Last night, I learned the sad news of a great man passing away. Laurence Cutting died at home last week quite suddenly and unexpectedly, in the presence of his wife. Laurence touched my life in a way that no other person had. He was my tutor for a few years whilst I was an art student and he was also a regular lecturer whilst I was a photography student at Harrogate College of Arts and Technology, where he imparted knowledge and wisdom in his fields of greatest expertise; Photography and Fine Art. Laurence has works in the collections of The V&A Museum; Yale Centre for British Art and The Arts Council of Great Britain and has taught at various institutions including Central Saint Martins, London.
Speaking from personal experience, I can state with authority that Laurence was a man who inspired, and got the very best out of his students. He taught me to really observe and record the word around me – a skill I still use in my daily life. A fine wit, a fountain of knowledge and a totally laid back and genuine guy. I was lucky enough to be taken to Lisbon in Portugal by Laurence, (thanks to his lesser known skill of his – acquiring grants for students) with a select bunch of other students, and this was a seminal passage of discovery – an inflection point in my life. He always had a story to tell (usually whilst smoking a gauloises bleue), often anecdotal, from his rich and varied life. I recall his telling me about a pet monkey he had, whilst serving in the merchant navy, for instance.
One of his early artistic specialisms was equestrian photography. Perhaps his most ‘eyeballed’ piece of all time was a photo he took that was used by the BBC for years and years – if you can picture the still photo of horses exploding over The Chair at Aintree, as part of the yesteryear BBC Grandstand credits – that was Lawrence’s.
Kentucky Scenes was perhaps his finest labour of love on the subject though – photography from the Bluegrass Kentucky racing scene.
I was lucky enough to see his exhibition at in Leeds and even though it was around 20 years ago, I can still remember it, which has got to be a sign of a good exhibition.
A more recently exhibition, and the last time I saw Laurence, was at an exhibition of his we went to see at The Museum for Oriental Arts in Durham. Photographs from Mongolia was a study of the people and landscapes from a country on the brink of change. Laurence took two Hasselblad medium format cameras – (his favourite camera he once told me (good taste!)), a few lenses and a load of Agfa colour film. What he came back with was a breathtaking collection of technically and aesthetically brilliant photographs. In this fascinating article he wrote about the work Lawrence talks about similarities he observed between the people of the Yorkshire Dales and those of the Mongolian deserts. I’d loved to have seen the joint exhibition with Marie Hartley’s work Mongolian Links that he cites in the piece. I’m wondering if this could be re created.
I’m going to wrap up this post with a photograph I took of him in 2008 at his Mongolia exhibition in Durham, and a copy-paste from comment that Daren – an old friend and fellow student of his – put on the above photo I took of him;
…top bloke, a thinking man’s photographer and cunning tutor, with a sardonic wit that kept us all on our toes…probably more so than any other tutor, he put me on the path that I am still on… 🙂
gawd bless ‘im.
Rest in peace Lawrence, we’ll miss you.