Cumbrian Photographer Undertakes County-wide Project for Council

July 30, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Kendal-based photographer Richard Gill of R Gill Photography combined his technical skill with local knowledge to produce a series of diverse photographs for Cumbria County Council. In all, he snapped 400 photos and travelled over 1,500 miles.

Reception area of Cumbria HouseReception area of Cumbria HouseCumbria Count Council HQ, reception area

Cumbria County Council was in the process of updating its Highways Asset Management Strategy and wanted more visual material than previously, which is where Richard stepped in. His expertise in architectural photography coupled with local insight clinched the deal and so he was commissioned to photograph over sixty locations from Bewcastle in the north east of the county to Barrow in the South West. No mean feat, particularly with changeable Cumbrian weather to contend with! The timeline was also tight; he was awarded the commission in early February and expected to produce a body of work by the end of that month. But Richard likes a challenge and so, armed with his kit and knowhow, he embarked on this extraordinary journey to snap his way around Cumbria. 

 

Stage One - Meeting

First things first, County Council staff gave Richard a list of assets that required capturing for inclusion in the updated strategy. They ranged from schools, council properties, highways and sheltered accommodation to libraries, bridges and ports. “You’ll get to know Cumbria very well,” said project lead, Kate Stark. And she was right.

Richard was supplied with a specific contact person for those assets that required special access and a little extra planning, like schools and highways depots.  After discussing the project at length Richard requested 24 hours to consider how he would execute the piece of work. 

Stage Two - Execution

Richard returned to the Council with a timescale of 10-14 days, weather depending. He developed a detailed project plan that included proposed visitation dates which would allow the Council to carry out any necessary risk assessments in advance. Flexibility was key here as Richard had to contend with not one but two weather fronts: Storm Dennis and Storm Ciara, both of which wreaked havoc nationwide. When it wasn’t snowing or blowing a gale, Richard enjoyed a handful of lovely sunny blue-sky days that resulted in stunning photographs of some of Cumbria’s most picturesque sites.

The devastation caused by storm Ciara on the road to Silloth, looking across the SolwayThe aftermath of Storm CiaraThe devastation caused by storm Ciara on the road to Silloth, looking across the Solway

“On one particularly freezing cold day I had to coordinate with Highways to photograph a gritter on top of Kirkstone Pass,” said Richard. “This is a well-known spot with an altitude of 1,489 feet so it’s more than a little difficult to navigate on a normal day, never mind in the depths of a Cumbrian winter! But with a lot of teamwork we managed it and got some great shots." 

Gritter on Kirkstone PassGritter on Kirkstone PassGritter on Kirkstone Pass

Photographing schools was much less troublesome and a lot more fun. “One school, Sandgate Primary, was great fun to photograph. The children were very excited to hear that their school was going to be ‘famous’ and keen to get in shot. This meant that I had to pixelate their faces to avoid any privacy issues but the resulting photos were very lively.”

Pupil in the ball pit at Sandgate SchoolSandgate schoolPupil in the ball pit at Sandgate School

Richard even managed to rope his wife into the scheme. “The new A6 cycle path in Kendal hadn’t yet opened but the Council wanted a photo of it ‘in action’, so my very obliging wife agreed to get on her bike, and now she features in the Strategy!”

A slightly reluctant cyclist on the A6 cyclewayThe A6 cyclewayA slightly reluctant cyclist on the A6 cycleway

What Richard appreciated most though was the obliging spirit of County Council staff. “On the whole I have to say the CCC staff were very helpful and obliging. They allowed me to disrupt their normal working routine in some difficult circumstances, for example, allowing me to photograph gritters that were working to the clock to keep roads open.” 

Loading a gritting lorry at the depotLoading a gritting lorryLoading a gritting lorry at the depot

His shoot at Port Workington was particularly enjoyable as the crew arranged for him to photograph the site from a crane, 60 feet in the air. “I was escorted into the heavens by an employee and managed to get some wonderful bird’s-eye shots.”

View from a crane at the Port of WorkingtonPort of workingtonView from a crane at the Port of Workington

Stage Three - Presentation

Following a whirlwind exploration of Cumbria and having taken hundreds of shots Richard got to work editing the collection for County Council. “Every shot went according to plan,” said Richard, “bar Kendal library which was shrouded in mist, so another visit was arranged. After that I knuckled down to edit the snaps, ready to present to the Council.”

Kendal LibraryKendal LibraryKendal Library

Cumbria County Council was very happy with Richard’s work and has had its Strategy approved by government. Richard delivered a professional, engaging body of work within a tight timeframe and with the minimum of fuss. The Highways Asset Management Strategy can be seen here Highways Assets Management Strategy 2020 -2025

Richard’s enthusiasm for hobby photography flourished at a young age but was put to one side when he entered the workplace. His career in lighting took him all over the world, but the stress of work soon forced Richard to reassess his life which took him right back to his adolescent hobby. After developing his skills and with mentorship from top professionals he embarked on this exciting new path and established R Gill Photography in 2013.

Richard uses video and photography to create promotional materials that can be used over and over again in multiple ways. He can be reached on email at [email protected] or by telephoning 07557 780336.

 


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