Category Archives: Inspired By:

Inspired By: Brief Encounter (1945)

It’s time for the next in our Inspired By: series. Today’s post will feature an artwork inspired by the classic 1945 David Lean film, Brief Encounter.

It tells the tale of a pair of married middle aged strangers who meet by happenstance at a railway station. An innocent encounter over a cup of tea in the stations refreshment room leads the two into a whirlwind romance that neither was looking for, but was powerless to resist. Arranging to meet again the following week, they both parted to go back to their mundane suburban lives with their spouses and children.

Carnforth Lancashire Railway Station clock ramp transport platform brief encounter film
Refreshment Room Sign at Carnforth Railway Station.
As their weekly meetings continue they both grow increasingly more in love, quite unaware of the consequences of what such a relationship would have on their families. It isn’t until a chance meeting with one of Laura’s (Celia Johnson) friends that make them both aware of the reality of their situation.

With the fear that they might be caught together again, Alec (Trevor Howard) arranges for them to spend the afternoon at a friends flat. When Alec’s friend Stephen returns home early, Laura, ashamed, leaves via the back stairs onto the street. After walking for hours in the rain, Laura eventually finds a seat on a bench in a local park. With the weight of her situation weighing heavily on her shoulders a policeman walks towards her, and by his manner gives her the impression that he considers her to be a prostitute.

Carnforth Lancashire Railway Station clock ramp transport platform brief encounter film
View of the clock at Carnforth Railway Station.
The full reality of what their initial innocent arrangement had now turned into was now apparent to them. Realizing the danger and what it could do to their families, they both come to the decision to part.

With Alec being given the opportunity of a job in Johannesburg, they both arrange to meet one final time at the Railway Station to say goodbye. Their last moments together were interrupted by Laura’s friend Dolly who talks incessantly, and is unaware of what was really going on.  Robbed of their chance to say goodbye, Alec’s train arrives and all Alec could do to say goodbye was to squeeze Laura discreetly on the shoulder before leaving the refreshment room. After a few moments, Laura overcome with emotion, dashes out to the platform to try and see Alec for one last time. As she does the express train thunders past, not giving into a fleeting suicidal impulse she gathers herself together before going back into her dull suburban life surrounded by her husband and children.

Carnforth Lancashire Railway Station clock ramp transport platform brief encounter film
View of the tracks and station buildings at Carnforth Railway Station
Directed by David Lean, the film was an adaptation of Noël Coward’s 1936 one-act play Still Life, with the screenplay written by Noël Coward himself. Featuring a stellar cast and a soundtrack in which Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff is its main musical theme. It is a film which, at its heart, is a story of forbidden love and the delicacy of the human spirit. Although it was made at the end of World War Two, Brief Encounter still enraptures everyone who watch it. Male and male, young and old, it still maintains a timeless and universal appeal.

Recently when I was visiting Lancaster, I had the privilege of visiting Carnforth Railway Station which was the location of Railway Station featured in the 1945 film. Walking up the ramp where Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard ran up on several occasions on to the platform, and to see the magnificent station clock under which the two met, I was thrilled. I love films, especially black and white classics, and to be standing in the location of one of my all time favourite films was a bit of a dream come true. With my camera in hand, I took photographs of everything I saw.

Today’s Inspired By: will feature an image I took that day. Let’s take a look.

Carnforth Railway Station Lancashire clock movie film Brief Encounter David Lean Noel Coward Celia Johnson trevor howard love story
View of the ramp and Clock at Carnforth Railway Station Before retouching.
To those of you who are familiar with the film this image will appeal to you as much as it does to me. The moment I took this shot I thought that this would make a great project. This is what I want to achieve:

  1. Enhance the image in order to evoke the spirit of the film.
  2. To shift the focus of the image to be on the ramp and the clock.

Whether I am a hopeless romantic at heart or it’s the effect Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 thats playing on my mp3 player, I started to think about what life would have been like for Alec and Laura in the years after they last met. Would they have lived out the rest of their lives without a thought about their Brief Encounter?

This is what I imagined.

Its 1979, after many years working as a doctor in Johannesburg, Alec is now 71 years old. It has been 5 months since he lost his devoted wife. Now a widower, he is faced with the prospect of living the rest of his life without her. Surrounded by his children, who are all grown up with families of his own and live close by, he is now alone with only his memories to look back on. Whilst sitting at the desk in his study, he unlocks the drawer to the left of him. Opening the drawer towards him, nestled amongst other papers there is a photograph that has been with him nearly all his adult life. Holding it tenderly he looks deeply into it trying desperately to envision the person who he had leave there. With waves of memories flooding back about Laura and the time they shared, he quickly puts the photograph back into the drawer and locks it. For a moment he started to wonder if Laura still thought of him. What if things had been different? Rising from his chair he walks through to the sideboard in the lounge and pours himself a brandy in order to pull himself together. The choice they both made back then was made, and neither time nor thoughts can change it. To bring up the past was of no help or comfort to him. The memories of what happened all those years ago had to stay locked away,like the photograph in his desk. Not just for his family’s sake, but for his.

I have created that photograph.

Carnforth Railway Station Lancashire clock movie film Brief Encounter David Lean Noel Coward Celia Johnson trevor howard love story
A digitally aged version of a photograph taken at Carnforth Railway Station.
Would you like to hear about how I achieved it?

Although Colour photography was in existence in the 1940’s, it wasn’t affordable to most people. so by desaturating the image it gives it a more authentic feel. By doing so also refers back to the film itself, which was filmed in black and white.

I wanted to give the image the appearance of being an aged photograph that has not been stored properly, and that has deteriorated with time. Drawing inspiration from some old damaged family photos I distressed the image. Using brushes of different shapes and set at various opacities, I  aged the photo. Blurring areas, discolouring other areas etc.

To distress I even more I  damaged it digitally. Again with various brushes set at different opacities applied what looks like scores, cracks, water damage etc.

Looking at old images they do not have nice clean straight edges, this image should not have then either. With a white brush set at full opacity I worked on the edges of the photograph, making them uneven and worn.

The cameras of the 1940’s did not have the technology we have now. The term mega-pixel was alien to the photographer of the day. In order to imitate the technology of yesteryear I needed to reduce the clarity of the image. To achieve this I added noise to the image then applied a Gaussian blur.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about Brief Encounter and what I have done with this image. For more information about the film please visit:

I hope you have enjoyed reading today’s post, and if you have images that you would like given the same treatment then please send an email with your image to info@reclickphoto.co.uk. You can also visit our website at www.reclickphoto.co.uk for more information.

To see all the images I took at Carnforth Railway station then you can do so by clicking here to visit our new Flickr Page.

Thanks for reading!

Hugh at ReClick Photo.

P.S. You can catch up with our first Inspired By: post about Alphonse Mucha by clicking here!

Inspired by: Alphonse Mucha

Welcome to first in a series of Inspired By: posts in which I will share with you artwork I have created  inspired by well known artists, designers, and photographers of the past. This Inspired By: post will feature an artwork created with inspiration drawn from the great Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, Alphonse Mucha.

Alphonse Mucha © George R. Lawrence Co./WikiCommons
Alphonse Mucha © George R. Lawrence Co./WikiCommons

Trained and worked in Munich, Vienna, and Paris, Mucha created a prolific body of work, but it was through his poster designs that he gained international prominence and success. The actress Sarah Bernhardt features in some of his well known poster designs as Mucha was employed by her to design costumes, jewellery, posters, and stage sets. After several successful visits to the United Sates, where he had built up a following, Mucha returned to his homeland of Czechoslovakia where he worked on a series of 20 large scale oil paintings depicting the mythology and history of Czechs and other Slavic peoples, entitled The Slav Epic.

Mucha’s poster designs predominately featured women who were beautiful idealized symbols of femininity. Their curved forms, posture, and fixed gazes evoked a powerful aura of sensuality.

With this in mind I needed an image to begin with. My aim was to find an image which reflected the qualities that the women possessed in Mucha’s original poster designs. Turning to a few stock image websites I finally found what I was looking for.

Original image.
Original image.

This Public Domain image from Pixabay was perfect. The models stance and the way she held her gaze was just right, now I could begin.

Firstly I needed to decide on a colour scheme. Mucha’s work was often created with a limited, sometimes subdued palette of colour, so I decided on a colour scheme of muted yellows, pinks and blues. Mucha’s poster designs feature an abundance of natural elements i.e. Flowers, foliage etc, so I now turned my attention to source suitable images. With the colour scheme in mind I looked for images of flowers within my selected colour range. Here is a gallery of Public Domain images I selected from Pixabay to use within the work:

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Now with everything I need I now could start work. Firstly I cropped the original image and then painted out the background leaving only the models head and neck on the page. Next I moved on to arranging the floral element of the work. Opening each image I selected only the flower and copied into to my image of the model. What I wanted to create was a floral headpiece which sat on the models hairline almost like a tiara. The purpose of this was not just to add decoration to the image, it also serves as feature which draws attention to the models face.

Detail of the floral element.
Detail of the floral element.

As you can see I have also subdued the colour saturation of the flowers in keeping with the rest of the image. When creating an artwork, it is extremely important to think of it as a whole, each of the elements within it must work together.

Art Nouveau was one of the first styles that did not draw its inspiration from the past. It looked more to the present especially the natural world all around it. Some of its defining features included:

  • The whiplash motif
  • Elongated curved lines
  • The female form
  • Stylised Flowers and foliage

Now I turned my attention towards creating a more Art Nouveau look to my image. After considering a few options I could not decide on a way to achieve it.  After taking a break from the image I came across the solution by accident. I was sitting having a cup of tea and as I sat my cup down on the table, the steam that was rising from its contents where rising into the air creating the curves lines as seen in some of Mucha’s posters. By using decorative steam/smoke in my artwork could be the most effective way to issue the image with an Art Nouveau style, but still keeping a modern feel. After a few attempts I was finally delighted with the finished outcome. Here is the finished work in all its glory:

Mucha inspired art work.
Mucha inspired art work.

What do you think? It may not be not be a direct copy of one of his works, but I did not want it to be. My main goal was to create an image which embodied the spirit of his work, whether I have been successful or not I will leave that decision in your hands.

I first came across the work of Mucha as a teenager whilst at school, and since then he has remained one of my favourite artists. Please if you can take a look at some examples of his work, some highlights include:

  • Gismonda (1984)
  • La Dame aux Camélias (1896)
  • Zodiac (1896)
  • Rêverie (1897)
  • Moët & Chandon: Dry Imperial (1899)
  • The Slav Epic (1910 -1928)

A fantastic source of information on the life and works of Alphonse Mucha and his work is the Mucha Foundation you can visit their website at www.muchafoundation.org.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my first Inspired By: posts and please look out for more in the future. For more in formation about ReClick Photo please feel free to visit our website at http://www.reclickphoto.co.uk.

Thanks for reading!

Hugh at ReClick Photo.