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  • The Rossendale Fairies Photographed? April 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite , trackback

    the fairies

    This week has been big in fairy land. Not only did an interesting piece appear concerning a diabolical gnome from Argentina, there were also some photographs published by the Manchester Evening News purporting to show fairies. As this blog has always taken very great pleasure in giving fairies and more importantly fairy belief space we offer here a quick overview of the second story with a thanks to all those who sent it in.

    Professor John Hyatt (I got anxious as soon as I read the word ‘Professor’) allegedly photographed fairies in Rossendale in the South Pennines: while a wider series of said photographs will soon appear in an exhibition at The Whitaker Museum in Whitaker Park in Rossendale. I’ve given one example of his work above and you will see tiny ant like figures, dancing through the air.

    As lots of internet sources are taking the whole fairy photo things fairly seriously it makes sense first to check out the photographer. Prof JH is based out of the Manchester School of Art. He is clearly a very talented man and is involved in every branch of the visual arts and also in music: he was (is?) a member of the legendary punk band the Three Johns. And he is no traditionalist: no oil painting on the Manchester Ship Canal for our John. For example, here is an image of Prof JH having ‘spun’ the Mona Lisa.

    mona lisa

    Here, meanwhile, is his ‘bee patrol’ art work, which reminded me of playing donkey kong many years ago. It also made my blood pressure rise considerably: Christ, the music!

    At this point I would presume that we have one of those people who sweat creativity and who has decided to get a bit of publicity for a new show using said creativity: memories of the notorious Doc Shiels, who also meddled with fairies. I make no judgement about this: in fact, if the Prof can get one past the goaly at the Manchester Evening News (Britain’s biggest regional paper) and make a few people smile in the process then good for him.

    Nothing in the article itself made me think differently. In fact, some of his sentences set even more alarm bells ringing: ‘It was a bit of a shock when I blew [the photos] up, I did a double take’: sounds like the reaction of Elsie’s father at Cottingley; please don’t let this be an example of ‘intertextuality’.  ‘People can decide for themselves what they are. The message to people is to approach them with an open mind. I think it’s one of those situations where you need to believe to see.’ Something you’d read on an art installation. ‘A lot of people who have seen them say they have brought a little bit of magic into their lives and there’s not enough of that around’: justification? ‘They are just beautiful pictures and beauty can make people believe’: how postmodern! The story came out on 2 April: my guess would be that John got in touch with the MEN so that the story could come out on the first, but that the MEN didn’t see the story as a joke. Oh and, by the way, the Exhibition is called the Rossendale Fairies in tribute to the Cottingley Fairies.

    At this point, the only serious question left is ‘how did he do it?’ John claims that he was taking photographs of the Lancashire landscape when, at least this is implied, he accidentally caught the fairies in the frame. Given the nature of the close up shots this is surely unlikely? My initial impression was that they were insects of some sort: but the prof says that he has specifically photographed insects (well gnats and flies) and they look completely different, notice though the antennae on one of the ‘fairies’.

    fairy antennae

    Is he giving us May Flies?

    may flies

    Or is it just a case of photoshopping? I have no technical knowledge here but my guess would be not. Given the reference to Cottingley I would put money on something real being photographed, even if I can’t see any hat pins. ‘John… insists his photos are genuine and have not been altered in any way.’ Any thoughts: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Should end by saying that being a small s sceptic I presume that any photograph of a fairy is faked or accidental. However, someone needs to put a book together of all the fairy photographs we have: there are some beauties out there. Here is perhaps my favourite

    6 April 2014: John Hyatt very kindly answered an email on the above and wrote: ‘Thanks for researching a bit further. I do flow creatively but not in a sweaty way:^) There are some inaccuracies though.


    That is the Pilot of Bee Patrol (Episode 1) not a computer game. The Pilot is an attempt to make a new type of movie appropriate for the internet. He is an experiment. He also sings a bit and I have performed live on stage with him as a video projected backdrop.


    Always remember that the press usually exaggerates. I have never claimed to prove anything, just to put beautiful and very interesting photographs before the public in a small museum otherwise full of stuff of local history which is important in terms of the Industrial Revolution. This is a Museum where new people are trying to make a go of things and do something for their community and regenerate the locality. I have never claimed anything beyond what the photographs are in themselves.  So, I was seeking publicity for the museum, The Whitaker, to get them a greater audience but not so much for myself when the article was first just in the local paper, The Rossendale Free Press, and later got taken up by the MEN. For many years, I have used my art (because it is beautiful) to aid regional regeneration. Last year in the interior of Portugal in a desertified region, for example. The Rossendale Fairies are part of a larger body of work I am doing for the Museum. If you go to The Whitaker site, you will see in ‘past events’ the show I did there in January, called Treacle Country, which was about a local woman from the 19th Century. This included events for kids – I have designed a Betty Treacle Tree Trail around the park, run art workshops and done an Audience with John Hyatt for adults.  So, my intentions were for publicity – but for them. I guess, I succeeded as the place is packed. I hope the fairies would approve of my good intentions and maybe that is why they chose to give me their images? Forget the Professor title. They are just straight, non-academic photographs. I was focussing on the subjects though, you are right there. I was experimenting with making a photograph of fast moving things like dancing gnats, flying birds, etc. When I enlarged them in the studio, I did do a double take, however as reported. There is no Photoshopping beyond enlarging the detail. I am sending you a painting as painting is one of my main practices and you haven’t mentioned it. This one is called The Monkey Cave, oils, 2013. I send it because it is currently on show with 22 other paintings of mine in MARCO, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil for the next month and a half, then moving to Brazilia and then Salvador – you may have some Brazilian readers – and also because it has a fairy in it. This one is painted.’

    The Monkey Cave

    Thanks, John! Loved this picture. I wonder how difficult it would be to get a print?