Award-winning Press photographer Anthony Chappel-Ross tells MAXINE GORDON how a trip to Venice led to his first art exhibition at York Open Studios

SWIRLS of colour and stripes in candy shades are framed next to splodges in primary brights – as if Jackson Pollock had upended his oil paints into a tub of water.

These abstract images are in fact photographs of Venice – but Venice as never seen before.

They have been captured by Anthony Chappel-Ross, former award-winning photographer at The Press, who now works freelance.

In a new venture, Anthony is branching out into the art world and will be staging his first exhibition during York Open Studios.

He will be showing about 30 images from a trip to Venice, where he saw the city in a unique way.

Instead of taking images of the gondolas, canals and historic buildings, Anthony was fascinated by the ever-changing shapes and colours of reflections in the narrow waterways.

"I was just awestruck by Venice. I was glued to my camera, but instead of looking at things too widely, I looked at the reflections in the water and the smaller, finer, amounts of detail.

"There are lots of gondolas and traffic in the water and there is a lot of movement around the edges that give reflections. "I had an epiphany. There was the perfect mix of bright conditions, beautiful colours and dynamic movement – and I was hooked on that for a week."

The end result was a collection of eye-catching photographs, graphic in essence, which would not look amiss as a print on a silk scarf. Surprisingly, the photos are pretty true to what Anthony could see in his viewfinder, adjusted for colour correctness, but no other computer wizardry was involved.

Anthony explains: "These are images you might miss. They are hidden and not that visible. They are very small elements of a whole view – perhaps just a square inch in your vision, and then going in closer on that.

"In Venice, so many things are reflected in the waterways if you look closely."

What he captured, he calls "agitation". He expands: "If you break the water surface, patterns emerge and fracture – like shattering glass."

Some rather innocuous items make the most intriguing images when put through this process, Anthony discovered. One of his favourite shots is simply the reflection of a pink rucksack in the canal which created a ripple effect, almost like a shoal of multi-coloured fish moving through the water.

Anthony returned from Venice with around 5,000 images. He edited them down to his favourite 50 and wondered what to do with them.

They are a marked contrast to his professional work. Trained as a newspaper photographer, Anthony worked at The Press for 13 years, winning a clutch of top awards. One of his photos – of jockey Faith Cook and her horse Nagor De La Roche in a dramatic fall where they both landed on their heads – was turned into a cartoon by Daily Telegraph cartoonist Nicholas Garland.

Today, Anthony, 36, works as a commercial photographer for a range of organisations and companies including English Heritage, Castle Howard, York Chocolate Story and York Museums Trust.

And his favourite Press shot? "There were a couple of jobs I really enjoyed and getting to take the official photographs of the Queen's Maundy service was one of the most privileged jobs I got to do." Again, Anthony captured a fantastic image of the Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh and the Archbishop of York in all their finery outside York Minster.

Returning from Venice with his abstract photographs, he thought they might work as an exhibition and successfully applied to take part in York Open Studios.

He will be showcasing the photographs during this month's programme, with a preview evening on Friday, followed by two successive weekends.

And the occasion will be a family affair because he will be sharing the exhibition space with his soon-to-be mother-in-law Emma Lloyd-Jones and her husband Rob Oldfield. They will be showing their works in a new studio that Anthony helped build in a former garage at their home at 3 Palace View, Fulford, YO10 4PU (Venue 53). Emma is a book binder and Rob is a sign writer specialising in gilding and gold leaf.

Anthony will be selling prints of his photographs and also some greetings cards featuring the images.

York Open Studios will be the biggest one yet with 149 local artists taking part.There will be a preview evening on Friday. It will then run over the next two weekends, April 6-7 and April 13-14.

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