“IT’S a strange and challenging time to be opening a business,” admits York commercial photographer Duncan Lomax after turning his front room into Holgate Gallery.
The address is 53, Holgate Road, a Grade 2 listed building that previously housed Bridge Pianos before Duncan and his wife Tracy moved in, turning the frontage from white to a deeply satisfying blue.
The red-trimmed York Labour Party office is a very near neighbour, and who should perform the official opening ceremony today but York Central MP Rachael Maskell.
“As you walk into Holgate Gallery, you can just see the creativity that’s been put into this space, and I’d really encourage people to come along and have a look,” she said. “York’s retail economy is struggling in many ways, but we’ve got some great opportunities as well, and the independent sector is unique and we want to encourage York to invest in York.”
Rachael’s words are music to Duncan’s ears in the converted piano shop. “Opening a gallery is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time alongside my commercial work,” he reasons. “This not only gives me an outlet for my own creative work, but also provides a hub for other artists to exhibit who might not otherwise have the space.”
Holgate Gallery is only the second contemporary photographic art-space to be set up in York since the much-missed, pioneering Impressions Gallery deserted Castlegate for Bradford’s Centenary Square in 2007.
Since July 2013, fellow commercial photographer Chris Ceaser has run Chris Ceaser Photography in early 15th century, Grade 2-listed, timber-framed premises at 89 Micklegate, focusing on his own landscape photographs of York, Yorkshire and beyond.
By comparison, Duncan will complement his commercial and more abstract photographs and humorous faux Penguin Book cover prints with a regularly changing stock of work by other artists. Mostly they will be local but, in the first instance, Cold War Steve, the alias of Birmingham political collage artist and satirist Christopher Spencer, with his predilection for incorporating EastEnders’ Steve “Phil Mitchell” McFadden alongside the Westminster double act of Johnson and Cummings at every opportunity.
Running his company Ravage Productions, Duncan has been the official photographer for York Minster for several years, notably as the exclusive documentarian of the 2016 York Mystery Plays, and has shot portraits, marketing images and PR material for all manner of businesses in the city and at large.
He has taught photography to degree level and his pictures have appeared many times in the local and national press, from The Press and YorkMix to the Yorkshire Post, the BBC and The Times.
Now Duncan, former guitarist in early Nineties’ Widnes “baggy wannabes” and two-time John Peel Session band 35 Summers, is adding another string to his bow as the owner, curator and principal photographer at Holgate Gallery.
The gallery will be open 11am to 4pm, tomorrow and Sunday, and further opening times will vary but will be updated regularly at www.holgategallery.co.uk