A day with Dave West - Saturday 8 November

Dave West is an independent photographer based in Shropshire, who has had solo exhibitions in Hereford, Shrewsbury, Telford & Zutphen. The titles of these were An Elizabethan Town Cat’s Country Diary (1991), How Do I Look? (1992), The Cars that Ate Shrewsbury(1999), & Telling Moments (2002). He has taken part in Shrewsbury Open Studios since 2006 (, during which he has shown Angel, Discomposed and Indefinite Articles.

Between 1986 & 1992 he devised & ran the Hereford Photographic Festival, and has run community-based photography projects in many parts of Herefordshire & Shropshire. He is now an active member of Marches Independent Photography.

More of his work can be seen at

Those who were unable to attend Dave West’s workshop at Contemporary North West last Saturday (08 November 2014) missed a truly excellent day. Dave showed us consistently interesting work and placed it in a context that both illuminated and explained it, and at the same time provided some general food for photographic thought. He began with his own personal history, telling us how he fell into photography almost by accident, and he continued with illustrations from prominent twentieth and late-nineteenth century painting by way of an exploration of personal influences and personal identity; the effect that both must inevitably have on our own work; and their function for each of us as a continuing source of inspiration and ideas. Dave was instrumental in founding the Hereford Photography Festival in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. He showed us work from this part of his career, explaining how he had structured it, and captioned it, for effect. This was a masterclass in Contemporary Photography – the pursuit of a theme that comments by photographic revelation on cardinal aspects of contemporary life. A lot of the work was overtly political (though far from party-political) raising questions relating to the nature of society and community, an innovative approach in a milieu that is more often devoted purely to ‘personal expression’. Following the Festival work, he showed us with both projected and printed images how his own views and ideas have developed over the intervening years, suggesting how we might do the same if we remain open to influences, of which photography itself may be only a minor component. Throughout his talk Dave was open to questions and challenges, which led to several fascinating excursions down byways and along minor roads, all of which he conducted with admirable patience and fortitude. We are used to photographers who can show us beautiful images and sometimes challenging ones, but it is rare, I think, to find one who can do this and combine it with an intellectual exploration extending well beyond the boundaries of photography as a medium of expression. In all, it was an outstanding series of discussions and debates conducted throughout with perceptiveness and the utmost good humour.

In the afternoon, we had our own personal opportunities, many of us having brought with us work to present. All of this was of a high standard and much of it exhibited unusual approaches to the medium. It, too, prompted further discussion in the same exploratory vein that had characterised the morning. In sum, it was a day from which I believe all of us learned much, and did so in the most entertaining way. We departed just after four-o-clock with a whole lot of new things to think about on the way home. Our collective thanks to Dave for giving us such a good time.