Leigh Preston FRPS EFIAP MPAGB FIPF: an Appreciation by John Cogan

I wasn’t sure I’d have time to write anything about last Thursday night’s visitor, too much to do and too little time, all the usual excuses: need to feed the growing sparrow population in the back yard; have to find time to breath and resist the cream cakes I’ve become somewhat addicted to… all the usual stuff. But how can one resist the likes of Leigh Preston? I’m talking about a mutual admiration for humour and good photography… not anything else!

Back from the “hols” with all the bounciness of returning 5th formers the hall filled and filled in anticipation. We were not sure what to expect… how could we know? To judge from Leigh’s website he does a mean portrait. Anyway, we sat and waited whilst, I imagined, Leigh attacked his hair in front of the washroom mirror.

Spiky hair and a similarly sharp wit we spent much of the evening laughing, even those of us who rarely break into a smile. With an array of accents, even a tolerable Brummie delivered with great warmth and charm, we accompanied his photographic journey through the back streets of Britain. At one stage, even a Normanton caff complete with cold baked beans, was offered. Now, being a lad from Castleford and having gone to school in Normanton (where I lost my heart to Rosalind Wilson in the Girls’ Grammar, and first danced the twist) I was expecting a southerner’s put down… not so! Despite the humour (or because of it) none of Leigh’s photographs were caustic. There was a nice degree of reverence for the image and the process, for the way the texture of Scottish weather could play with that northern light, or the grace of a Georgian art gallery custodian could seduce the lens without being vulgar or even overt.

Robert Capa, when asked about his portraits, replied that you have to care for people, even like them and show that you like them. It’s a simple point but a great truism. Little wonder that Leigh’s portraits are so successful… you can go a long way with a warm personality and a 60mm lens…

John Cogan ARPS

Leigh Preston’s lecture to Durham Photographic Society 4th September 2014 was presented jointly with the RPS Northern Region

Leigh Preston’s website is here

RPS Northern Region is here

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