by Brendan Stone
Shaun Bloodworth, photographer and film-maker, died yesterday. Shaun had been waiting for a liver transplant for several months and during this period suffered an infection that led to him having his lower leg amputated.
I knew about Shaun Bloodworth before I met him. I’ve always loved great photography, and I’d seen his iconic and beautiful photographs of the DJ Mary-Anne Hobbs on social media and loved the style, creativity, and inventiveness of the images. I also knew a little about his work in the electronic music scene, and occasionally people would mention his work to me.
And then one day a few years ago, the University’s Corporate Comms team contacted me to ask if I’d have my photo taken to be included in a brochure for students. I agreed (although I generally hate having my photo taken). They thanked me and asked me to meet the photographer at a café in my building. Pretty ordinary really. But then I noticed that the photographer they named was Shaun.
I was excited and actually a bit awe-struck about the prospect of meeting this guy. I hadn’t even realised he sometimes did work for the University. I remember on the day of the shoot thinking about what I would wear – and feeling wholly inadequate as I reflected on the very cool people Shaun was used to working with.
I nervously went down to the café, and there he was – drinking coffee and, I think, eating a bacon sandwich. He was wearing some kind of cagoul or anorak, grinning at me, unprepossessing, kind. He immediately put me at my ease, and we chatted. He knew about my work on Storying Sheffield, and of course I knew about his portraits. I hope I didn’t come across as too much of a fan-boy, but if I did Shaun was gracious and easy.
We found a spot to do the shots, and it really was quite painless. He was inventive in making the most of the University building, and within a few short minutes it was all done. He showed me the images before he’d finished to check I was OK with them.
During the conversation we’d talked about the possibility of working together, so we swapped numbers and kept in touch. Sometimes we’d meet for a coffee just to catch up. When the chance arose to do the Steel Stories project with Shaun I jumped at the chance. For this project Shaun made a series of films about steel making in Sheffield. And just like his photography the films were visually stunning, intelligent, beautiful, and inventive. One of the films, ‘The Putter’, about Ernest Wright’s scissor makers, went viral on social media, and orders came pouring in from across the world. The factory had been struggling before the film was made, but after it went online they couldn’t keep up with the orders.
We showed several of Shaun’s films at a cinema in town. On the big screen his work is truly arresting. The work reveals the awesome beauty of large scale steel-making processes, as well as the care, skill and human scale of hand crafting metal as shown so well in The Putter.
I was devastated when I learnt that Shaun had died yesterday. I’d last had a text message from him two weeks ago and he sounded upbeat, despite everything. I’ll remember him for his amazing work of course, but above all for his kindness, good humour, and warmth. Sleep well, buddy.