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Hastings United © JJ Waller

JJWallerJJ Waller talks about Through The Lens Festival

After 11 years of being associated with St Leonards and Hastings, photographer JJ Waller is proud to finally be a part of the Coastal Currents festival this September. Erica Smith interviews him about his appearance at the inaugural Through The Lens Festival of Photography from 31 August to 8 September at St Mary in the Castle.

The Through The Lens Festival of Photography is running for the first time this year at St Mary in the Castle. The organising team, led by Steve Kilmartin, are all locally based photographers with international ambition. This year’s line up includes Peter Dench, JJ Waller, Antony Penrose, Mark Power and Martin Parr.

JJ Waller is well known locally for his fabulous photography book about St Leonards and Hastings. I was excited to hear that he was one of the speakers at the event. JJ agreed to answer my questions. He chose to send me photographs of Hastings United. He explains: “A few weeks ago my team, Whitehawk, played Hastings United at the Pilot Field. What a great night. I love non-league football and non-league grounds.

It’s worth a visit to the see the huge archaic stand that I’m sure is not long for this world.”


© JJ Waller

Can we see your photographs at the TTL festival?

The organising team of the festival are using the crypt and the cafe. They are transforming the crypt area to create a full on photographic exhibition space.

When is your talk and what are you talking about?

I am talking around lunch time for an hour (from 12.30), it has been a big challenge putting the ‘slide show’ together, I am showing work from many different projects, most of the images are fairly recent, many I haven’t shown publicly at all. The main focus of the talk will be to give an insight to how I approach my picture making, that includes some ideas that didn’t work too.

I’m really looking forward to doing it even a little nervous, it’s not a tried and tested presentation but will be pretty much all off the cuff. There will be a few laughs for certain.

I am also exhibiting throughout the month, the festival curator has chosen around 12 pictures that she selected from my St Leonards work. I haven’t had any proper prints made in years so it will be interesting to see my work framed on a gallery wall, something I seldom do.

© JJ Waller

© JJ Waller

How long have you been documenting St Leonards (and Hastings)?

The key part of my documentation covers the nine years that feature in the book but I now come over for R&R or key events – so all in all – 12 years.

What do you think about how the area has changed over that time.

I see lots of new enterprises and shops open. I do wonder about the footfall and if it really has increased though. Property prices have gone up which is worrying in some ways positive in others. The creativity, talent and the friendliness are still around in massive doses.

There are still lots of interesting secrets as well. The seafront has more facilities, I love the new pier so am watching that with special interest. Compared to Blackpool which shares some social similarities, St Leonards and Hastings have so much more local dynamism.

Everywhere has unique elements but St Leonards and Hastings have much more than most towns that I visit


© JJ Waller

What are the qualities needed to be a great photographer?

I’m still trying to find out, but taking pictures all the time and exploring a variety of situations are important. As with any art form being prepared to fail is always a great sequence on the learning curve. I think being inquisitive is a key and of course having respect for fellow women and men.

Anything else you want to say?

I hope many locals will support this inaugural festival, which has no public or corporate funding at all. Knowing Martin Parr, the key speaker, will be photographing around and about in Hastings and St Leonard’s is very exciting. It will be interesting to see what work he creates whilst he is in the manor.

… and can I mention I’ll also be selling all my photography books at the Festival –  and all six books are also available at Waterstones in the precinct.

Through The Lens Festival runs from 31 August to 8 September at St Mary in the Castle, on the seafront in Hastings. Tickets for the exhibition and the speakers’ talks (on Saturday 1 September) can be bought online here, or from the venue.

For more stories about and photographs by JJ Waller, visit these HOT links.


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Posted 21:50 Friday, Aug 24, 2018 In: Photography

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