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Mablethorpe madness.

On every other Sunday from October to September the flat-ish beach of a fading ‘kiss me quick hat’ beach resort on the East Coast of England turns into a mayhem mixture of burning Castrol R oil, flying sand and shiny 2 wheeled projectiles with humans of all ages and both sexes trying to stay on top of them as they thrash around the sand (occasionally water) course.

It’s sand racing. A cross between motorcycle speedway, grass track and circuit racing – but somehow not managing to be any of those.

It’s casually organised – not official that is. Anybody with a bike can ride. No license needed. Just get on and go when you’re told.

If you fall off, and many do, the race is stopped and the ambulance drives across the beach to where you are. Once clear, off they go again.

The noise straightens your hair, if the winds of the North Sea haven’t done that already.

Sand, sea, fish and chips and motorbike racing on the beach. How can it get better than that?

The bad news is, according to the web site, the 20/21 season has been called off because of Covid.

PDBarton
Lincoln
30th September 2020

Fungi in the woods

The brown leaves of Autumn show themselves on the trees. The season is changing and with that change comes fungi.

Walking in the woods with Bess, our Chocolate Labrador, is something I do all year. I like the peace and quiet. I like to watch the seasons change. Sometimes, I just like to sit on a tree stump and listen. Coming from a city, I appreciate the lack of noise.

The best time of year, in my opinion, is early Autumn. The sun still holds some warmth and its light remains strong, creating dappled patterns on the freshly carpeted floor of the woods.

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I don’t talk about cameras but…

Generally I make it a principle not to talk about cameras. However, today I want to make an exception.

Over the many years I’ve been taking pictures I’ve used many cameras, both film and digital. And yes, I’ve spent, some might say wasted, a lot of money in satisfying my interest, again, some might say, obsession, with cameras.

The problem I have is that I genuinely like cameras. Not just the use of them but the whole thing, aesthetics, mechanics, even the smell, of cameras.

This obsession led me down many roads. I switched to digital fairly early – I even bought (arguably) the first digital camera, the game changing but dreadful Casio QV-10 which I still have in my collection. I moved into high end Nikon digital gear*. I loved its immediacy.

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The Generalist photographer

Post section headings


Recently I was asked to review a set of images by a photographer here in Lincoln. First of all, I should make it clear, though I was happy to oblige, this is not something I generally do because I don’t consider myself an expert. I’ve just taken a lot of pictures in my life, some of which I’ve liked and some have been liked by others. Perhaps that’s enough to give me the tools to comment? I don’t know.
What I do know, is that taking tens of thousands of pictures provides some opinion forming perspective.

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Reviewing the photographers images I could see strong similarities with my own trajectory through photography. My own labours and experiences reflected in her work. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a little and perhaps start from a different position.

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Coventry in 2007

In the latter decades of the last century we lived in Coventry, in the West Midlands of England.

Coventry is an ancient city with Roman encampments, even a Roman Legion training camp, on the outskirts. It’s famous for, amongst other things, a former inhabitant, one Lady Godiva.
Whilst we lived there, as part of our business, we became early adopters of World Wide Web technology, usage and programming. We decided to produce a website about Coventry, the city where we lived, its development and its history – and in the process we would see what we could discover about Lady Godiva.

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Mysterious structures in the woods

Despite being locked down for months, in fact, probably because of it, I have tried to get out and about in the privacy of local woodland. Yes I see people but Bess, the Labrador, and I give them plenty of room.

Over the past few months somebody enters the woods and builds structures with fallen pieces of timber. I’ve never seen the builder. It’s very mysterious.
Never finished, never covered with tarpaulin or canvas, these structures seem more about art than do about shelter – well they do to me anyhow.L1020441-EditL1020445-EditL1020305-Edit

PDBarton
2020

Urbex at Nocton Hospital

As you may be aware, in the second world war Lincolnshire was home to many airfields. So much so, a specialist RAF hospital was set up near Lincoln in the  sleepy  village of Nocton. The village had already housed a similar set up during the first world war which had taken over  the ancient Manor House and grounds.

The Hospital was expanded during WW2 so as to provide medical support for the many RAF  and USAF airmen stationed across the County.

Post war, the hospital was again expanded to provide a more general medical support for the growing number of RAF families in Lincolnshire and beyond when, amongst other changes, the maternity unit was constructed. My wife’s family were RAF and indeed my mother in law was treated there and one of my brothers in law was born there 60-odd years past.

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Soot and Distemper

In a conversation I was having with fellow photographer John Meehan over on ‘WhatsApp’ he quoted the phrase “Soot and whitewash” to describe prints using an economy of tones in mono printing.

The conversation started after I  published the image shown above of Saltley Gas Works in Birmingham taken back in the late 60’s – early 70’s. Very reduced tonal scale, very grainy and even scratched. I said it was redolent of the times.

John’s phrase came from a book called “Young Meteors” by Martin Harrison in which he discusses photographers and their styles in the years 1957-1965. The tonal compression style of McCullin, Bulmer et al is dramatic. The images jump off the page.

I wrote in my previous piece on WhatsApp how Saltley, where I was born and lived for a few years, has left a strong impression on me, reflected in this Gas Works shot.

For me *“Soot and Whitewash” has 2 meanings:

  • The first, clearly, is the graphical reduction of tones in a black and white print;
  • The second meaning reflecting more on nostalgia, age, shared outside toilets and the grinding poverty of the day.

*I’ve changed the quote slightly for the title of this piece using “Soot and Distemper” – distemper being another, more arcane word for whitewash which seems far more appropriate relating to my second interpretation of the phrase.

I realise I have carried these early impressions as a ‘preset’ in my head, as it were, for most of my photographic life. I was once described as being from “The Dustbin School” by one critic. He was not far wrong. I deserved it and probably still do.

A few years ago I discovered the work of a Japanese photographer ‘Daido Moriyama’. His work seems the antithesis of what most modern practitioners are searching for – and certainly in contradiction of the camera manufacturers obsession – particularly Fuji etc –  with razor sharp images.

Moriyama’s images are all taken on “Snapshot” cameras –  either film or digital, nearly always originated in colour but made Monochrome and are heavily printed in  (extreme) ‘Soot and Whitewash’ style. They are often blurred by movement. They are out of focus and strongly graphic – influenced no doubt by his early occupation as a graphic designer. In the main he prefers working in the city, in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo in particular, near to his home. People say about his work that sometimes it’s not possible to see what the image is as it is so abstract. Safe to say he is no Ansel Adams. But then ‘Photography’ is a broad church.

Moriyama says he prefers to see his work in books. The books themselves are unstructured. He says you can start anywhere and move anywhere in his books. That’s not to say he doesn’t have gallery shows, he does. Even these gallery shows are unusual. Once he laid out trays of his images and visitors picked whichever images appealed to them which were then bound into books in the gallery, which he duly signed.

Along with work by Brandt and McCullin, who both influenced my early work, Moriyama has now become an influence on my way of seeing – and then capturing and ‘printing’ what I see.

PDBarton July 2020

References.

Book:
Young Meteors Martin Harrison Jonathan Cape. London. ISBN 0-224-05129-6

Videos on Moriyama:
I’ll leave you to choose your own information on Moriyama. There is a lot of information on You Tube. Just search for Daido Moriyama. Personally I like his Book Shasin yo Sayonara of which he said…

“Of my many books of photographs, Bye, Bye Photography, is closest to my heart. Even now, when I flip through the pages, some thirty years after making it, the book instantly brings back vivid memories of the sixties… Could one give meaning to the meaningless act of printing a simple black and white of a frame that by accident recorded nothing? Perhaps the authority of the failed negative, with all its inherent possibility, could be restored. I imagined I could construct a book – a book of pure sensation without meaning – by shuffling into a harmonious whole a series of childish images…”
(Daido Moriyama)

 

Proverbs 21:13

This image was made underneath the arches of the 16thC Stonebow in the centre of ancient Lincoln, in the East Midlands of England.

Before Covid it became the natural  haunt of an ever-changing group of Jehovahs witnesses; capturing – or hoping to at least – the attention of the thousands who pass by on their way from downhill Lincoln, the commercial part of the city, to uphill Lincoln, where the Cathedral and Lincoln Castle stand, the tourist part of the city.
Thousands of tourists and local shoppers pass through here everyday. Once upon a long time ago, amazingly, motor buses did the same, long since stopped.

This day, a homeless man and his dog sat under the historic shelter too.

In the time I stood there, several minutes, the pious Jehovah’s Witnesses, with their scrubbed shiny faces and their clarion – and yet ironic – message of “Find Family Happiness” paid him no attention; cast him ne’er a glance; certainly they didn’t offer him or his dog any comfort.

There seemed something utterly at odds between the avowed intent of their religious dogma and their inaction.

Meanwhile, the throngs of ghostly passers by shuffled past, ignoring everybody, pious and hungry alike, in this modern day tableau for our times.

I rarely spend much time making images. I usually see the picture, make it and leave. This time I spent no short amount of time constructing this image. It was taken very slowly and purposefully. I felt it was important  I do so.

Image made, December 2019.

PDBarton
Lincoln
July 2020