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 …
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. Haruki Murakami
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.
Yesterday I had a perfect morning. Physically I felt well, ten years younger in fact. My legs didn’t ache. I didn’t drag my feet and when I had finished my walk, I could have easily done it again – that’s not generally the case.
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 …
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.
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.
Post section headings Gearism A simple fact What to take pictures of Visual awareness Darkroom printing Who is it for? Move away from Generalism It takes time Back to that review 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 …
Images from Coventry cathedral 2007