Monday, 6 August 2018

Up Vesuvius with David Hurn

We were away for a bit, as you might have guessed from the lack of posting recently.  I'm not an easy traveller these days, but we did a bit of searching around for destinations from our local airport (Belfast) and decided a direct flight to Naples would be do-able.  We stayed just outside Sorrento, about an hour's drive away.  A very nice part of the world, the Amalfi Coast.  Yes it's fairly busy at this time of year, but since the whole region lives for tourism it never really felt uncomfortably crowded - the infrastructure is geared to cope.

Although I carried the Leica with me I didn't really snap that much.  It's been a tough 12 months in the McNeill household and for once I was happy just to relax and enjoy being in holiday mode. I did press the shutter a few times, though...

One of those times was as I ventured up Vesuvius.  I didn't make it all the way to the crater - the cinder path was slippy enough in places so I chickened out and stopped with Missy for a while, doing a bit of people watching.  As this shot composed itself in front of me I was reminded for some strange reason of David Hurn:

Up Vesuvius, Naples down below, David Hurn in my head.  HP5+ on Warmtone RC paper, 10"x8" print.

David Hurn, if you don't know, was the guy who did the Barbarella shoot with Jane Fonda.  Yup, you know now!  And he also did the famous Sean Connery shot as James Bond.  A nice story to that one as well.  The shoot was all set up, everyone in place ready to go but no-one had remembered to bring a gun. Not just any gun, of course, James Bond's gun, a Walther.  As luck would have hit, Hurn had in possession a Walther air pistol, which was subsequently used for the shoot. He told the director that the art people would be able to shorten the barrel before final printing so no-one would ever know it was an air pistol and not a proper, James Bond-style gun.  Of course that message got lost in the post, so to speak - hence the abnormally long barrel on the gun that ended up on the poster. I wonder how many people realised....

A Magnum photographer, at the height of his powers David Hurn gave up the London life to live in Wales, where his roots lay.  For the next few decades he set about documenting ordinary life in that part of the world and a fantastic job he did of it, too.  Along the way, he amassed an amazing collection of photographs by well-known people, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Bill Brandt, Bruce Davidson, Martin Parr.  This was long before photographs were deemed to have any monetary value - he says he simply knocked on the doors of photographers he admired and asked for a print.  OK so he had a calling card but even so that's a great story.  Anyway, next time I'm in Cardiff I'll be heading to the Museum of Wales, since that is where he has donated his collection.

Oh, you can see the shot of Hurn's that I was thinking about, when I was nearly at the top of Vesuvius, by clicking here.  It's the second image on the page, at Tenby.


  1. Always good to get away for a while. Sorry it's been so rough - I hope for clearer skies ahead. Thanks for tipping me off to Hurn; off to go looking at his work online.

    1. I know you've had it tough recently, too, Jim - let's both hope for an upturn. Hurn seems like a thoroughly likable bloke as well as being pretty handy behind the lens.

  2. Good stories and excellent photo. I'm glad you're back.