There’s a space; a liminal space, a creative space, an adventurous space and a surprising space where words and images meet and this superb book celebrates that exciting space. IAN McMILLAN
Each double page spread is a conversation – the eloquent understatement of black and white image leaving space for the warmth and sensitivity of the words. Together, they turn towards people and places with acute and generous attention. Offcumdens they may be, but Bob Hamilton and Emma Storr are returning Yorkshire to itself, with value added. PHILIP GROSS
A wonderfully evocative marriage of words and photographs that describes so well the Yorkshire I’ve come to know and love over the last 20+ years. Bob and Emma may not have been born here, but they have collaborated superbly to create a body of work that shows how well they understand and appreciate the charming and eclectic mix of places and people in their adopted homeland. LIZZIE SHEPHERD
A tour of Yorkshire, including the bits that other artists might overlook: both the poems and images are eclectic, addictive and inspiring. HELEN MORT
The relationship between words and images is not as simple as it looks. A poet and a photographer working collaboratively, each creating strong individual pieces of work which can be viewed or read independently, by putting the words and photograph together create something that is much greater than the two. Bob Hamilton and Emma Storr have achieved this creating a fine body of work that is a joy to read. IAN BEESLEY
We can’t agree on who came up with the title for this collection. It probably arose between us, popping up in conversation until we both realised it was right. As offcumdens, originally brought up on different sides of the Thames in London, this is our very personal take on Yorkshire, the county we’ve adopted as our own, even if Yorkshire will never fully reciprocate. There is no attempt here to provide a definitive picture of the county through our words and images. It’s an eclectic mix that has evolved from our individual experiences as well as from visiting places of mutual significance. We met first at a poetry event held at The Leeds Library, one of those moments of serendipity that occurred often during our subsequent collaboration. An appreciation of each other’s work soon emerged and a realisation that our respective photographs and poems might combine to complement each other. The process of pairing poems with photographs has worked in both directions, usually the poem being written in response to one of the photographs, but photographs also being matched to poems. Occasionally, both have arisen organically as a result of an expedition together to the city, coast or countryside.
Bob: I describe myself as an opportunistic photographer. All the images presented here were taken with compact cameras, mostly with a Sony RX100, which is small enough to be slipped into the back pocket of my cycling shirts or get carried in a bum bag while I’m out running. I rarely leave the house without it. The ready availability of a compact camera means that no opportunity is ever missed. Although this project occasionally involved searching out specific images, my photographs are usually delivered in the course of going about my everyday life, arriving randomly and unexpectedly. I love that element of surprise. My journey as a photographer has been very much one of learning how to see, and a big part of that has been learning how to see in black and white. I can still be surprised at the result of converting a colour image to monochrome in the digital darkroom. Removing the colour helps our eyes to look deeper, to see the patterns in the image rather than simply the subject. It helps us to see below the literal surface of things, into the realm of symbol and metaphor, an evocation of something that’s not in the image itself but in our own experience. A colour image is a representation. A black and white image is more akin to a poem.
Emma: My equivalent of Bob’s compact camera is a notebook and pen, stuffed into a bag or pocket. At medical school, I wrote light verse, mainly in rhyme. Humour was a good way of dealing with the inevitable stress. When I moved to Yorkshire in the 1990s, I squeezed in a few creative writing classes while working as a GP, medical educator and mother. The experience of sharing work and discussing it in a small class was invaluable. During my MPhil in Writing at the University of South Wales, I began compiling a series of poems based on my experiences of working as a GP and of being a patient myself. This became the pamphlet, Heart Murmur (Calder Valley Poetry, 2019). My poetry is still evolving. It’s an exciting and unpredictable process, often surprising me in much the same way that Bob describes when looking at his photographs. Writing is a way of tapping into the unconscious river swirling below the surface, as liable to flood as to dry up. It can also emerge at unexpected places. It’s important to me that my writing is accessible and enjoyable. To choose the right words for the few lines of a poem is hard work. All the poems in Offcumdens have gone through multiple iterations. Sometimes I find the discipline of writing in a particular poetic form proves helpful. Perhaps that is why, besides free verse and concrete poems, you will find Japanese haiku and a tanka, three sonnets and a pantoum in this collection.
A Yorkshire term typically used to describe someone who was not born in the county
I didn’t know I’d fall in love with bleak:
the swerve of dry stone walls around the hills,
the fissured scars of rock above the fields.
I’d never found an ammonite before
one nudged its corrugations out of mud
and curled its spiral shell in my palm.
I’d never heard of words like wapentake,
or village names that twisted lips and tongue:
Yockenthwaite and Muker, Thorpe and Keld.
I didn’t know I’d leave the swarming south
for winter dark and outstretched summer days
to trace my Viking name on Whitby graves.