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Showing posts from 2015

Pea Soup Fog

Once a year we take the photography first year students on a residential to London for three days. It's both exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure for all concerned. The staff as they are on duty for 72 hours and responsible for a large group of teenagers, and the students as they are mostly unused to much physical exercise and have to walk miles each day, exploring and photographing the city.  Everything went well this year, great weather and light, interesting exhibitions including Alec Soth at The Media Space and happy, respectful students. As group leader I don't get much photography time so I'm largely grabbing moments as we move en masse around the streets of London, but I now see that as the challenge. Sadly there were no pea soup fogs, but I love the poetic description of pollution and the reason London became known as the Big Smoke.  Here are some London residential blog posts from previous years: Dorothy Rides the Piccadilly Line Keep Right Meyer

One Year Today

On the 19th December 2014 I started a new life. It was the end of a two decade relationship, it was the day our shared home was sold and I set out as a single person again, Olive the cat came too. Looking back I don't know how I found the strength to get through the process, it's a cliche but it did feel like my world had been turned upside down, I had no idea if I was making good or bad decisions and I felt hurt and scared. I'd lost a couple of stone in weight, was having bizarre dreams or not sleeping at all and my nerves literally felt like they were rattling. However I've got amazing family and friends who looked after me and I've discovered I'm strong. So a year later I'm feeling calm, collected and I'm healing. My new home has proved to be a sanctuary, which is exactly what my instincts told me it would be when I first visited and knew I had to live here. So if you are going through a tough time at the moment, trust yourself, make dec


Ferns are one of my favourite plant species, I can remember running my hand across them walking in woods as a child, the feel of their gentle fronds has stayed with me. They look like aliens in spring, gradually reaching out, unfurling. Then beautiful in autumn resting on each other suspended above the mulch that they will soon become part of. 


I've been cycling past this plant on the canal towpath every day on the way to work observing it blaze and flame with increased drama. I couldn't resist visiting today to make it's portrait before it settles quietly into the background for winter. 


There was no sight of this plant when I moved into my home last December. But gradually, steadily it grew to be about a foot taller than me in a season. It was grand and sculptural all summer but has now begun to droop, ready to disappear back into the soil during its dormancy. Apparently its shapes form the decorative detail on Corinthian columns, a little bit of classical Greece in a Manchester front garden.


The leaves are leaving.

On The Cusp

I've often come back to thresholds in my work, the transitional space between one place and another. It feels like we are on the cusp of change at this time of the year; plants in retreat, shorter days, longer shadows.  Ends and beginnings. 


It's always curious when you realise two separate trains of thought are actually joined up. I started the weekend thinking about how spring and autumn are like two bookends. Spring is about beginnings, colour and shape emerging from the slowly warming earth, autumn is nature going out with a bang, flaming colours falling as the earth starts to cool and the days shorten. I started experimenting creatively with ways to respond to the colours around me, in my garden, allotment and the streets that join them.  I stopped, it wasn't working. Then I bumped into a good friend that had just bought a DVD called 'Advanced Style', a film made by photographer Ari Seth Cohen and film maker Lina Plioplyte. I bought it too. It's an inspiring documentary about women in New York aged between fifty and one hundred years who don't see 'maturity' as an obstacle to looking amazing. In fact they are all avant grade in their approach to their looks, wonderful characters i

Straight Lanes and Circuits

Navigating the twists and turns, straight lanes, roundabouts and circuits. Does anyone have a life map I could borrow for a bit? I seem to have mislaid mine. 


I think about cities a lot. Substandard architecture and planning annoy me, especially when it's in my city and I have to live with it. I particularly like medium sized European cities like Antwerp, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona and Lisbon that can be walked and have great public transport. I'd say Liverpool and Manchester are almost on a par with these places now after several decades of populations returning, some thoughtful remodeling and an explosion in urban life. Both cities feel like building sites again and are obviously still expanding. A watery artery - the Manchester Ship Canal already connects us but it would be great to see cooperation and the development of some kind of megalopolis with high-speed public transport between the two. If we had the zippy trains that other countries have you could do the journey in 15 minutes. Until that happens I shall be making my regular pilgrimage down the M62. Some pictures from one of those journeys:

Numbers Are Neutral

I've been looking at Jackson Pollocks today. That's not rhyming slang, I accompanied a friend to Tate Liverpool to see Blind Spots, an exhibition of his work. It really made an impression on me, the show was the opposite of a 'greatest hits' and apart from a few familiar pieces concentrated on neglected work. We got there early and I felt a bit drowsy which was a good way to be, I was receptive, accepting the rhythm and fury of his work. It made me want to make marks, to scratch, pour, drip, scribble. My tool is a camera and I couldn't think how to respond, so I just let him stay with me all day.  I like how he talked about his work, especially this line: "I'm very representational some of the time, and a little all of the time." He stopped giving titles to his work in the later years preferring numbers instead, because as his wife said "numbers are neutral. They make people look at a picture for what it is - pure

Municipal Magnificence

I visited Harrogate this weekend. The sun was out as were the bedding plants. Strangely it felt like I'd landed in a parallel northern universe of the town I grew up in, Cheltenham. They are both spa towns with similar cultural influences, architecture and place names. Everyone kept telling us it's the happiest place in Britain and the population certainly extended warmth and hospitality during our short stay. 

Quiet Is The New Loud

Phew, the last of my seven blog entries in a week!  If you missed any you can link to them here: Wake Up, Live Dreaming of Camilla Stop Look Listen Vincent Torn Loud


Some shouty street shots.


I was struggling with words this morning so I went for a walk. Whilst out I realised that for most of us, most of the time the world is quite ordinary. Photography is however able to provide a tear in reality, revealing other readings of our surroundings and briefly exposing us to new layers of our world. Photography can do this as it apparently records 'reality' as opposed to a medium like painting which we know is an interpretation. So for me photographs are most interesting when they ask a question of the viewer, provoke confusion or manage to render the mundane afresh. 


One of the surprise consequences of spending time in Arles with Mike, my travelling companion, was that I was forced to think more about how I interpret the world visually. He is what's commonly referred to as colour blind and so sees things differently to most people. Being British we happily walked around in the scorching midday sun when colours are rich and saturated, Mike would sometimes ask me to describe how I saw a colour. In return he would explain what he saw. I think I'm observant but these conversations challenged me to look with fresh eyes and find new words to articulate shades or meeting points between hues. It is impossible to walk far in Arles without seeing reference to Vincent Van Gogh who spent a couple of years in the city at the pinnacle of his creativity. Colour is obviously central to his painting and interestingly there have been studies in recent years that suggest Van Gogh had colour blindness or Colour Vision Deficiency. So he was potentially painting

Stop, Look, Listen

Pause for thought, it's Tuesday.

Dreaming of Camilla

A couple of nights ago I was chatting with Camilla Parker Bowles in a dream. She seems really nice and looks much younger than she does on the telly. The next night I dreamt I was pulling live insects out of a crack in my skin, that wasn't so pleasant. I mention this as I've been pondering the human experience and the way our realities are multi-layered, we are able to think about the past, the present and the future and generally not get confused. We move seamlessly between fact and fiction whilst enjoying books, films and games, we experience art and music on both a sensual and an intellectual level.  The American photographer Rebecca Norris Web says "My Images are much wiser than I am. It often takes me months and sometimes years to understand what they are trying to say to me." When things go well  for me  taking pictures becomes almost meditative, completely instinctive and intuitive with barely no conscious decisions. It is only later when I look back at the

Wake up, Live

This blog has suffered over the last 12 months from life events getting in the way of my creativity. However I feel I might be back on track after an inspirational jolt in the form of a trip to Arles, France. It might sound like something of a busman's holiday (I love that phrase, puts me in mind of 1960's Ealing films for some reason) as it was all about looking at photography exhibitions, taking pictures and talking about photography with my good friend and travelling companion Mike. It was a holiday but on reflection it was also pretty intense in that we saw all of the exhibitions in Les Rencontres d'Arles except one, and went off taking photographs between shows. We were looking, thinking, digesting the work of others, then going off exploring the city and making our own pictures. I like that your brain becomes a melting pot in this situation, stirring together a range of influences. There is the general hum in our own heads, the things that we th