Keeping you up to date with what I am doing or have been doing, this page will be updated regularly. The snippets may direct you to other pages for more info, or may be self-contained.
June 19th 2017
We finally made it to Middlesbrough and enjoyed a couple of visits to the Tees Transporter Bridge – one really sunny day, the other less so – and came away with all the pictures I need for that chapter of the book. Thanks to the bridge team for arranging 'access all areas' for us, and answering my many questions. Now the job of writing it all up can get underway. Plan A is to have the whole project completed by September. I shall miss it when its finished! What will I do next, I wonder?
June 2nd 2017
The Transporter Bridges project is progressing really well now that we are back from the mega-trip to Spain and France. Wonderful weather for photography came with us all the way, and we were aided and abetted by experts at each bridge we visited. Javier Goitia, Consultant Engineer on the Puente Bizkaia in Portugalete near Bilbao took the left-hand image of me just after I ventured through a small hatch to get outside the protected pedestrian walkway and take some close up images of the bridge's travelling frame as it passed just beneath the girder on which I was standing. The Nervión river seemed a long way below me! My favourite image of the bridge itself – as the gondola docked at Getxo/Las Arenas – will, I hope, eventually be used on the cover of the book.
April 28th 2017
Five months down the line, I am now pretty much back to fighting fitness – a good job as we have a hectic few months ahead doing the photography for the Transporter Bridges book and for my regular commitments to Scotland Magazine. That will include trips to Spain and France, to the Orkney Islands, and to chronicle the building of CalMac's new ferries on the Clyde. This picture was one of a series taken in the garden to see if I was yet able to control the weight of the camera. I'm pleased to say the arm and shoulder proved up to the challenge. Watch out for further posts as these projects progress. Looks like we'll get a good apple crop this year.
January 8th 2017
In late November I had a bad fall, severely breaking my right arm and shoulder, so have been somewhat out of circulation since then. Never one to sit idly watching daytime tv, I have become adept at typing with three fingers of my left hand – allowing me to keep up with my Scotland Magazine commitments – as well as working on a project which does not require trying to lift a camera. The resulting book, Edwardian Railways in Postcards, draws on my extensive collection of cards to weave together the stories of both the Edwardian railway network and the postcard-collecting craze which swept Britain at the time. The book is organised on a regional basis, exploring the huge range of postcards available to travellers across Britain. Along the way, I have found myself expanding my industrial postcards collection, so another book might happen some day soon.
November 17th 2016
The third volume of my Britain's Industrial Heritage series – due to be published in May 2017 by PiXZ/Halsgrove at £9.99 – has now been renamed Industries Which Made Britain Triumph. I am currently working my way through the page proofs. The book follows the same pattern as the first two volumes, with a very different but equally eclectic mix of subjects as the earlier volumes. This time the themes are Paper & Print, The Farming Industry, Roads & Bridges, Road Transport, Fairgrounds, China, Tiles and Glass, and Computers, Codebreakers and Communications. As with the earlier volumes, there is the expected and extensive gazetteer of places to visit across Great Britain.
September 28th 2016
My latest book – Wigan Pier - The facts and fictions of an enduring Music-hall joke – is published at last. First copies arrived yesterday and I will be signing books at the Wigan Model Railway Show this weekend. The book – 144 pages illustrated in colour throughout – is published by Lightmoor Press and is priced at £9.99. First critical reaction to it is very encouraging. The last couple of months have been very busy both with getting the book ready for the printers and completing the photography for the third volume of my Britain's Industrial Heritage series. That book is now at the final checking stage and should be going to the publishers within the next month or so. This month also saw my article All Aboard Le Truffadou published in The Railway Magazine. The photography and research for that was completed during a recent trip to the Lot in France.
July 18th 2016
This infra-red image of five ageing photographers was taken in Cheshire at Jodrell Bank's Discovery Centre and marked quite an occasion. The five photographers all completed their studies in photographic technology 50 years earlier at UMIST, Manchester, in July 1966. Yours truly is second from the left. The original group which started the course in 1963 numbered just twelve and the reunion brought together five of the six we managed to make contact with. Sadly a few are no longer with us. Some of us had not met since leaving UMIST! We don't plan to leave it another 50 years before repeating the event! Photo: David Ruaux
June 5th 2016
A fresh look for the website as summer approaches and the first change to the design for about three years. Over the next few weeks the picture galleries will be updated to reflect my recent work, but in the meantime the images in the slide shows have been made a bit bigger. Sadly, however, it all looks quite different on an iPad to a desktop computer as iPads still can't do Flash.
May 31st 2016
Just back from one of my trips to Scotland taking pictures and doing research for future Scotland Magazine articles, where I met up for lunch with an old school friend – last seen the day I left school 53 years ago – and he assured me that the sun has shone constantly in Scotland since the SNP came to government. Apart from one day, it seems he was right. Everyone and everything seemed to be out sunbathing, including a young common seal basking on rocks which gave us no more than a cursory glance as we made our way along the Fife Coastal Path.
April 26th 2016
While putting the finishing touches to my forthcoming Wigan Pier book, due out in September, I finally realised one of my early ambitions which was to have a stick of Wigan Pier rock on the Contents Page. This particular stick of rock, however, exists only on my computer and was realised with generous help from an unlikely source – the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing of the US Air Force at RAF Lakenheath. One of their photographers had taken a picture of three sticks of 'Southwold Pier' rock and it had been posted on their website. With their permission, I downloaded the image and with a bit of judicious photoshopping, replaced 'Southwold' with 'Wigan'. The lettering was assembled from several other sticks of rock to look as authentic as possible. Keep it as our little secret, though, as I would hate anyone to think I had been cheating!
April 8th 2016
Local band The Cheverellites commissioned me to design and photograph the sleeve for their second CD Fire in the Night. The album is launched at a party tonight. The main image is of a storm gathering over the hills of Glencoe in Scotland. I wish them every success with the new album.
April 4th 2016
I have just got confirmation that my new book Wigan Pier - The facts and fictions of an enduring Music-hall joke will be published in early October by Lightmoor Press with a cover price of £9.99. The book explores the history of George Formby's mythical Wigan Pier as well as the small coal tippler on the banks of the Leeds Liverpool Canal which later became known as Wigan Pier. The legacies of both George Formbys – father and son – and George Orwell have coloured Wigan's history for a century and a quarter. 2016 is the probable 125th anniversaryn of George Formby's first stories about the seaside pier in the middle of industrial Lancashire, so what better time to publish a new book.
March 23rd 2015
The third book in my Britain's Industrial Heritage series will feature heavily on roads, bridges and road transport, so I have been exploring motor museums – taking in the Black Country Living Museum, the recently re-named British Motor Museum at Gaydon in Warwickshire, Gloucestershire's Cotswold Motor Museum, Glasgow's amazing Riverside Museum and the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. Alongside this, I am currently gathering material for a feature on the early years of the Scottish motor industry for Scotland Magazine, so have been especially interested in the '3 As' – Albion, Argyll and Arrol-Johnson – who were at the forefront of that industry. This image shows a rare Albion touring car from 1909 displayed at Gaydon.
March 15th 2015
It has been a busy month, with work on the new book progressing apace. So far, my travels have taken me to the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, the Red House Glass Cone in Wordsley and the Iron Bridge at Ironbridge. My article on the Fakenham Gasworks Museum finally appeared in Vintage Spirit, and I have just completed a new piece for VS – In Search of Wigan Pier – which will hopefully appear around the time my new book on Wigan Pier is published later this year. More about that soon. The image, here, was taken during a glass-blowing demonstration at the Red House Glass Cone – the largest and most complete of the four surviving glass cones in Britain. A fascinating place and well worth a visit.
February 25th 2016
As can be seen from my March Picture of the Month, research visits for the third volume of my Britain's Industrial Heritage series of books is progressing apace. As well as visiting Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Compuing, both for the book and a forthcoming magazine feature on my late aunt's wartime work at Bletchley, our trip in late February included a day at Frogmore Paper Mill – the oldest mechanised paper mill in the world. Paper is still made there on a 110 year old machine. Frogmore's story will also feature in the new book, and in a forthcoming feature for Vintage Spirit.
January 20th 2016
It is just one of those things, but despite having lived in the south-west now for getting on for ten years, I had never seen the Clifton Suspension Bridge – Brunel's first bridge design, produced when he was only 24, but one he never saw to completion. It opened to traffic in 1864, five years after Brunel's early death. One of the chapters in the third volume of my Britain's Industrial Heritage series will look at 'Roads and Bridges', so that gap in my experience was filled today, one of the first truly sunny days of the year. The as-yet-untitled third volume should be complete by the end of the autumn and out some time early in 2017.
December 2nd 2015
I first started making my own Christmas cards for clients, friends and family in 1966, so this year's card, of the Victorian Gallopers at Carter's Steam Fair, is my 50th – a sobering thought as, unless Christmas comes more than once a year, I must be getting old. That first card back in 1966 was a very limited edition – I then had just two clients for my photography – and was a monochrome view of the ruins of Crossraguel Abbey in Ayrshire, hand printed on to photographic paper and mounted on to card. Today's cards are entirely and relatively easily produced on the computer, of course – a good thing as the 2015 run will exceed 100
November 17th 2015
Got word today that the second volume of my Britain's Industrial Heritage series, is to be titled Our Industrial Past - More of Britain's Industrial Heritage. It will be published by PiXZ/Halsgrove in April 2016 – same format as the first one, 144page hardback illustrated in full colour. This time the subjects are just as eclectic as in volume one, covering everything from The Arms Industry to the last surviving example in England of a small town gasworks. It also explores the slate industry, the world of the thatcher, the fishing industry, and some of Britain's maritime history. The final cover design is illustrated.
I am already working on volume 3 which will explore Roads and Bridges, Farming, All the Fun of the Fair, China Glass and Tiles, and numerous other themes. If everything goes according to plan, that will be completed by the end of next year so may see the light of day early 2017.
September 6th 2015
While on holiday in the Dordogne, we spent some time on one of the few standard gauge steam railways in the south of France. Known as 'Le Trouffadou', the line was opened in 1880 and originally used to transport timber, salt, and truffles. It played a key military role when revived during the Second World War, and since the early 1990s has been developing as a heritage line. Passengers travel in open carriages – more like cattle trucks with seats – which gives spectacular views of the Dordogne valley, but creates pretty unpleasant conditions when the train passes through each of the line's five tunnels, the longest of which is more than a quarter of a mile. Here, the line's Alsace-built tank engine takes on water at Martel alongside an East-German 2-10-0 class BR50 locomotive.
August 10th 2015
Just back from a whistle-stop tour working on a number of Vintage Spirit features, and taking the final images for Wigan Pier - the facts and fictions of an enduring Victorian joke and More of Britain's Industrial Heritage. The trip took in the Hereford Waterworks Museum – with all their engines in operation – The Slate Museum in Llanberis, Wigan Pier, the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke, the Thursford Collection of fairground rides, organs and traction engines and the amazing Fakenham Gasworks Museum. The first drafts of both books have been submitted to a publisher, so fingers crossed they like them. They will, I hope, be published during 2016. I get so much fun out of projects like these – and learn so much – that you can't really describe it as work. Watching trraditional skills being employed by experts – such as the splitting of slates or the hand-painting of pottery, is really fascinating.
May 27th 2015
I first visited the Tank Museum at Bovington in Dorset forty years ago, and my most recent visit was about fifteen years ago. What a transformation – today the world's largest collection of tanks and armoured vehicles is displayed in several large modern halls. This image of the last surviving First World War Mark I tank, however, exists only on my computer. Four separate photographs were used to create it – the tank tableau was photographed in the museum itself requiring a very long exposure as it is displayed making its way over a recreation of a trench system at night. The flames came from a burning cornfield in the Scottish borders, the foreground from the tank training ground on Salisbury Plain, and the dark leaden sky from Broadford Bay on the Isle of Skye. Together they give a sense of what it might have looked like going into action in 1916.
April 17th 2015
First new project of the year took me to Bursledon Brickworks in Hampshire yesterday to work on a piece for Vintage Spirit magazine. The biggest surprise was finding that they have the only surviving operational example of a single-cylinder horizontal steam engine by John Wood of Wigan. Having lived in and around Wigan for 37 years before moving south in 2006, I knew where Wood's foundries had been, but was completely unaware that any of his engines still survive. The engine is steamed regularly, driving the same huge brickmaking machine that it was installed to drive in 1897. The engine itself dates from around 1885. Bursledon actually have a second one in store awaiting restoration.
January 28th 2015
After 42 books in 41 years, I actually saw one of my books being printed today. I was at Gomer Press in South West Wales following the production of The Victorian Photographs of Dr. Thomas Keith and John Forbes White from laser-etched plate-making through to four-colour printing on Gomer's awesome Heidelberg Speedmaster press. The last time I saw litho plates being made, acids were involved and hands got wet – not so today. When I commented on the speed at which the sheets were being printed, I was told that, as it was only a short print run, the presses were at nothing like their full speed! By the time you read this, the book will be on its way through the sewing and binding stages. My pictures show us checking the sheets for colour accuracy, and the dust-jacket getting its final inspection.
January 6th 2015
First posting of the New Year is an early glimpse of what The Victorian Photographs of Dr. Thomas Keith and John Forbes White will look like when it is published in April, put together from the first colour-corrected proofs received just before Christmas. The project is in the early stages of production at Gomer Press in South Wales at the moment, and when the presses roll for the first time, I will be there to see it all start to come together. It has been a long road – eight years have passed since the idea of the book was first raised – but one advantage of the timescale has been that high quality colour printing is now much more affordable than it was.
November 14th 2014
My Coldharbour Mill feature is in the December issue of Vintage Spirit – spread over five pages with a couple of dozen pictures, focusing largely on the mill's wonderful collection of working steam engines. You will not be surprised to read that the engines feature strongly in my forthcoming book Britain's Industrial Heritage due out next year.
November 1st 2014
Publication of The Victorian Photographs of Dr. Thomas Keith and John Forbes White received a major boost today with the announcement that the project has been supported by a generous grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. The printers have been selected – The Gomer Press in South Wales – and publication of the 144 page hardback book, illustrated throughout in colour, is scheduled for April next year, priced at just £20 per copy. Pre-orders for the book are now being taken – register your interest through the 'Contact' page.
October 29th 2014
The page proofs for Britain's Industrial Heritage arrived today, so some serious checking and compiling the index will fill the coming days. Like my other three titles for PiXZ/Halsgrove, this new book will be 144 pages hardback, with the usual mixture of historic images and my own photography, but what makes me feel old is the fact that some of the 'historic' images were taken by me at the start of my career half a century ago. All my favourite themes are there – canals, steam engines, sailing ships, steamships, plus the iron and steel industries, manufacturing, and a lot more. We have visited many places while doing the research and photography for the book, and as usual, met some great people. It's not really like work, is it? The final cover selection has not been made yet, but this is my choice.
September 18th 2014
The Once-Ubiquitous Paddle Steamer is published today. Like my previous two books published by PiXZ/Halsgrove – 2012's Preserved Steam-Powered Machines and last year's Edwardian Mining in Old Postcards – it is available as a 144-page hardback, priced at £9.99. The book explores the history of British paddlers from Henry Bell's PS Comet to the rebuilding of PS Medway Queen and Noel Donnelly's little PS Monarch. Illustrated throughout in colour, and predominantly using my own original photographs taken while visiting all the surviving vessels, the book also contains many historic images from my image library as well as drawing on the picture collections of several other collectors, enthusiasts and fellow photographers.
September 6th 2014
Having been invited to give them a talk, I spent a very interesting day in Sherborne with the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society. My broadly-based talk ranged from an exploration of what the experience of being photographed was like in the Victorian era, through to the challenges of picture research, the value of careful and detailed captioning, and the pitfalls – without a detailed caption – of trying to remember when a picture was taken and who the people are who feature in it. I called my talk Me and George Mackay Brown, using as my starting point, a poorly captioned photograph taken in 1972 when I was lucky enough to meet the celebrated Orcadian poet, with whose work I had been fascinated for some time. I wish I had that amount of hair today!
August 14th 2014
It always pleases me when a magazine presents my features really well, and the six-page piece on Trencherfield Mill's great engine in the September issue of Vintage Spirit very definitely falls into that 'pleasing' category – a layout which really does justice to my pictures. We were back in Wigan last Sunday to see the engine in steam – an experience in sight, sound and smell which never fails to impress.
July 23rd 2014
A very big decision was made this week! For the past several years I have been trying to find a commercial publisher for my latest photographic history monograph – The Victorian Photographs of Dr. Thomas Keith and John Forbes White – but the high cost of acquiring image reproduction rights has made them all run away. As a commercial project, it is just not viable as the cover price necessary to return a profit for the publishers, Amazon, bookshops, etc, would be just too high for the average book-buyer to even contemplate. This has not been helped by my decision to illustrate as much as possible from original salt prints, and to print throughout in full colour to capture their wonderful quality and character. Thus do authors become publishers. Self-publishing the book cuts out all the middle-men, and should allow me to publish a very limited edition – 500 copies – at an affordable price without sacrificing quality or content. I am hoping to be able to market it for between £25 and £30 + P&P, the final price depending on what I have to pay UK national collections to use their images. Watch this space – some time towards the middle of next year, the book will be published in hardback, with me handling the distribution as well as production and content. It will not be available in bookshops. If the project interests you, and you wish your name to go on my mailing list as a potential purchaser, let me know via the contacts page and I will keep you posted. Thirty six copies have been spoken for already, so only 464 more to go!
July 1st 2014
My extended trip to Scotland last September gave me the opportunity to work on several features for both Scotland Magazine and Vintage Spirit as well as getting pictures for Britain's Industrial Heritage. My exploration of the Scottish Maritime Museum's sites at Irvine and Dumbarton feature in the July issue of Vintage Spirit. The building which houses the main exhibits at Irvine was once the engine shop of Alexander Stephens' Linthouse Yard at Govan on the Clyde, and was dismantled, moved and reassembled on the Irvine site.
May 28th 2014
Just back from a fascinating trip to Coldharbour Mill, a working woollen mill and museum in North Devon, doing a piece for Vintage Spirit as well as a few more pictures for Britain's Industrial Heritage. If this mill was not tucked so far out of the way, it would be heaving with visitors, because it is a really interesting place, with well-informed staff and volunteers to bring the story of Devon's woollen industry to life. Photographed by available light on a Canon 5D MkIII, 24mm lens, under lighting conditions which would have been impossible just a few years ago. The camera's sensor was wound up to ISO 10,000, with minimal noise in the resulting images.
April 28th 2014
After more than ten years working for Scotland Magazine, I finally get my first cover picture – on the May 2014 issue out today – to go along with my 10-page feature on the Battle of Bannockburn. The newly restored statue of Robert the Bruce which is the centrepiece of the battlefield site was created in 1964 to mark the 650th anniversary of the battle. Coming back to take pictures of the statue 50 years after I first photographed it, I could not resist the opportunity to put on the replica of Bruce's helmet in the visitor centre. A very heavy item of headgear – but just a small fraction of the total weight Bruce wore into battle – the helmet and its protective chain-mail seemed much lighter on my head than in my hand. Thanks to the local National Trust for Scotland staff for their help and support.
April 12th 2014
An excellent trip last week taking pictures for my next book Britain's Industrial Heritage We visited Blists Hill, Paradise Silk Mill in Macclesfield, and the amazing Trencherfield Mill steam engine in Wigan. The Paradise Mill and Trencherfield Mill images will shortly appear alongside my articles in Vintage Spirit magazine. It is ironic that after photographing the Trencherfield engine - the biggest working steam engine in the world - for more than forty years, I finally get around to writing about it now I have moved 200 miles away. Last time I photographed it, however, it was painted red, and has since been completely rebuilt thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, during which the restorers discovered that green was its original colour. Photographed using my Contax 645 with Phase One back and Zeiss's amazing 35mm Distagon lens. For more information on Britain's Industrial Heritage click on the book title.
March 21st 2014
Visiting the private Musée des Arts Forains – the museum of fairgrounds – in the Bercy district of Paris last October as part of the 25th Annual Symposium of the Daguerreian Society of America was a fabulous and unforgettable experience. I hope I have captured some of the magic of the place in my profusely illustrated 8-page feature in the April 2014 issue of Vintage Spirit magazine. Two pages from the feature are illustrated here. This project really benefitted from the low light capability of the Canon 5D MkIII.
March 4th 2014
Was invited to give a short talk at the inaugural meeting of the Cheverell Camera Club – seemed to go down well. The group, covering a wide range of abilities and expectations, has been set up as a forum for exchanging ideas, sharing expertise, and having a good time. The Club plans to meet on the first Thursday of each month in The New Pavilion at 7.30pm.
March 4th 2014
It's a hard job, but someone has to do it – as part of the photography for my next book Britain's Industrial Heritage which will be published in 2015, I was keen to explore the current expansion of the micro-brewery industry as we all seek out beers with a bit more flavour and eschew the often-bland beers made by multi-nationals. Luckily there is a micro-brewery just down the road from where we live – The Three Daggers Brewery in Edington, Wiltshire – and they were happy to let me in on the secrets of beer-making. Of course the product had to be sampled, and their Blond Ale is a drink to die for! For more information on Britain's Industrial Heritage click on the book title.
The Victorian Photographs of Dr. Thomas Keith and John Forbes White is now available from John Hannavy Publishing price £20.00 + P&P.
To order a copy, use the Contacts page.
Published by PiXZ/Halsgrove in May 2017 is the third volume of John's Britain's Industrial Heritage series – Industries Which Made Britain Triumph. Click on the book cover, below to log on to Amazon.co.uk where you can see all of John Hannavy's currently available books.