THE BEGINNING (P.1) 1984-87

Welcome to week one of my blog. Each week, I will be sharing current projects, photography,  stories and artifacts from my 30 year archive. Some of it published work, most of it not really seen before. I’ve always kept stuff; old photos, notes, letters, diaries. “I'm not a hoarder”, I tell myself. I guess I love how all these artifacts become more interesting as they age.

 Original resin print of me in my bedroom aged thirteen, 1984

Me aged 13 with my BMX Racing License 

It only seems right to start at the beginning around 1984. I was 13 and at secondary school in Fleet, Hampshire. My older sister Andrea had just started Farnborough 6th form college in the neighbouring town. Her new friends were a bunch of punks, much to my mum and dad's dismay. I was into BMX’s / Arsenal and listening to Electric Dreams and Ghostbusters. Miami Vice was on TV at the time. Andrea gave me a music voucher for Christmas. I bought the Miami Vice Soundtrack on Vinyl with her voucher and she was really angry. In her eyes, it was time to school me. She turned me onto The The’s album Soul Mining. This album inspired me to write some embarrassing poetry. The The became a gateway band for me.

 Original resin prints of me, Julian, Mr. Wilbraham's and my chemistry class 1986-87

My early to mid-teens and photography are all wrapped into one - they evolved together. My first camera was an Olympus OM10. My school friend Martin was into photography, his step dad had a darkroom in his house. Martin had recently moved to Fleet from Hastings, as he had got in some trouble at his last school. He had acquired an ear piercing gun and was piercing his classmates ears. He also got in some trouble with the police. He’d lit a fire in a disused warehouse and a policeman had to go in and rescue him.

 Original resin prints of Martin and Me 1986-87

The first photos I took were in Martin’s garden. We smashed bottles and tried to capture the glass with a fast shutter speed. Fleet pond and woods was at the bottom of my street. I would take pictures of light and form. I would bother my family making portraits to play with depth of field. 

Me and my mates were still into BMXs and I would rope them into being photographed. I started to learn about depth of field, shutter speeds and framing. Martin and I spent the next few months after school, and on weekends taking photos. I started shooting on Ilford FP4 film, eventually switching to Kodak T-Max 400. I preferred the grain structure on the Kodak films. Martin taught me how to process my first b+w films in his darkroom. It was like magic to see those first prints appear in the developer tray. I was hooked. On occasion my pictures turned out really blurry.  As a novice I thought it was me but a few years later I was happy to read that the OM10 admitted to a manufacturing fault affecting the shutter speed.


Neg scans of light and form studies around Fleet Pond 1986


Neg scans of Clive on bucket and bunny hop duties, Gary and Nick BMX boys 1986

  Original resin print of my dear Nana, photographed in her flat 1986


Neg scans of my dear mum, Spanish mountain fire and our beloved Ben, 1986-87

Me and my school mate Julian started doing shopping trips up to Carnaby Street and Camden to buy clothes. Julian seems to think we got some creepers on a booze run to Dieppe with my Dad. Mine were plain black. His had a zebra fur top. My pride and joy though was my black suede tassel jacket. 

We started watching borrowed VHS punk videos and music like Peter & The Test Tube Babies from my sister and her mates. Alternative music, as it was known back then was an umbrella name encompassing punk, goth, metal, rockabilly, psychobilly, indie, etc. We used to get grief from the casuals at school. The Damned was our first proper gig in Guildford. We went with my sister and her mates; Julian wearing black and white striped trousers, me in red and black and my new purple paisley top. A bit of under age cider drinking occurred leading to some jostling and wrecking in the mosh pit. It was a big night for us - a right of passage.


Neg. scan of Julian, Doreen (Julian's mum) and me. On a surfing holiday in Woolacombe, Devon 1986 


Neg. scans of Skaters in Woolacombe, Devon 1986

Next Week I will conclude THE BEGINNING (P.2) 1987-88 - with my final year at school and 6th form college and more photography of bands and friends. 

If you have some great photographs of your youth go check out The Museum Of Youth Culture and submit to join their collection.

Limited Edition Print CollectionsHERE

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  • This is great Neil – keep it coming!

    • clive gibbs