Phil Joyce: The story so far…

Tuesday 1 September 2020 meeting.

Phil gave us an extensive and entertaining tour of his recent work starting with a photographic look at the annual Porthcawl Elvis Festival. The King is dead! long live the King! And his spirit is certainly alive at this event and Phil captured the fans, the best dressed, and the pretender kings in what is a unique spectacle in this seaside town. Everywhere there are Elvises, there is even a guy down at the chip shop swears… Thousands of Elvis fans flock to Porthcawl and if you have difficulty photographing strangers it is the perfect place to put those worries aside. Phil has an excellent Blurb book that captures this utterly unself-conscious celebration and is well worth looking at Sadly this year’s event, due to take place towards the end of September been cancelled.


The next set of images were of the various gypsy horse fairs that take place around the country. While the Elvis Festival was in colour these shots were mainly in black and white. Horses are very strong in gypsy culture and there is a saying “A gypsy without a horse is not a gypsy”. At these fairs horses are sold, cash only, and the price is agreed with a slap of open hands, a sort of ‘low-five’, that seals the deal. There was a hauntingly sensitive portrait of a child, a great viewpoint of young man with catapult, horses rearing, displays of horse skills, and the sale of goods that accompany the horse fairs. See Phil’s website for an excellent set of shots taken at the horse fairs.


Then it was back to colour with the Pride events where Phil captured the joyous party mood of the moment. Great candid shots from the hip, wonderful shots of older participants, portraits, dressed up dogs – more on dogs later –  the exhibitionists, and the humour. Like the Elvis Festival the Pride events are great places to get over your fear of photographing strangers. See more of Phil’s work here.


Livestock markets were next up full of characters and a more sombre mood. This suited black and white and Phil decided to evoke the HP5 look of yesteryear. There were shots capturing the intense concentration at the livestock sales of the buyers. There were great portraits of outdoor-hardened faces and also a wonderfully evocative shot of the come-rain come-shine toil of a stockman off-loading sheep in appalling weather.


We were then given a completely different approach to the previous photography with Phil’s shots of his series ‘Portraits of a Place’. This was not camera club style and instead of images that ‘look’ like the place these were shots about the way a place ‘feels’. A much more ambitious and challenging approach both for photographer and viewer. To emphasise the difference Phil started with a shot of Port Talbot steel works at night which he took years ago and compared it with his different visual aesthetic today. There were shots that gave the sense of alienation, people walking through streets which are overseen and overwhelmed by the M4 motorway that sits on top of the town. Understated, mundane but compelling images. You can see Phil’s shots of the empty streets of Port Holyhead here.


From the rundown coal and steel economy of Port Talbot it was on to the pampered playground of future prime ministers – Oxford University and the ceremonies of this august pillar of British privilege. Phil showed shots of the Encaenia ceremony where the University awards honorary degrees to the good and the great. He then went on to show the matriculation ceremony. Rather than the solemn and staid procession of the Encaenia which was on colour, matriculation was a much more lively affair and Phil was in amongst the students with a wide angle lens like a rock in a river as the ‘bright young things’ flow by. All this in black and white. See both the Encaenia and matriculation series here


And about those dogs… Phil took us on a delightful run around Crufts with a great deal of humour which dogs and their owners tend to create. Brilliantly caught moments – some involving what dogs do that embarrass their owners and what owners do that embarrass their partners. Great shots of polka dots and dalmatians, well seen detail shots and abstract shots. A wonderful series of images that puts over the British obsession and love of their dogs. Check out some of Phil’s pedigree work here


When the Abingdon and Witney College held a tattoo convention Phil took some of his photographic students along to capture the event. People at the convention were very keen to have their photos taken and besides ‘normal’ colour shots Phil also tried ‘infra-red’ shots which had an engaging and almost ethereal  glow to them which worked exceedingly well with the subject matter. One of the tattoo artist he photographs paints shoes – incredibly detailed painting. See her work on Instagram here


Phil ended with what he called his favourite area to photograph – English and Welsh country fairs. These fairs lend themselves to studies of their ‘quaintness’ and Phil captured this very well. The best chicken egg competition, the single and winning entry into the egg cosy competition, in-yer-face ferrets and a table full of intricately made model buildings and machines and the sellers sat behind the table looking like the disciples in the Last Supper.


“Interesting things in ordinary places” was one of Phil’s comments. A fantastic evening that we mere camera club mortals can just watch in awe at such an impressive body of work.


If you do not already follow Phil on instagram then click here and enjoy.



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Oxford Photographic Society