I dislike graffiti when it's an empty and desperate act of place-marking. But I appreciate the colours of this bit, and the way it sits in the decrepit landscape.
The slow encroachment of natural processes upon manmade structures and objects has always held a fascination for artists, from the romantic ruins of Claude's epic landscape paintings, to the documentary style of urbex photography. I like to take a measured approach, focusing on form and colour to emphasize otherwise unremarkable incidents of botanical takeover and weathering. I seem to have made a few images recently where the balance between discretion and obviousness is about right. I also like that it seems unclear if the camouflage is intentional or not.
Sometimes there's little more exciting than a couple of weathered red boxes and a ladder. Yesterday was the first warm sunny day of the year and I met a friend for a photo walk through London, which the consumption of alcohol did absolutely nothing to prolong. Apparently citadines is a hotel chain.
I have few goals in photography other than to take pictures of things I think are interesting and that most people would pass by without a second look. One of my actual rules is not to physically interfere with a scene for the sake of compositional perfection or to inject meaning. I much prefer to photograph things I find, as I find them. The only adjustment I will make is to maybe come back another time when the light is different, or something else has changed without my intervention.
This image is a case in point, because I think the composition is perfect as I found (and photographed) it. Had the cone been off-centre or lying down I may not have taken the picture, so thanks to whomever took the time to place it dead-centre! The meaning, if there is any, is ambiguous as cones have many interpretations: no entry; caution; slippery surface; no parking; students messing about; etc. Incidentally - this picture was taken at a church on the Isle of Wight where my girlfriend's father is buried. He was a stereo photographer, a variation on film photography that produces a 3D effect that has to be seen to be believed.
It's continually amazing to me how many things there are to photograph in a relatively small area. Just walking around a part of town one can go back to the same spots again and again and see things completely differently, under different skies or from new angles and distances. It could be a physical change in the location or a change of attitude or mood in the mind of the photographer. Whatever the reason is, I enjoy it. This upright between two volumes is a completely different shot to the ones I got in the same location the last few times.
I almost ruined a really nice old Yashinon 50mm lens today by taking it out on a walk in the rain. I knew it was a bad idea but I'd just got an adapter to fit it to my camera and I was in the mood for some manual focus action. It was pouring when I left the house but I thought I'd keep the camera in the bag if the rain continued - which it did, until long after I'd got back. Of course I kept seeing things I thought would be worth capturing so it kept coming out of the bag. A large splash of gritty rain water at some point landed on the lens and filled the focus mechanism with sandy deposits, which then felt like a pepper grinder. I had a waterproof jacket on but my jeans (not a good idea) got so saturated that the water traveled up them by capillary action, under the jacket, into my T-shirt and eventually got to the inside lining of the waterproof jacket and the pockets filled with water from behind.
Back home, lots of swearing, wiping, tapping and rotating of the focus ring, followed by just leaving-it-the-hell-alone for a bit seems to have cured the lens of lasting damage. The general advice for outdoor use is that unless your camera (and lens) is of the expensive weather sealed variety you shouldn't use it in anything more than light fog. I subscribe to the Angry Photographer's advice (look him up on Youtube) that there's no such thing as a water proof camera. If you regularly expose your camera and lenses to rainy weather eventually insidious water and dampness will make its way in and start to cause corrosion to internal elements. I'll be more careful in future.
In essence a camera is a recording device, capturing patterns of differing tones that can be looked at again and again as photographs. In this way a photograph is no different to a painting, except that the recording process is usually quick and mechanized whereas painting (usually) is the opposite. The mechanization of the photographic process negates some of the perceived manual skill involved in making, for example, a painting, which tends to give photographers a lower ranking in the art world. This is unfair for many reasons, not least because many revered painters and sculptors employ others to do some or even all of the work involved in creating their work for them. What is important to the good name of the artist in this case is the intent behind the work, and it's just the same for the photographer.
A camera can therefore be looked upon as a sort of assistant in the creative process, in much the same way as a painter has an assistant. It's not the kind of assistant you would get a lot of conversation out of, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you're trying to get things done quickly. For my own work I walk around with my 'assistant' and when I see something that catches my interest - something like this stack of rusting Christmas trees - I simply ask the assistant to record the image for me whilst I direct them and tell them how much of this or that to use. They're fairly reliable and just about the only time they won't help out is when I've forgotten to feed them. Wages are not a problem as I pay upfront when I hire them.
That's how I look at it anyway. Sometimes I even end up in the pub with them, although they will insist on sitting on the table.
I've always really liked these inflatable tennis courts, ever since one appeared in the park behind my house in Northampton, in the 1980s. Not because they're a boon to tennis players in winter, but because of the shape. The German architect Frei Otto was the original master of tensile and inflatable structures but I don't know if he liked tennis. I'm sure he would have been pleased with this photo, though. I have been trying to get an elegant shot of these for a few weeks now (some smaller examples below) but today the light was right, creating a remarkable translucent pair of tennis-enabling domes.
I saw these guys hanging out yesterday, trying to look inconspicuous in a bush. If only they hadn't been gassing I might not have noticed them. That and the orange clothes.
Photographic Modi Operandi: Often whilst I'm walking and thinking, I try and collate my thoughts on things like photography. It not only helps me improve my work but also with deciding what might make a good image. The trouble is the thoughts come and go and I'm liable to forget them, so I'll start recording them here.
One thing I instinctively avoid is making photographs of other people's work. For example, I rarely take photographs of buildings where the design of the building is the point of the image. I wouldn't want to take credit for a photograph where the success of the image is down to the beauty of the building. There are instances where I included parts of a building in an image but there has to be an anonymity to it, or an accidental occurrence, for example a shadow casting an interesting shape or changing a facade, or a state of decay. The same would apply to anything where someone has worked to create a beautiful or interesting form for its own sake, be it a sculpture, a car or a piece of graffiti. Not that I think there's anything wrong with taking photographs of buildings or other designed objects, and beautiful photographs can be made of beautiful things. It's just something I try to avoid in my own work. To take ownership of an image I need to be sure I'm not infringing someone else's ideas.
A cast-off tyre in some dried grass - now that's what I call a beautiful accident. I'm ok with using that :)
This photo is from a couple of weeks ago, but seeing as the most recent snow has only just melted I thought I could get away with showing a picture from the last time it snowed. The interesting thing was not so much the snow as the temperature, which dropped enough for the local ponds to freeze and I captured them in the process of freezing.
It was one of those classic scenarios, where you're trying to photograph an orange plastic life-saving post against a 19th Century Portland stone bridge on a bright day, when a pigeon drops into the shot from nowhere and completely upstages everything else in the scene. If nothing else, it's vaguely interesting.
Hay! Welcome to my new blog. I hope to bring you regular images and commentary here. I have sold all my more expensive camera stuff and bought the cheapest reasonable camera I could find - it's an early mirrorless and will be here in a day or two. In the meantime I have been using my phone camera, so bring on the static horse...