davies), with saving the work of Bulmer (as well as Graham Finlayson and others) from obscurity.[12] Most of a 17-page "Colour Section" within Harrison's own 1998 book Young Meteors: British Photojournalism, 1957–1965 is devoted to Bulmer and his colour work of the north of England.

Bulmer's career in film continued to the mid-2000s, when he retired and turned to digitising and cataloguing his earlier photographs.[5]

Bulmer is married to the sculptor Angela Conner. The couple live at Monnington on Wye in a house, Monnington Court, that Bulmer bought in the 1960s and where they breed and train Morgan horses.[2]

Films and videos photographed, directed, or produced[edit]

Dir, directed, pho, photographed; pro, produced.[n 4]

  • The Artist's Horse. 20 minutes, for The South Bank Show, 1978. Dir, pho, pro[13]
  • Beehives and Runaway Wives. For the Discovery Channel, 2002. Dir, pho[14][15]
  • Bull Magic. For Under the Sun (BBC) and National Geographic, 1994. Dir, pho, pro[16]
  • Dances with Llamas. 50 minutes, for Under the Sun (BBC), 1997. Dir, pho, pro[17]
  • Empty Quarter. 50 minutes, for Journeys (BBC), 1996. Dir, pho[18]
  • Fat Fiancees. For the Discovery Channel, 2005. Dir, pho[19][20]
  • Finite Oceans. 1995.[21]
  • House of the Spirits. For the Discovery Channel. Dir, pho[22]
  • How Does It Feel?. Pictures that Move, 1976. Pho[23]
  • Månen är en grön ost. 72 minutes, Stiftelsen Svenska Filminstitutet, 1977. Pho[24]
  • Mud and Water Man. For the BBC, 1973. Pho[25]
  • A Mysterious Death. 49 minutes, for the BBC, 1999. Dir, pho[26]
  • Now Is the Hour. 1970. Dir[27]
  • The Painter and the Fighter. For Survival (Anglia), 1996. Dir, pho[28]
  • Queen of the Elephants. 90 minutes, for the Discovery Channel, 1994. Pho[29]
  • The Search for Shangri-La. 50 minutes, for the BBC and PBS. Dir, pho[30]
  • Stick Fights and Lip Plates. 50 minutes, for the Discovery Channel. Dir, pho[31]
  • Sunday Pursuit (or Love at First Sight). 25 minutes, 1990. Pho[32]
  • The Tide of War. 50 minutes, for National Geographic, 1991. Pho[33]
  • Up North. 1970. Dir[34]
  • Vincent the Dutchman. 50/52/60 minutes,[n 5] for Omnibus, 1972.[31][35][36][37] (Winner of a BAFTA award for "Television: Specialised Programme" in 1973.[38])
  • The Witchdoctor's New Bride. 50 minutes, for the Discovery Channel, 2005. Dir, pho[39]
  • Women of the Yellow Earth. 50 minutes, 1994. Dir, pho[40]


Solo exhibitions[edit]

Group exhibitions[edit]


Books devoted to Bulmer's photographs[edit]

  • Northern Soul: John Bulmer's Images of Life and Times in the 1960s. Overton: National Coal Mining Museum for England, 2010. National Coal Mining Museum for England publications, 10. ISBN 1872925154. The catalogue for an exhibition at the National Coal Mining Museum for England.
  • The North. Liverpool: Bluecoat Press, 2012. ISBN 9781908457080.
  • Winds of Change. Liverpool: Bluecoat Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1908457226.

Zine devoted to Bulmer's photographs[edit]

Other books with Bulmer's photographs[edit]


  1. ^ Bulmer liked to work with a 35 mm camera, and his favourite combination of focal lengths was a 28 or a 35 mm lens, plus either a 105 or a 180 mm lens. Bulmer as quoted in Hamilton, "Northern exposures".
  2. ^ Tearsheets for this story, "The North", can be seen here within Bulmer's website. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  3. ^ Moreover, the only film whose use was practicable was Ektachrome-X, whose colour balance shifted with time and was unsuitable when the film was either old or very new. Hamilton, "Northern exposures".
  4. ^ More details, as well as some short excerpts, are available in this page about films on Bulmer's website. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  5. ^ The sources cited here disagree on the exact length.
  6. ^ Café Royal Books' page about Hartlepool 1960s is here.


  1. ^ Page about John Bulmer Archived 7 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Chris Beetles Fine Photographs. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Sculptor Angela Conner of Monnington Court, Herefordshire", Herefordshire and Wye Valley Life, 19 February 2010. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  3. ^ a b Martin Wainwright, "John Bulmer: A photographer who captured the north's true colours", The Guardian, 2 February 2010. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h [Grant Scott], "John Bulmer interviewed",, 10 August 2010. Accessed 10 February 2013. The website fails to name the author. The story was also published as "The not-so-swinging sixties" in Professional Photographer magazine, and a small reproduction from this within the web page shows that the author was Grant Scott.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hamilton, Peter (2013). "Northern Exposures". British Journal of Photography. Incisive Financial Publishing Limited. 160 (7808): 64–69.
  6. ^ a b "The pictures of John Bulmer Archived 21 April 2013 at", This is Bristol, 30 May 2009. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Godfrey Smith, foreword to The North (Liverpool: Bluecoat Press, 2012), p. 3.
  8. ^ John Bulmer, The North (Liverpool: Bluecoat Press, 2012), p. 5.
  9. ^ Andy Manning, "Changing view from up north", Yorkshire Post, 28 January 2013. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  10. ^ a b Terry Grimley, "John Bulmer photographic exhibition opens in Hereford", Birmingham Post, 9 June 2009. Accessed 19 February 2013.
  11. ^ Carey Gough, "John Bulmer interview part 2", Hereford Photography Festival blog, 19 May 2009. Accessed 18 February 2013.
  12. ^ a b Martin Harrison, preface to Young Meteors: British Photojournalism, 1957–1965 (London: Cape, 1998; ISBN 0-224-05129-6).
  13. ^ The Artist's Horse, British Film Institute. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  14. ^ "Beehives and runaway wives to be screened Archived 11 April 2013 at", Hereford Times, 20 March 2009. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  15. ^ "Ethiopian Films", in What's On, March–April 2008 (PDF), British Museum. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  16. ^ Under the Sun Archived 16 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Borderlines Film Festival, 2013. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  17. ^ Dances with Llamas, BBC. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  18. ^ Empty Quarter, British Film Institute. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  19. ^ "Logodnicele grase",, 22 February 2007. (in Romanian) Accessed 10 February 2013.
  20. ^ "'Fat Fiancees', la Cinemateca Astra Film", Romanian Global News, 22 February 2007. (in Romanian) Accessed 10 February 2013.
  21. ^ Finite Oceans at Turner Classic Movies. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  22. ^ House of the Spirits, Dutch) Accessed 10 February 2013.
  23. ^ How Does It Feel?, BFI. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  24. ^ Månen är en grön ost (1977), Swedish Film Institute. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  25. ^ Mud and Water Man, BFI. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  26. ^ Catalogue entry for A Mysterious Death, Stanford University libraries. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  27. ^ Now Is the Hour, British Film Institute. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  28. ^ The Painter and the Fighter, British Film Institute. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  29. ^ Catalogue entry for Queen of the Elephants, Colorado Mesa University library. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  30. ^ a b "The North: John Bulmer's shots capture a moment in time at Third Floor Gallery Cardiff", Culture24, 6 May 2011. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  31. ^ a b "The Playhouse Cinema at Leominster Community Centre presents a selection of films[permanent dead link]", The Ludlow and Tenbury Wells Advertiser, 25 February 2010. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  32. ^ "Love at First Sight. Sunday Pursuit" (PDF), Swedish Film Institute. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  33. ^ The Tide of War, British Film Institute. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  34. ^ Up North, British Film Institute. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  35. ^ John Albert Walker, Arts TV: A History of Arts Television in Britain (London: J. Libbey, 1993; ISBN 0861964357), p. 58. Here at Google Books; accessed 18 February 2013.
  36. ^ Data for Vincent the Dutchman, Festival Cinéma Nordique. Accessed 18 February 2013.
  37. ^ Vincent the Dutchman, British Film Institute. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  38. ^ Database search result, BAFTA website. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  39. ^ Festival flyer (DOC file). JISCMail. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  40. ^ Women of the Yellow Earth, Borderlines Film Festival, 2010. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  41. ^ "Hard Sixties", >Re:Photo, 19 December 2008. Accessed 18 February 2013.
  42. ^ "John Bulmer", Livres photos, 21 November 2008.(in French). Accessed 18 February 2013.
  43. ^ Bridget Coaker, "John Bulmer retrospective,, 19 May 2009. Accessed 19 February 2013. (Bridget Coaker was the curator of the exhibition.)
  44. ^ Exhibition notice for "John Bulmer, A Retrospective" Archived 15 April 2013 at, Accessed 19 February 2013.
  45. ^ ""Northern Soul: John Bulmer's images of life and Times in the 1960s"". Archived from the original on 6 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2013.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), National Coal Mining Museum for England, 6 January 2010. Accessed by the Wayback Machine on 6 February 2010. Wayback copy accessed 18 February 2013.
  46. ^ "Exhibition with northern soul worth the wait", Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives, 8 December 2010. Accessed 18 February 2013.
  47. ^ "John Bulmer Archived 17 March 2014 at", Leeds College of Art. Accessed 17 March 2014.
  48. ^ "Northern Soul: An exhibition at Locomotion", National Railway Museum, 19 August 2012. Accessed 18 February 2013.
  49. ^ "Northern Soul" exhibition notice, WLTC, 14 January 2013. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  50. ^ Daniel C. Blight, "John Bulmer: Photographs 1959–79",, 18 April 2010. Accessed 10 February 2013. (Blight was a codirector of the exhibition.)
  51. ^ "Hereford Photography Festival presents exhibition by John Bulmer", Surrey Comet, 3 November 2011. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  52. ^ Programme Archived 22 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Hereford Photography Festival 2011. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  53. ^ "Photographic exhibition opens at the Pier Arts Centre", Northings, 7 June 2011. Accessed 12 February 2013.
  54. ^ "Britain's Hard 60s" exhibition notice (PDF), Monnow Valley Arts. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  55. ^ "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning – a sensational new Lakeside exhibition", University of Nottingham Alumni Online, 23 October 2012. Accessed 16 February 2013.
  56. ^ "Actress to open photo exhibition of factory life", Nottingham Post, 25 October 2012. Accessed 16 February 2013.

External links[edit]