Winning image boosts Amble’s creative reputation

Posted on 25th March 2024 | in Community

Jim Donnelly

Congratulations to Jim Donnelly, who you might see out around Amble or further afield, maybe with his iPhone or a cheap plastic camera, maybe with a really posh state-of-the-art photography kit.

He’s a photographer for some of the coolest bands you may (or may not) have heard of, and someone whose imagination has helped him create otherworldly evocative images seen on album covers and used as illustrations all around the world. He helps organise arts and cultural events here in Amble and he also writes. But that’s a conversation for another day.

And right now? Well, right now he’s the Overall Winner of the 2024 Northumberland Open Arts competition at Woodhorn Museum. Jim is the first photographer to win the Overall category, and adds to the reputation of Amble as a creative hotspot.

The Ambler obviously had to find out more about Jim’s creative process, and what makes him tick. And we found someone who seemed genuinely astonished at his success, but more interested in using his voice to encourage others to be creative.

Jim described his entry into the world of photography with typical humour. “When I realised I wasn’t going to be a rock and roll star, I got my Mum to buy me a camera. It was a Zenit, a huge cheap clunky Russian thing. And then I moved onto a Pentax, and I got access to a dark room – I realised that was a whole other skill.”

But with a career in IT, and a large circle of friends in the artistic, literary and music world, the lure of creative digital photography was enormous. “By 2010 I had an iPhone3, it was probably the first good camera in a phone, and some of the images I took with that became album covers. The whole point of having digital facilities is you can do more. I’m always trying to encourage people to take photos. Photography is such a democratic medium.”

Northumbrian Floodplain Autumn 2023: Jim Donnelly

Jim’s own creative practise saw him set up a blog where he posted an image every day for two years. “I wanted to force myself, to create a habit to look for images continually. It was good discipline and forced me to think about what and why I was photographing. The great thing about photos is everyone can do it, especially with a phone.”

Amble residents may recognise the location in the image that won Jim the Woodhorn prize. He took it in a friend’s garden overlooking the flood plain between Amble and Warkworth. “I wanted to photograph the floods on the Braid, and I got some shots, but I felt there was something missing, so I went up to Gloster Hill. As soon as I took that shot, I immediately knew it was a good photo. I also thought it would have more impact if it was in black and white. And I decided it needed to be big!”

Despite being sure of his creative decisions, Jim was hesitant about submitting the piece. The theme of the Open exhibition is ‘Northumberland Now’ and is inspired by the Ashington Group, aka the Pitmen Painters, who in turn were inspired by their everyday surroundings.

“There’s a selection process first, and I thought I’d be happy if I just got selected. So, when I got a phone call a few days later from Woodhorn, I thought oh… And then they said I was the Overall Winner! I felt I was floating on a cloud; I was so pleased.”

Another local artist, Katherine Renton, won Highly Commended.

At the preview evening Jim described feeling somewhat overwhelmed. “When I saw the standard of entries, it was so high. To be even talked about with these people and past winners, people I consider to be really talented, I was flabbergasted! And to be at Woodhorn where the Ashington Group painted, they were so inspiring.”

You can see Jim’s winning photo alongside work from several other local artists at the ‘Northumberland Now’ exhibition at Woodhorn Museum until 6 May.

See Jim’s work on Facebook: anaxaimages and Jim Donnelly and X (Twitter) @anaXaImages

Anna Williams

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One thought on "Winning image boosts Amble’s creative reputation"

  1. Sally Gordon says:

    Well deserved, lovely, atmospheric photo.

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