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Mark Perham Photographer

What stories are there to tell in this wasteland, so full of archaeological importance? Which of them are real?



Mark Perham is the winner of the 2012 South West Graduate Photography Prize. Mark’s work aims to explore the impact that the digital revolution has had on the perception and the reliability of the photograph, as a document of evidence, and its relationship with the unexplained.

Project Description

Using Fox Talbot’s hand-crafted techniques and water from the River Avon, Mark’s portraits of the people who work at the station (now and in years gone by) reverberate with the unseen energy, rhythms and meticulous graft that keep Temple Meads running everyday.

” In their words… “

My invitation to discover Bristol’s Temple quarter appeared in my inbox one day quite out of the blue. On completion of my final project for my photography degree at Falmouth University and heading towards my graduation, I entered the South West Graduate Photography Prize run each year by Plymouth based FOTONOW which I was very fortunate to win. My prize was a combined residency with Knowle West Media Centre and Fotonow but on the evening of the presentation I had no idea what it would involve, that was until I received my invitation.

Until that point I had only ever travelled into Bristol once, about five years previous, and that meeting with the City had left me with no desire to ever return. Growing up and living in Cornwall insulates you to the hustle and bustle of the “real world” and the proliferation of roadworks and traffic lights and jams that day left a taste in my mouth that could only be neutralised by the clean, salt infused Cornish breeze.

During my first visits to Bristol I was struck by the way the evolution of the area is worn on its sleeve and how alive it feels, from the early build of the station to the steel and glass of the newest contemporary structures. The multiple layers of its history felt as though they all spoke at the same time and fizzed through the atmosphere. It was something that you could feel.

This seemed most apparent to me at Temple Meads station. As a stranger in a strange land, the station was my connection to Bristol, literally, being the first place my feet would touch Bristol turf and the last each time I travelled. Here, history seemed to reverberate through everything and everyone. Here is where I would produce some work.

My own practice is concerned with photography’s connection with truth. I have a deep interest in the way images can be used to manipulate or undermine and also its connection to the unknown or unseen. And it was this felt but unseen reverberation that I have concentrated on with my portraits.

I was fortunate enough to be able to produce work with staff from the station, some of whom work there now and others who have long since retired, but all have their stories that connect them and the station and feed the ongoing energy.

At the same time the station was being built (1839-1841), William Henry Fox Talbot was improving photographic drawing (as it was termed), not too far away at Lacock Abbey, near Bath. His creation of the Calotype meant that photography was freed from the single positive image and given a ”second chance”. His invention enabled multiple copies to be made from a single negative. This connection to Bristol, the station and photography inspired me to produce my final images as salt prints. Each of the prints will go through a final wash that contains water from the river Avon next to the station. Infusing, literally, the area in which they were made into the print.