Peter Goldfield

It was with great regret that I heard this morning of the death of Peter Goldfield who gave so much to many photographers through the workshops he ran at Duckspool as well as his own photography and teaching at various universities over the years.  He was a clever and kind man who was always a pleasure to meet and although I’ve seen him only infrequently over the years I’ll miss him; it is a great loss for photography in the UK, and of course much more so for his family and close friends to who I extend my sympathies.

I first came across Peter, like me a Londoner born in 1945, in the room above his pharmacy in Muswell Hill in the early 1970s. Goldfinger Photographic was for many of us an introduction to ideas of fine printing particularly with the publication of the Goldfinger Manual, and perhaps more importantly was the source of that Holy Grail for fine printing, Agfa Record Rapid, imported specially by Goldfinger and not otherwise available in the UK.

A couple of years later I met him briefly at his home nearby and was introduced to his family before being driven by him to a workshop – I think it was with Lewis Balz – at Paul Hill‘s Photographers’ Place in Bradbourne, Derbyshire.

It wasn’t the first visit there for either of us, and it was a place that played a vital role in both of our lives, particularly pivotal for Peter. It was perhaps surprising we hadn’t met there before, but we found we knew many of the same people and similar ideas, as well as appreciating many of the same photographers. For him the forming experience had been a workshop with Charles Harbutt, while for me a series of meetings with Raymond Moore made a lasting impression.

You can see and read much more about him on his web site (he started on the web in 1995, the same year that I wrote my first web site.)

I went to two workshops at Duckspool, where Peter and his wife Sue were splendid hosts, and have happy memories of both. One was with Charles Harbutt, and it was indeed a memorable and thought-provoking experience; perhaps had I met him 20 years earlier it would have changed my life too.  The second, in 1998, was with Leonard Freed who I warmed too rather less, but it was great to be at Duckspool again.

I wrote an article about the experience for a small magazine I was editing at the time, London Independent Photography’s LIPService, and I’ll reproduce here most of the text from that, as well as the pictures from the workshop I used to illustrate it. I hope it will bring back some fond memories to some of my readers as it does to me.


Readers who have yet to make it to Duckspool are missing one of the more rewarding and intensive experiences available to the photographer. The chance to work with one of many well-known photographers (including John Blakemore, Mark Power, Martin Parr, Homer Sykes, Fay Godwin, John Davies, John Goto from this country and distinguished visitors such as Judy Dater, Susan Meisalas and Charles Harbutt) as well as the other keen and often very talented photographers who are your fellow travellers.

Sidmouth, 1998 © Peter Marshall

Your only difficulty is in chosing which workshop to attend. Probably the best advice is to read the workshop descriptions very carefully and to talk to as many people who have already The best-known photographers are not always the best teachers so you may get better value from some of the less familiar names. One workshop I’d recommend from personal experience – and I know has changed some people’s lives radically – is Charles Harbutt’s. (Peter Goldfield went to it at the Photographers’ Place and decided to sell up his business and found Duckspool!) One of the first photo books I bought was Harbutt’s Travelog published by MIT in 1973.

Sidmouth, 1998 © Peter Marshall

Since 1986, Peter and Sue Goldfield have opened the doors of their rural Somerset home to photographers with some 25 workshops this year – and you really are made to feel at home. The accommodation in shared rooms is comfortable and the food was even better than when I last visited some five years ago, which takes some doing. However possibly not every workshop will have a meal cooked by a visiting French chef and enjoy one of the best pub meals I’ve had, but the Goldfield standard is in any case a hard one to beat.

Sidmouth, 1998 © Peter Marshall

I’m told the darkroom is much improved since my last visit, although I didn’t use it, with developing and contact printing being done expertly by the artist in residence (thanks again Julia!), leaving us more time to talk photography and take pictures (we photographed Sidmouth, then in the throes of its annual Folk Festival – reducing the average age on its streets by a factor of at least three – which climaxed with a torchlit procession to the sea).Some people also made use of Peter’s expertise in the digital darkroom, with interesting results. My only regret was having to leave Duckspool at the end of the workshop (worse, a little before the end, as I had a train to catch) as there was so much more I would have liked to have done and said. And the food!

3 Responses to “Peter Goldfield”

  1. Roy says:

    Sad news.
    I too first encountered Peter in his Muswell Hill pharmacy, collecting supplies of the ‘philosopher’s stone’ that was Record Rapid paper, along with many other treasures from the Goldfinger catalogue – a copy of which I still preserve as a reminder of that period when Peter’s role seemed akin to the work of the Campaign for Real Ale, another area of particular interest to me at the time.

    In the 80s he brought his photographs of the Fens up to the Cambridge Darkroom with a view to getting us to show them. Regrettably, the selection group were not convinced that they formed a coherent body of work and rejected the submission – something Peter always reminded me of whenever I saw him!

    My last visit to Duckspool was in 1999, for the ‘Eclipse Workshop’ run by David Jepp, someone I had first met at the Photographer’s Place in 1980. As usual, the hospitality and accommodation was excellent, with Peter’s stories and input – not to mention cooking – making the week as memorable as ever.

    He was a key player in the resurgence and reformation of independent British photography and will be sadly missed.

  2. Yesterday’s ‘Guardian’ had the announcement about his death – it describes him as ‘Digital Filmic Artist’ and gave the following information about the funeral:

    27 Feb, 2pm Taunton Dene Crematorium. Flowers if desired or donation to your favourite charity.
    Enqs c/o 01823338369 NK Ford

  3. […] Place in Bradbourne, Derbyshire that led a few years later in 1985 to a friend of mine, Peter Goldfield,  leaving his business as a pharmacist and purveyor of high quality photographic products – […]

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