The last light

WHATEVER your feelings about the introduction of the smoking ban last Sunday, there is no doubt British social life has changed for ever. The upheaval taking place across the nation s pubs, clubs and venues has prompted Ely-based photographer Dan Donovan

WHATEVER your feelings about the introduction of the smoking ban last Sunday, there is no doubt British social life has changed for ever.

The upheaval taking place across the nation's pubs, clubs and venues has prompted Ely-based photographer Dan Donovan, a smoker himself, to head out on the road to document the final moments of public smoking in a series of portraits.

Taking in everything from a pipe smokers' club meeting to venues in Liverpool and Cornwall, and a former mining community in Derbyshire, the project is an ambitious move to archive an aspect of British life has now been lost.

"One of my aims was to capture smokers' final moments while they still have the freedom to smoke in public enclosed spaces," Mr Donovan, 46, said. "An important aspect of this work is the message that smoking is an entire culture that has been changed entirely; it's not just a low-life hobby, as it is all too often presented."

If the photographer's tone seems elegiac, it is because, as a smoker, he resents the level of the Government's infringement on personal liberties, a view shared by the individuals who volunteered to be photographed for the project.

"I appreciate and understand the views on both sides, and I am well aware of the alleged dangers of smoking," he said.

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"Although I hold strong views on the subject, I want this project to also be judged on its intention to capture a moment ahead of huge social change."

During his travels, which began some four weeks ago, Mr Donovan has met and photographed a veteran of the attack on the Sir Galahad during the events marking the anniversary of the end of the Falklands conflict, and a pipe-smoking club which will no longer be able to stage its annual meeting at a pub near Brentwood, Essex.

Mr Donovan said one of the pertinent moments of his journey so far saw him meet a Labour councillor in Derbyshire who told the photographer he felt he'd "been stabbed in the back" by a party that had gone back on a manifesto pledge and criminalised some 14 million smokers across the country.

"This collection of work isn't about either promoting or vilifying the act of smoking, it's intended to capture an honest representation of smoking culture in Britain pre-July 2007."

Mr Donovan is looking for potential venues and galleries in which to exhibit the work.

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