Skip to content

The Lost Guitar

11 September 2019

In the Autumn of 2017, I started to photograph the making of a guitar by local craftsman Tim Williams as a personal project. By luck, he had just begun working on a custom-built acoustic guitar for renowned folk singer Ralph McTell, who has a home near the south Cornish coast. I photographed the project from the guitar mould being made right through to listening to Ralph sitting in his kitchen playing his new guitar. I found it an absolutely fascinating process to see up close, the range of tones that can be produced from different types of wood to having my mind absolutely boggled by the amount of work that goes into making a mother of pearl inlay.


I shot the portrait of Ralph with his beautiful new guitar at the end of November that year. Just a few days later I was involved in a fatal road accident that kind of derailed me in lots of ways and meant that this small body of work got pushed to the back burner. A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of the project and I felt that two years on, it must be about time to bring it out in the open. I'll admit, I found it slightly difficult to revisit, particularly the portrait of Ralph, as it reminded me of a very happy time before the incident. I find with some personal projects, it's hard not to have an emotional attachment and they can act as powerful reminders of certain times in your life, this being one of them.


Overall I'm happy with these shots as a collection and it feels good to finally send them out into the world! 


With thanks to Tim Williams for his patience whilst I occupied the workshop with my camera and to Ralph McTell for letting me sit in your kitchen and drink tea.


- Sal


You find Tim's beautiful guitars here


Above: Tim Williams's well organised workshop. 


Above: The mould for the guitar - thin pieces of wood are steam bent, fitted into this and then clamped to hold. 


Above: Steaming the wood. A laborious process!


Above: Filing down sections of mother of pearl for the decorative inlay that goes around the sound hole.


Above: Finest details, every millimeter matters!


Above: Ralph McTell, with the finished guitar. 
You must have javascript enabled to be able to fully enjoy this site.