100 Photographs – 1

I’m working on a photo book that, for the sake of anything better at the moment, I’m calling 100 Photographs (but it won’t be only photographs).  The aim is for it to be a trigger for ideas by encouraging observation, exploration and mysterious associations.  It will pose visual puzzles, blur the boundaries between fact and fiction and suggest multiple and metaphorical meanings and interpretations. There will be interactions between the components in each picture (uncaptioned), between pictures and between the picture and the viewer – each page will be an invitation to tell a story, or maybe many stories.

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Take a Seat – Take a Moment 8

Choosing a seat in a public place involves careful consideration of personal space.  We are very diffident about asking to share café tables; and on buses and trains we sit beside a stranger only when all other separate seats are occupied.  When we do share seating with strangers we respect studiously the personal space of fellow occupiers – a careful bum’s width is left between neighbours on park benches.  We rarely take a moment to connect.  Photo: Quayside, Cambridge, April 2019

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Unmanageable Tourism

‘The Dutch tourist board is to stop actively promoting the Netherlands as a holiday destination because its main attractions – the canals, tulips and windmills – are becoming both overcrowded, the Telegraaf said on Monday. In future the NBTC will focus on trying to spread visitors to other parts of the country “by putting the spotlight on unknown areas” and on limiting the problems caused in the busiest periods.’ (DutchNews.nl)  Good luck!  Let’s hope it has more success than Cambridge City Council, which published its first plan for managing tourism in Cambridge in 1978, with five reviews between 1985 and 2001.  Photo: St Mary’s Street, Cambridge, April 2019

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Take a Seat – Take a Moment 7

Another reason for people to sit about in public spaces: a cigarette break. Photo: Senate House Hill, Cambridge, April 2019

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Memory Trip

Another experiment for the U3AC alternative photography session.  Much simpler this time: a cassette of Ilford XP2 in an Olympus Trip, again high street processed.  Reminded me what a pleasure the Trip is to use and how good the results can be.  Photo: Market Square, Cambridge, April 2019

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Double Exposure

I am preparing a session on alternative photography for the U3AC Photo Forum.  The idea is to encourage people to break away from straightforward use of a digital camera.  One approach is to go back to film and create deliberate double exposures.  I loaded an M6 with Ilford XP2 (ISO 400) and set the film speed on the camera at ISO 800 to give half the exposure.  For the first exposure I shot mainly buildings and open street scenes.  At the end of the reel I rewound the film and reloaded it.  For the second exposure I shot mainly people, close up, full length or in groups.  The exposed film was processed by a high street chain store.

The results 1.  A. The overall exposure is accurate and even across all frames.  B. Breaks between frames are not accurately synchronised, but complete breaks across a frame are comparatively rare.  C. In a significant number of the pictures the first exposure is dominant.  This may be due to: (a) the subject of the second having overall more darker tones (and vice versa); and/or (b) under exposure of the second, which were grabbed shots compared with the more carefully exposed first.  I think it’s probably important to avoid large areas of light tones in either exposure.

The results 2.  Are the pictures any good?  Quite a few of the shots haven’t worked due to C above.  Others are not successful because the overlying of exposures has not produced any worthwhile combination – the approach that I used makes it almost impossible to marry up complementary images.  This might be overcome with more careful planning and a more limited choice of subjects to allow some degree of pre-visualisation.  There are a few images that are interesting and give encouragement to explore the technique further.  But maybe it’s just down to serendipity.

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Stripping Away

It’s frustrating half-remembering things.  I read recently (in a book, in a magazine?) of the idea that paintings create a world by building up from nothing on a blank canvas, while photographs start with the real world then strip things away to reveal its essence.  I wish I could find the original quote –  it expressed the idea more eloquently than I can.  Photo: Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk, April 2019.

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Take a Seat – Take a Moment 6

So, why do people sit about in public spaces?  Variously: chatting, eating, reading, sleeping, watching, waiting, working on a laptop, attending to the demands of a mobile phone.  Or maybe lost in moments of inner calm and reverie, time off from the world.  Photo: Home Farm, Wimpole Hall, April 2019

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North Norfolk Days

Sunday 14th April A10 north to King’s Lynn – fields of rape glowing in the sun against an ashen sky.  A149 to the NN coast and through Holm, Thornham and Titchwell.  Down to the beach at Brancaster in a chilly easterly; blocks of black stone protect the RNGC Club House. Brancaster Staithe, Burnham Deepdale then Burnham Overy Staithe: low tide; piping avocets, redshanks and oystercatchers feeding on the mud banks; geese calling from the meadows and marshes.  Lunch at The Hero, crowded.  At Holkham emerging saltmarsh taking over the once unbroken sand.

Monday 15th April  Early walk on Wells beach.  Tide far out; sand banks, gullies and a distant line of surf create false horizons; figures well-wrapped against the wind become tiny exclamation marks on a shorescape of endless sea and sky.  The wind passes through Holkham Meals in soughing waves.  Along Staithe Street, a mix of kiss-me-quick seaside jollity vies with attempts at style and sophistication.  On the quay the Albatros offers Dutch cuisine; and innocent childhood crabbing has been commercialised.

Tuesday 16th April  Leisurely breakfast.  Out through Stiffkey and Morston to Blakeney.  Doors to 15th cent. Guildhall open, palm-like brick vaults spring from octagonal columns.  Up to St Nicholas: in a corner of a south window bishops set off to confront the Pelagian Heresy.  (Hmm.)  Cley.  Tide up, waves creating a thundering longshore drift; a skein of Brent geese overhead and fishermen casting lines hopefully over the surf.  Via Salthouse and Weybourn to Sheringham; angry green-brown sea battering black rock sea defences – they will be sand one day.  Pasta for supper as a goldfinch sings in the garden.

Wednesday 17th April  Woken by a blackbird.  On Wells beach the distant surf booms across the sand and a dredger builds giant sand castles.  Two hundred chalets (grand beach huts) look across open, vulnerable territory – one on the market for £53,750.  Coffee at Artemis in Cley; sign in the loo says ‘What if the hokey cokey really IS what it’s all about?’  Crab sandwiches for lunch in Holt.  Home.

Photographs: Burnham Overy Staithe; Wells-next-the-Sea; Blakeney; Cley

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Blakeney Angels

Panel from a south window in St Nicholas, Blakeney.  Gregory’s quote is conveniently shortened, if Wikipedia is to be believed: ‘Non Angli, sed angeli, si forent Christiani.– “They are not Angles, but angels, if they were Christian”.  Aphorism, summarizing words reported to have been spoken by Gregory when he first encountered pale-skinned English boys at a slave market, sparking his dispatch of St. Augustine of Canterbury to England to convert the English, according to Bede. He said: “Well named, for they have angelic faces and ought to be co-heirs with the angels in heaven.”’

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Take a Seat – Take a Moment 5

Another book of moments (see post 21st March 2019) is People Kissing by Levine and Ramey (Princetown Architectural Press 2019).  More active that quiet moments, the sub-title is ‘A Century of Photographs’ and it reveals the shifts in social and cultural attitudes around this intimacy that have occurred over that time (1880 -1975).  From Ambrotype to Polaroid, it’s incidentally a history of photography.  Time for a volume on people drinking coffee?  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one already.  Photo: Indigo Coffee, St Edward’s Passage, Cambridge, April 2019

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Take a Seat – Take a Moment 4

Alasdair and I are planning a session for the U3AC Photography Forum loosely titled ‘Alternative Photography’.  The aim is to get people to play, experiment and have photographic fun, by using film, for example.  So, I loaded an Olympus Trip with XP2, spent an hour or two in the town centre and dropped the film off at Boots.  I collected the prints today with the sense of anticipation that digital cameras have sucked out of photography.  It was fun and the results were a pleasant surprise.  Photo: Great St Mary’s Passage, Cambridge, April 2019

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Everything I Ever Learnt

DaveH got to see Everything I Ever Learnt before I did.  He commented: ‘Was rather disappointed.  Maybe that because I am a Philistine!  The quality of printing did not help but I rebel against out of focus images and poor lighting. I am not convinced that sacrificing the craft for “artistic” effect is the mark of an artist.’  I don’t think he’s Philistine, but I think he may have missed the point.

Everything I Ever Learnt, organised by Shutter Hub, is on show at the Alison Richard Building, Cambridge to 3rd May 2019.  The brief for the exhibition was left open to interpretation by photographers, who were asked to put forward single images or projects (up to 6 images) for consideration.  The aim is explore the idea of seeing through photography.  Shutter Hub elaborated on this: That image reminds me of something. It ignites a small flame that lights my way through the filing system of my mind. It brings me eventually to the hint of a memory, and that memory guides my interpretation of the image, influences my reaction, connects my thoughts and feelings, and threads them together, binding them into a new collection, to be drawn upon the next time something familiar arises.  Everything I have seen, felt, remembered, everything, influences and informs every thought I will ever have.

Work by around 80 photographers was selected and over 150 pictures, printed on tabloid format newsprint, fill the walls over four floors of the ARB. Responses to the brief are expressed through every genre of photography, from abstract to documentary, portraiture to still life, travel to wildlife, and drawing on experiences from around the world.  Colour and black and white both feature.  There seems to be limited reliance on the advanced trickery of Photoshop.

The two first impressions are contrary.  On one side the quantity and richness of the pictures; on the other very variable print quality achieved by using newsprint (it generally copes better with colour than monochrome).  It’s important to focus on the former, which reveals the breadth of the creative imaginations at work and the ability of photography to give life to them through myriad subjects and diverse use of the medium

Among my favourite individual pictures were ‘You Are a Star’ (Eliza Bourner), ‘A Decisive Moment’ (Stefan Czemerys), ‘Slavic Bestiary 02’ (Magda Kuca), ‘Things Had a Way of Disappearing in the Garden’ (Janet Lees) and ‘The Bitterness of Lemons’ (Helen Turnbull).  Strong groups of pictures were the ‘Pictographs’ series (Roger Coulam), the ‘Horizon’ series (Angel Gurria-Quintana), the ‘When I Walked Through Walls’ series (Paola Leonardi) and the ‘It’s Ok to feel…’ series (Gavin Smart).   Nearly half of the photographers were represented by single images and about 40% by two images, those showing sets of three to six images were a small minority.  Though few in number, the sets demonstrated the benefits of being able to work on and exhibit projects.

I submitted six pictures from my ‘In Plain View’ project, two were accepted and I was pleased to be exhibited in such good company.  My accompanying statement said:  Often we do not see, much less appreciate, what is around us.  We find the familiar dull and may be wholly blind to the beauty in everyday objects and experiences.  Jonathan Meades argues, ‘The typical is elusive. It’s a hard thing to capture because it surrounds us and doesn’t shout.’  As photographers we are often drawn to, look at and see with greater clarity, that which is most different from our daily experience.  To challenge this I travelled around my house and garden with a camera to try to learn to see and capture the changing scene, the changing play of light and shade through the day and through the year.  I looked up and down, inward and outward.  The idea of seeing and recording the extraordinary in the ordinary called for the simple, unhurried approach achieved by using film.  I made the resulting images, which have an abstract, fragmentary quality, into a photo book, In Plain View.

Leaving aside the fact that my pictures were included, I think this is an excellent exhibition.  If the print quality rarely does the pictures justice, it is excusable in giving access to an exhibition to people who may not otherwise be able to afford the costs of printing and framing.  There are many individually fine images and the exhibition overall shows the strength of photography as a creative medium and the depth of talent there is using it.  Forget camera club judging prejudices and there is much here to enjoy and learn from.

‘Shutter Hub is a photography organisation providing opportunities, support and networking for creative photographers worldwide. We provide the chance for photographers to professionally promote their work, access high quality opportunities and make new connections within the photographic community, through our website, in-person meet ups and exhibitions.’  https://shutterhub.org.uk

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Take a Seat – Take a Moment 3

Black+White Photography magazine runs a regular feature, ‘Smart Guide to Photography’.  It concentrates on still lives and other static subjects and rarely ventures out onto the street.  The helpful advice at expertphotography.com/smartphone-street-photography-tips/ shows that B+W is missing something.  I don’t use a smart phone for street photography, but find it a great asset: people are so absorbed in their screens that they don’t notice my camera.  Photo: Rodborough Common, Stroud, Glous., March 2019

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WTO – Dress It Up

Novelty buttons: made in Taiwan and China; packaged at 950 Jennings Street Unit 1B, Bethlehem PA 18017, USA; sold farmers market Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK; price £2.50.

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