Darbis Murmury

memories of the photographers' place



The dry clean bitter-sweet taste of Marston's Pedigree still carries me back instantly - almost twenty-five years now - into a total immersion photographic experience, some kind of orgone energy generator centred around a cottage and a pub in a small Derbyshire village. The Gate was a gate into a world of photography and more.

'Da gone Darbis' was one of my first son's first sentences, and in 1997/8 Samuel had plenty of occasion to use it as I went to a whole series of workshops.

Looking through the contact sheets floods back many memories, not least of failed experiments. The pictures from my work there that still have meaning are almost entirely those of people, perhaps some 60 or 70 frames from the several thousand I shot there.

Perhaps that is hardly surprising. Workshops are about people and what you learn from them, getting inside their heads (and occasionally elsewhere) as we lived and breathed and talked and drank, mainly drank, photography.

Ray sits with Mary on the slatted seat of the Mersey Ferry, returning with us to his Wallasey origins, or stands surveying a field of grazing photographers. Paul poses in painted stocks at Matlock, or heads the table through a group of bottles and smoke in best Cuban mode, Jamie behind him as Ober Kellner. Or Paul parading a jumper with the Man in knitted Snow, and Angela rushes in, 'Henri on the phone for you.'

But the others on the course were just as important. Brian lifts his glass, elbow on the table with contact sheets. Noeline holds a cigarette in myriad improbable ways, bursts with laughter. Cheng reads John's palm, and several others, but won't read mine. Henny lies on the grass creating random exposure settings, poses and pouts and performs with June in the pub for me and perhaps my camera.

Chris with Mamiya and a mad scientist impression, hair flaming; Gunnar screws a teapot spout into his ear (don't ask). Ted auditions for the part of Henry VIII, every inch (mainly - or do I mean manly - girth) a headmaster, Oliver gestures as flamboyantly as Olivier, Robert apparently about to down a bottle of wine. Moments caught; truth, lies, photographs. In vino veritas - or not.

Two Peters, one asleep, the other hiding behind a camera for these pictures.

It ended. People dropped out, some newcomers fitted in, others grated. We went our own ways, some to tragedy, some to a little fame, most to filling our days with more or less the same as yesterday.

My pictures are developing a suitable patina, a crackelature of decaying gelatin from hurried processing in kitchens. It was good to be there, but what a waste that so much of that shared energy and purpose somehow failed to really go anywhere.

I went back a few times later - as did some of the others - but somehow it was never the same.


  All pictures and text on this site are © Peter Marshall 1976-2000 and may not be reproduced without permission  

Peter Marshall writes regularly on photography for >Re:PHOTO.

He has work on various web sites including:
My London Diary
London's Industrial Heritage

The Buildings of London

Fixing Shadows


The picture at the top left of every page is of the late Raymond Moore, probably the finest photographer I've had the honour of meeting and working with, and who encouraged me greatly to follow my own direction in my photography.

Paul Hill who owned and organised workshops at the Photographers' Place in Bradbourne, Derbyshire, UK appears in the stocks 3 thumbnails up from this message.

Both appear in several other pictures.

I would be happy to add links to this site to any works on the web of any other photographers shown here.