I have taken pictures from an early age and subsequently, I’ve been producing ‘work’ for over 50 years. I have no formal education in Photography. I am entirely self taught.
So it comes as no surprise I only recently heard the term “New Topographics” applied to a style of images.
First coined by William Jenkins in 1975 when he was describing a group of photographers such as Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz and Bernd and Hilla Becher. At the time each of whom adopted a similar banal aesthetic in their formal black and white prints of the urban landscape.
For them and their ilk, car parks, suburban housing, pit-head winding gear, water towers etc were depicted in high quality, stark beauty – as the TATE says on their web site “almost in the way early photographers documented the natural landscape” – hence, I suppose, the term was coined from seeing a new topography directly opposing the picturesque images from the past.
Bernd and Hilla Becher were lecturers at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf. There they influenced a number of students who actively embraced the “New Objectivity” as practised by the Becher’s, forming their own modified style of their tutors called the “Dusseldorf School of Photography”.
Despite my ignorance of the term, the style somehow must have sunk in. Even from my early years with a camera; gas holders, the urban landscape and dereliction attracted me. I was once accused of being a member of the “Dustbin school” of photography. (There was no such school. It was just an insult).
Coincidentally, a few years back we were in Mumbai where, at the time, there was a travelling exhibition of works by the Becher’s. I knew nothing about their work; it mattered not, gas holders and water towers did it for me. Loved it.
A few years ago I came across a very slim, ornate volume at a car boot sale. Recently, whilst tidying up for a room decoration, I came across it again. It’s entitled “Rocks Royal Birmingham Cabinet Album” and glorious little piece of Victoriana it is too.
Taken recently in Lincoln, for me at least, this image seems to hold much of what 2020 has become.
Boredom and the ennui generated by that. And yet so much has changed and is still yet to change. We are engulfed by a curious storm. One which is invisible to us and yet surrounds us.
Let’s hope we become free of its stultifying effects soon. Life cannot continue to be ‘on hold’. It just can’t.
Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.
This morning when I woke, I was thinking about pictures – this is not unusual for me. I think about images a lot – and this morning I thought about what makes a good picture. I take pictures – not so many under Covid restrictions because I work mainly on the street – but how do I know it’s a good picture? Firstly, I suppose, you have to define what constitutes a “good picture”, and as we are all different, then what makes a good picture to one does not to another; yes, it’s personal, as they say. There is no simple answer.
Recently, I asked on Twitter who amongst my ‘followers’ sold their pictures on line and if they did would they mind sharing their experiences; the reason being I wish to sell some of my own pictures on line and I thought I could benefit from the experience of those who had gone before, as it were. I had some interesting comments and help.
Like many others I guess, I edit pictures whilst listening to music. I always have done, ever since my darkroom days. I even write whilst listening to music – though there cannot be any vocals, too distracting.
Often the music dictates what I edit and indeed the way I might edit it. And, of course, some pictures just call for a specific genre or mood of music.
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.