Thank you for reading my Photography Blog. Birmingham based photographer specialising in Urban Landscapes but available for all photography commissions. Ross Jukes is also a professional Automotive photographer, please see his other website for details - 

Ross Jukes is a professional freelance photographer and owns and all images / photos of Birmingham on this site. All images are available for purchase either as prints or stock and are also available to license the images for commercial use.

Modern Nostalgia: A Backwards approach to Photography

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I have been struggling with my photography lately. Call it ‘Photographers Block’ or maybe actual apathy but either way, something just hasn’t gripped me like it use to. Recently, I went out for an evening stroll, mainly just to clear my head but with the intent of grabbing a few photos. I found myself drawn to the same old things, dereliction, grime, dirt and basically anything on the more run-down side of life. As I stared at the old shop frontages, the run down streets and pictured how they would look with my heavy-handed edits, it suddenly dawned on me, I am a nostalgia whore… I pimp myself out to anything that has even a remote whiff of sentimentality.

This is nothing new, I’ve pretty much spent my whole ‘photography life’ trying to make my images look like they are from another time. In fact, Birmingham itself has a weird duality of personality between being this historic relic that should be preserved for future generations and every available derelict space being knocked down to make way for the ‘latest in modern living’. In fact, there are people out there so attached to the past that they simply must live in converted old factory units, as long as they come with all of the trappings of modern life - even I couldn’t resist that level of ‘authenticity’.

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However, having more than a subtle nod to the past seems to be the new craze in Photography, well not new, but certainly more prevalent than ever. I see images all over social media that could be plucked straight out of the back-catalogue of any 1970’s photographer worth their salt. Even more, I see people returning to shooting film to try to achieve that authentic feel, something than simply ‘can’t be recreated in Lightroom’ so instead they are returning to the darkroom. This got me thinking about why so many of us are so determined to add a feeling of Nostalgia to our images and why we would even waste thousands of pounds on modern equipment, only to apply filters to make the image quality, well, worse.

As I continued my walk, thinking deeper and deeper about why I am personally drawn to a whimsical sense of past, a thought crossed my mind and seemingly got stuck there and wouldn’t budge. Quite simply, maybe we just always associate the past as being better than the present. Now that may not ring true for everyone and it certainly isn’t intended to be so sweeping, but I do think that most people have a tendency to remember the past in a more favourable light. Music, food, sport, fashion.. everything was better when you were younger, right? Well the truth is, probably not… But that doesn’t mean that we don’t hark back to a time when our lives were less stressful and our fashion choices a little simpler.

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However, there is one important person that we are missing out and that is the viewer. Why do nostalgic images appeal to the non-photographer viewer? Well, from what I see it is simply that, we like old things because they remind us of a better, simpler time… a time pre-Brexit. I love the work of Fred Herzog, but have no attachment to 1960’s Canada. I’m constantly amazed by the work of Saul Leiter but have no reason to feel sentimental about New York nearly 70 years ago. Even Gregory Crewsdon and Todd Hido have their enigmatic ‘can’t really place a time on them’ style of images beguile me and they are working very much in the present!

So what does it all mean… Well, for me personally, I doubt I will be changing my style anytime soon, though the more I see the same style of images, the more I know I need to do something different. Whereas I hugely enjoy the work of many photographers that shoot with film, find beautifully nostalgic scenes or even just apply film grains to give their images more ‘feels’, I do think the nostalgia bubble will eventually burst. The main reason for this? Well you can only fake authenticity so far.

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However, these are just the ramblings of a photographer trying to cement a style and work out the ‘why’ - and I will continue to dream of living in my modern abandoned factory unit with just the right-level of ‘voice activated heating’ whilst looking at bare-brick walls with images of run down 1970’s American petrol stations in the desert… Maybe one day… What are your thoughts on this? Please leave a comment below.

Bullring & Grand Central After Dark - The Sequel!

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Back in May 2017, I was very kindly invited to visit the iconic shopping centre along with a great group of photographers, to explore the site after closing hours. It was a fantastic experience (read about it HERE) so when I was recently invited to do it again, I simply couldn’t say no! However, it wasn’t just the potential of plodding through the centre away from the hustle & bustle of the daytime that drew me, I also wanted to see how my ‘eye’ had changed and see how the photographs would differ from my original visit.

Things started out the same as last time as I was accompanied by some of Birmingham’s best photographers, which always makes me feel slightly out-of-place but soon after, the Bullring’s team made us feel right at home and gave us pretty much free rein of the store. However, this time we had access to a pretty much empty Grand Central as well! An opportunity that none of us could resist, so that’s where we started!

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I’ve never really appreciated the scale of Grand Central until seeing it pretty much empty. The huge voluminous atrium feels overwhelming with all of the daily commuters removed. Occasionally, a person would pass through the space and offer a stark contrast of scale, being dwarfed by the huge span of the Grand Central roof. However, it was the closed shops, restaurants and stands that really caught my eye. There is something almost eerie about a lifeless place that you are so use to being busy, it almost feels like being in a post-apocalyptic film, where you are the only survivor (along with a bunch photographers, a PR team and a security guard!).

After exploring the space for a little while, it was time to turn to photography and I was quickly drawn to the abstract reflections in the store fronts. Something about the colours drew me in and I started to experiment with abstraction, layering reflections and colours on top of vaguely familiar items, such as chairs and tables. All too soon, our time in Grand Central was over and we passed through LinkStreet and back to the main event, the Bullring.

In contrast to my previous visit, I was drawn more to the details this time around (though I took my fair share of ‘wide’ shots - an opportunity not to be missed!). The dimly lit store created pools of light and shadows from the stores that had left lights on - which immediately drew me to the areas of contrast. In particular I was drawn to silhouettes of the often over-looked plants and foliage in the centre. We descended through one side of the centre and made our way towards the ‘Selfridges’ side of the Bullring.

As we neared the end of our adventure and made our way back up to ‘street’ level, again it was the scale that really caught my attention, it’s all too easy to overlook the sheer scale of the Bullring. As we said our goodbyes and I made my way home, it was clear that once again it had been a fantastic opportunity, but I also found it interesting that this time around, I’d been more drawn to the details and abstraction - maybe a reflection on my own growth as a photographer - or more probably just an attempt not to go for the ‘typical’ kind of shots. Either way, it was a fun way to spend a few hours photographing a hugely popular area with all of it’s inhabitants removed!

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Thank you to The Bullring & Grand Central and thanks for putting up with me @veritymilligan, @alpha.brum, @ocuk and @frasermcgee

A Foggy Morning in Birmingham

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Nothing drags us photographers out of bed quicker than the chance of a bit of fog and mist. After a few busy days, I was completely ready for a lazy Sunday morning until I popped my head out of the window and saw, well, nothing…I quickly got ready and pretty much ran into town. Conditions were perfect and a bit of fog mixed with patches of light, always makes for interesting images.

I was very pleased to see plenty of the local photography community hoovering up images so keep an eye out for those. Here are a quick selection of some of mine of Birmingham drizzled in a pleasant layer of fog…

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Exhibition - The Old Joint Stock Theatre

A while back, the excellent folk at The Old Joint Stock Theatre approached me about me exhibiting my work in their bar area and I am pleased to say it is finally up and ready to go! I have never 'exhibited' my work before and I must admitted, I was a little nervous and apprehensive about saying yes, but after seeing all of the prints framed and hung, I am really pleased.

The Theatre is an excellent venue and the images look great on the walls. I have been fortunate to print a lot of my most popular images and many of my own personal favourites (and have even sold some prints prior to the 'opening night' which I was amazed at!). The exhibition will run through to January 2016 and is open to anyone visiting the Old Joint Stock (however, the bar is busier on evenings when there are shows on at the theatre. I will be changing some of the images to more 'seasonal' offerings at the end of October so it is always worth pop back in throughout Christmas.

I will be holding an 'opening night' on the 7th October between 6.00pm-8.00pm which everyone is welcome to pop in and say hello. I will be there throughout so please come along and say hello. Look forward to seeing you all there! 

The Old Joint Stock Pub & Theatre, 4 Temple Row West, Birmingham, B2 5NY

A Grand new Central point for Birmingham

It Feels like New Street Station has been under development for decades but it is finally re-opened and reinvigorated. Yes, the 'bottle-neck' is still a problem and you can expect the usual delays and the platforms and Navigation Street entrance are dubious but as a whole, the new New Street is a resounding success. With a spacious atrium and finally some room to move, even at rush hour, the station looks built-for-purpose.

The Cherry on top of the new station (literally on top!) is the amazing new Grand Central shopping centre. Where as the name has caused some confusion and moans & groans for a 'lack of originality' I actually feel it suits it's grandiose title and bodes well for the City's economy as many high-end stores have found a new home here with John Lewis heading the line-up. 

An eye-watering £750m has been spent bringing us a new heart of the city but it seems like it will be a successful operation. Justifiable fears have been raised for it's impact on the neighboring Bullring and Mailbox retail areas but personally, I feel it will only serve to further enhance Birmingham's growing reputation as a 'shopping destination' and furthermore prove the the City is on the up and long may that continue! 

The new Media Eyes at Birmingham New Street Station by Ross Jukes Photography

The Rotunda's 50th Birthday Party

I was very fortunate to be invited along to celebrate the Rotunda's 50th Birthday Party last week and it is fair to say, it was special! The building is a true landmark on Birmingham's skyline and is easily one of the most recognisable structures in the Midlands. It has been through numerous changes but currently is home to a boutique hotel and beautifully designed apartments which are testament to Birmingham's rising stock. It is fair to say that Staying Cool have the building in safe hands.

However, I was not there for a relaxing break, nor the free Champagne and canapes (though they were very nice!). I was there for the views and they did not disappoint! With an army of fellow photographers invited by the amazing folk at IgersBirmingham cameras were firmly planted toward the view across the Grand Central development and New New Street Station (this will be covered in a separate post). Everyone was amazed to see the sun breakthrough the clouds and give us a stunning sunset to really cap off an excellent event! Here's to another 50 years for the 'old girl' and I can't wait to see what the future has in store for her.


Capturing Birmingham's hidden beauty... Part 2

Birmingham as a city adopts, welcomes and embraces it’s inhabitants regardless of culture and creed and I believe that this is also true of it’s fabric. The less desirable, unattractive underdog buildings are embraced as icons and cherished as testament to the warmth of the city’s

There is no doubt that making Birmingham look beautiful is a challenge. With the right light and the right editing, it is possible. Over the past 12 months I have witnessed a ‘baby-boom’ of talented photographers taking to the streets to capture the hidden beauty of bleak-Birmingham and produce images that Birmingham City Councils marketing department must be salivating at.

You only have to search ‘Birmingham’ on Instagram and within a few scrolls of a digit, you will find striking images of the city’s once loathed buildings bathed in hipster filters and fresh life breathed into their concrete lungs. Popular pages such as ‘IgersBirmingham’ and ‘Hiddenbrum’ and many other social media outlets have created intrigue and mystery around the city and have forced people to look at the boxy beauties with new eyes.

Birmingham seems to have reached a tipping point. It may finally be on the brink of shedding it’s ‘ugly-duckling’ image. With redevelopment-a-plenty in the city centre headed by the Grand Central/New Street Station, Paradise Forum development and big plans down the line for HS2, the City may be coming of age with a bright future to look forward to. Riding the crest of this wave will be the photographers, bloggers, former Londonites and all-round hipsters that have seen Birmingham’s true beauty.

Capturing Birmingham's hidden beauty... Part 1

Back in 2008, Birmingham was voted the UK’s ugliest City. This reputation has hung around the city’s neck for years and has become a long standing joke that everybody (apart from its residents) has had a good laugh at. However, Birmingham, much like myself, has been on a journey in that time and is fast becoming a desirable, metropolitan and dare-I-say, trendy place to live.

In fact, a recent study has shown that many ‘twenty-somethings’ have fled from the capital to the UK’s second city. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show nearly one in ten people in their 30s who left the city between June 2012 and June 2013 fled to Birmingham. Arecord 58,220 within the 30-39 age bracket leaving London 5,480 moved to the ‘ugly duckling’.

Being a photographer in the ‘UK’s ugliest City’ certainly has its challenges. The stark, Brutalist architecture of the 60’s and 70’s can still easily be found throughout the City Centre. As a former Industrial hub, the city has previously shed its skin and looked to the future and adorned itself striking architecture. 

The bold, blocky structures such as Birmingham Library and the infamous New Street Station Signal Box are the main offenders in what can be coined as Birmingham’s ‘Grey’ period. A lot of the City’s buildings have been demolished to make way for the kind of stereotypical, glass fronted modern buildings that can be found in every major city in the world. 

In my own photographic journey, trying to capture a more beautiful side to Brum’s urban landscape, I have unearthed a strange contradiction to the scornful comments about the bleak wasteland that is Birmingham’s architecture and found that there is some serious love for the former ‘ugliest city’.... Part 2 coming soon....