I have now created 100 portraits of Bath-based people at work over a period of eight years. It has been a wonderful project, meeting and choosing a huge variety of amazing individuals. Bath is rich in so many ways, and especially in its people.
I think we are a kind, considerate and interesting lot. It has been my great privilege to record for posterity so many stories and capture such varied subjects set within their work locations. I have endeavoured to create images from all walks of life, genders, ethnicities and occupations, reflecting the diversity of people who live and work in Bath.
The self-portrait is a time-honoured artistic tradition so I thought on this anniversary I should give it a try. I’ve been juggling with light for 50 years, but what an awkward subject I was. The very worst. I found it much trickier than I expected, and the technical challenge quite exhausting without a cable release. It did help, though, towards achieving my 10,000 steps a day.
Despite living in Bath for more than 30 years, I was born in Sheffield. My family on my mother’s side (although she was a doctor) were steel and tool manufacturers. The company James Neill is the reason for the unusual spelling of my Christian name and there must be a bit of Irish in there somewhere.
I have loved living in Bath and bringing up our two children Phoebe and Roo here. Jo, my wife, and I had a shop for a while when we first arrived in 1987. Postscript was a fun but ultimately expensive (for us!) enterprise as we hit a major retail recession in 1990 with 15% interest rates. Large rent rises and the new business rates (UBR) didn’t help either. I was pleased to play my part in opposing these and proud of the way the business community rallied round to take a stand against a badly considered tax that became a burden on business. Who now remembers those heady B.A.R.B. days? Surely root and branch reform is now needed to save the high street and combat online competition?
Jo and I set up Spirit Photographic and Divine Divas in 2007 when we found a perfect studio space in The Old Methodist Church in Twerton. What a great location it has turned out to be with Twerton now going through a gentle renaissance. Marks and Spencer and the new Bath School of Art and Design Locksbrook Campus have arrived on our doorstep and the ambitious and constructive plans for Bath City FC will hopefully be realised soon and bring new energy and opportunity to the area.
Spirit Photographic focuses on family portraiture and Divine Divas on makeovers and beauty photography primarily for women. At Spirit we are committed to creating classic images of family members that are meaningful and reflect the personality of each individual. The wonderful Divine Divas team in the other studio is dedicated to creating transformative, confidence-boosting imagery. Both the photography and experience have a real purpose and our clients regularly tell us the results can be life-changing.
Bath is one of the greatest cities in Britain and could, if it so wished, be one of the greatest places to live in the world. Here’s to that glorious future.