Cow and Co Cafe and the Dazzle Ferry

We were scrolling through all the recent #liverpool posts on Instagram one day; a lot of which featured a certain football team. There were selfies, some beautiful shots of the Royal Albert Dock, Liver Birds, the Fab Four on the waterfront and plenty of food. But then we noticed something a little different from Instagram user, @cjjourneys. It was a picture within a picture… 

We got in touch and asked them about their fabulous shots and we've been lucky enough to find out more about the photographer, Christopher.. and how he does it! 

The Bluecoat Garden as shown in a book

"The Sun came out at just the right time." 

This is the first image we saw on Insta from cjjourneys and we loved the concept. It's taken in the secret garden at the Bluecoat. 

Q. The question we HAVE to ask, it's practically the law around here. What made you want to visit Liverpool?

Believe it or not, this was my first ever visit to Liverpool. That sounds unbelievable, because Liverpool is such a major part of the United Kingdom’s identity.

Growing up, all my friends were Liverpool fans. Every indie band I listened to in my youth stated the Beatles as their major influence. The only accent I could (very badly) imitate was Scouse, largely learnt from Harry Enfield’s “Gary, Barry and Terry” sketch.

Everyone knows “of” Liverpool, but I realised I needed to “know” Liverpool. Since the turn of the Millennium it has been awarded European City of Culture, and the waterfront is now a World Heritage Site. To cut a long story short, every October, I visit a completely new city for my birthday, and this year I chose Liverpool. 

Liverpool's Dazzle Ferry shown in a book against real life

"Iconic" - The Ferry Cross the Mersey looks a bit different here. The eye-catching dazzle design is in honour of the patterns that were first used on vessels in World War One. They worked by ‘baffling the eye’ and making the ships difficult to target. The Dazzle Ferry is by Sir Peter Blake.

Q. What is your favourite thing about Liverpool?

What I love about Liverpool can’t be listed or described in a few words.

It lives in the feel of the place, the people and the noise. It has an authenticity few cities manage. People are proud of their city without any rose-tinted John Lennon style glasses.

I visited Liverpool, not to visit one place in particular, but to live in one of the country’s great cities. If you absolutely had to pin me down to one place or part of the city however, it would be the docks. It sums up both the city’s history and future. Historic, with modern buildings, and full of life.

Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral shown partially in a guide book and partially real life

"One of the simplest and favourites" - The impressive Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. The 5th largest in Europe, it is definitely worth the trip up St James Mount to see the adorning stained glass windows, breath-taking scale and token Tracey Emin artwork. 

Now this is probably something that everyone is wondering...

Q. Are all the shots genuine? Are the photos in the books real? Or are they edited in afterwards? 

Absolutely! For the shots in Liverpool, I used a guidebook called “111 Places in Liverpool That You Shouldn't Miss” published by the German publishing house Emons Verlag.

The books are fantastic and really identify places that locals love, rather than just the usual tourist traps. I can’t fit 111 places into a single weekend, so I turn my stay into a bit of a treasure hunt, finding as many photos as I can.

I rock up, find the exact angle, and then look like an idiot for several minutes as I try to keep both hands steady enough to line everything up. The only post processing the photo gets is an HDR scape filter applied using Google’s Snapseed app. I know there are very strong opinions for and against High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, but you can’t get the detail in a book at arm’s length and the world around it at the same time without it.

That’s it though, no editing of actual picture content. If I get them lined up, they work, if I don’t, they don’t. A lot of my Liverpool shots came together beautifully, but several others will never see the light of day. 

Exchange Flags showing the memorial at the centre of the shot

"Shadow can help or hinder" - Exchange flags is a pretty magnificent selection of buildings tucked behind Liverpool's Town Hall - one the finest surviving town halls from the 18th century. 

Most of us enjoy uploading the odd snap to our Instagram feed when we’re out and about exploring new places. Some of us seek out high vantage points, some of us lay on the floor, some of us use props and some of us spend hours trying to get all those angles right. 

Q. Where did the idea of taking shots like this come from?

The first Emons Verlag book I ever got my hands on was called “111 Düsseldorfer Orte, die man gesehen haben muss”. Even if your German is as lousy as mine, you probably get the gist.

I was visiting a dear friend in Düsseldorf, and had two days in the city. Although I couldn’t understand any of the 111 descriptions, I was completely drawn to the pictures that I felt portrayed a picture of a real city, rather than any tourist destination.

Off we set, via the occasional beer hall, in search of the wonderful places within the book’s pages. I quickly realised, a photograph of a bookshop, was a rather odd photo to show people back home. The solution? Hold up the book, to at the very least prove it was a point of interest. The outcome? Some spectacular optical-illusion-like photographs. I can’t believe I’m the only one out there doing this, but there have been times my arms gone numb, holding it up to get the perfect shot, when I’ve questioned why I do it at all. Then I get a shot that encapsulates a place perfectly, and I realise I’ve invented my own favourite hobby! Guide book photo bagging!

the Old Lewis's building shows a lady holding a guide book lined up with the sculpture

"I can't always manage the photos by myself" - The statue here is affectionately known by locals as 'Dickie Lewis' and stands on the old and first 'Lewis's Department store' that opened in 1856. Its official name is the Liverpool Resurgent and is an artwork by Jacob Epstein. 

Q. What device do you use to take the images?

Most of my photos are taken on an iPhone 6. It has a pretty decent camera compared to the early smart phones. I won’t pretend it’s up to professional standards, but many of my shots are taken on the go, and it's the camera I always have on me.

When I travel I take a Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7, because it is waterproof and droppable, both necessary qualities on any trip with me.

All of the book photos are taken on my iPhone however, but with an aperture of f/2.2, I do need a wide angle lens attachment. I have a couple of wide angle lenses with magnification ranging from 0.36x to 0.65x. Without them, if you hold a book in front of a camera, it will block out everything. There’s a great range of lenses out there for any budget, and I recommend them to anyone who likes taking photos, to get very different shots. 

Terraced houses in Liverpool

"Dukes Terrace" - The Victorian terraces of the Ropewalks area of the city could easily be mistaken for a picturesque London Borough.

The name 'Ropewalks' comes from the fact that this area was dominated by crafting of rope in the 19th Century. The long straight and parallel streets were built in such a way to allow the rope to be laid out lengthways during production. 

Q. Are you a photographer by trade? 

Not by trade, but I don’t think you have to do something for a living to use that moniker. So yes, I am a photographer, a traveller and writer, but only at the weekends, and only for the love of it.

Some years ago now, my partner arranged a trek in the Himalayas that truly changed my life. The scenery was breath-taking, but the hospitality of the Nepalese people was staggeringly humbling. Living simply alongside the local people made me realise how much more there was to life, and I haven’t shut up about it ever since.

I was late to the Instagram scene, but now fully on board, I try to share different views of the world with as many people as possible - be that a graffitied wall in Grimsby, or a view from the lesser visited hilltops of the Yorkshire Dales. I still have a day job to pay for trips, whether across the globe, or the Pennines, but every second away from my desk is spent photographing the world around me.

Another Place sculptures held up in a guide book against the real scene

"The right statue I hope" - Another Place is an art installation on Liverpool's Crosby Beach by British sculptor, Antony Gormley. The installation consists of 100 life-size, cast-iron figures spread along the 3 kilometres of shore. 

Q. Out of all the places you’ve visited, what is your favourite photo that you’ve ever taken? 

The best photo I’ve ever taken, is a cliché jumping shot of my girlfriend on our trek in Nepal. It’s my phone’s wallpaper and makes me smile several times a day.

Everyone is in search of the most amazing shot, but a better photo will always be the imperfect shot of a perfect moment. However, I do have a few shots of which I’m particularly proud. The photo of the bookshop in Dusseldorf was the first that made me realise I was doing something quite cool.

Capturing a shot of the Besseggen Ridge in Norway, found in the Rough Guide to Norway, takes even my breath away. But the one that gave me the most satisfaction was a simple shot of Antony Gormley’s “Another Place” on Crosby beach.

The beach is four kilometres long with over a hundred cast iron statues. We spent a glorious evening exploring the length of it, and felt complete ease and contentment. Did I find the exact statue from the guide book? I’ll never know, but as I lined up the reflection of one of many statues, I felt a moment of magic. We were alone, but stood in the exact spot of photographers and travellers before us. Maybe my photograph would inspire someone else to come to this spot. And on it goes. I do love that photo, but there’s always another photograph to be taken. There’s always Another Place. 

The views from Panoramic 34

"Sometimes the view doesn't need the book." - This shot is from is Liverpool's highest restaurant, Panoramic 34, located on the 34th floor of West Tower. 

Q. So where is the next place and what is your next journey? 

I have so many plans and places to visit in the coming months I wouldn’t know where to start listing them. Before that however, I’m going to be taking time off to finish my first book.

In 2016 I walked the length of Yorkshire’s rivers, from the source of the Ure in the North West, to the mouth of the North Sea at the end of the Humber. I’ve tried to capture in words all that is best in Yorkshire, which truth be told is to be found in the stories of the Yorkshire folk I met along the way.

I’ve been talking with a few publishers, and hope to see my words and pictures on a bookshelf some time soon. There’s plans for other expeditions, day trips and weekends away, but nothing is set in stone. My favourite weekends often involve grabbing an overnight bag and taking the train to the end of the line. If my photographs can inspire anyone to do the same, I’m spending my time well.

Christopher’s photographs can be found on his Instagram page and he can be contacted at if anyone is interested in his photography or writing. 

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This is a guest blog written by Christopher John AKA Cjjourneys with questions, introduction and image anecdotes written by Jess Cavendish.