Is there such a thing as a typical northerner?

PUBLISHED: 01:16 20 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:34 20 February 2013

Newcastle railway station in 1953

Newcastle railway station in 1953

Is there such a thing as a typical northerner? Jo Haywood finds out with the help of a new book by Sefton Samuels

The word northerner conjures up plenty of stereotypical images: men in flat caps, cobbled streets, pies, dogs with string collars and rain. But beyond the tired old clichs lies a region rich in its diversity, devilish in its humour and fertile in its culture.

All of which makes it the perfect subject for a no-nonsense pictorial portrait like Northerners, by Sefton Samuels. Described by the Guardian as the photographic equivalent of Ken Loach, he has photographed legendary figures of northern life over the last four decades, including Alan Bennett, Morrissey, LS Lowry, George Best and Sir Ben Kingsley.

But it is not only the rich, famous and infamous that have captured his imagination. His new collection of images vividly shows the everyday realities of life in the North, with snatched shots of children cheekily mugging to the camera, grandiose members of society at the local hunt and snaps of fashionable young things draped self-consciously on street corners.

This is a photographer very much at one with his subject, and a vast region - from Manchester to Newcastle and everywhere in between - whose open character seems predetermined to be captured on film.

What Sefton Samuels, like countless other proud northerners, understood was that while it may well have been grim up here some of the time, there was also beauty, poetry and poignancy in the world we walked through every day, said radio presenter (and proud northerner) Mark Radcliffe, who has written a rousing foreword to the book.

These pictures display not only his artistry, but his truth. Its about the sights, sounds and smells that have bombarded his senses since he was a lad.

Technically his photographs are flawless, but ultimately its not about that. Certainly he knew how to operate a camera, but far more importantly, he knew where to point it.

For Samuels himself it was a no-brainer. He never had to seek
inspiration; it was there on every street corner and in every factory.
Pontificating on what it means to be northern almost goes against its essence - and it certainly runs against mine, he said. All I know it that Im proud to be a northerner, and I am incredibly proud to have the chance to bring together this collection as a book - to collect decades of those reflexive split-second moments.

Northerners by Sefton Samuels is published on July 7th by Ebury Press for 12.99. To pre-order your copy visit

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