Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Photo Opportunist

I read another article recently bemoaning that people were taking so many photos of their lives on their mobiles that they were missing out on the 'real experiences', and even less likely to remember them afterwards.

Maybe we are not missing out on a real "experience", if there is such a thing. Perhaps we can also discover an "experience" or even an "existence" through taking photos. The Japanese photographer Gentaro Ishizuka puts it like this in the notes to one of his books, 'Lensman':" In this world of unstoppable time, where no one can grasp anything in its entirety, it may be entirely possible that the reality of these things captured by the camera in pictures, could, in fact, trump one's own reality".

I like Ishizuka's metaphysical approach to photography because it is visually very much grounded in the sober and everyday. He seems, like me, to be a photo opportunist, at least for this project: "My next theme will be things that simply catch my eye when going out for no particular reason, or just everyday things".

He is also conscious of the fact that no matter where he is, he experiences a kind of "déjà vu" with his pictures. "Finally, after this remote journey following the Pipeline (in the Arctic) to its most distant point, I had once again found that scrap factory on Harumi Pier". He goes on: "...perhaps all these things were simply images pulled from one's own consciousness".

From the book "Lensman" by Gentaro Ishizuka

Fascinated by junk that he had discovered in a disused factory there many years before, Ishizuka adds,"Bathed in the faint light seeping through the walls, these discarded radios, television, and other miscellany took on new meaning with a multitude of shapes, shadows and substance. And in that place without a soul, taking pictures in deep meditation, there was oneself". 

And I would add, that as much as there is "oneself" in such places, there is also the "not oneself". The void, the blindspot of the self. This in turn may lend even the most empty of places a soul. Even if we can't see the blindspot, we can try and depict it, experience it. As in Ishizuka's photograph above, we can't see our own backs but it is still an interesting view. 

This piece was inspired by the artist book meet-up in Edinburgh that takes place once a month. 

(The pictures were taken at Fountainbridge in Edinburgh on the site of a former brewery. The Grove is a community garden project also at Fountainbridge. At "The Forge" people can learn carpentry and welding skills in workshops held in shipping containers. The new Boroughmuir High School is also being built there.) Here are some pictures of the same site from two years ago.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Seismic Lewisham: A work in progress

I was born in Lewisham. As long as I can remember, the centre of Lewisham in South East London has always been rather a work in progress, dominated as it is by a massive roundabout, the high road flanked by an enormous police station (the biggest in Europe!) and an ageing shopping centre. With the link of the DLR to Canary Wharf and Bank there has been a lot of building work here in the last five years in the centre. With so much development in London recently it would be interesting to imagine that the original characters of districts to be seismic rather than down to the economic whims of the day. If it were seismic then the character and history beneath it would always bubble through and burst the attempts to lay order upon it, whatever facade was slapped upon it or soul ripped out of it by a property developer. Covent Garden and Soho, for example, would remain  'louche', erupting periodically to reset itself despite attempts to tame it. Lewisham's seismic nature would always be that of a 'work in process'. It would always teeter towards ugliness but there would always be the underlying hope for the beautiful Lewisham of tomorrow.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

A tree has been chopped down

Ex Aboretum

A whitewashed kiss
 not of affection
but a polite request
for an imminent X it

Coded in the language of trust
Sign, sealed and delivered
in a way that is touching
but at the same time blunt 

Now an X isle
in a sea of cheap hoardings
and highly strung scaffolding
left with an exit, but no bow

I met Stephen, a windsurfer, when he asked me why I was photographing the x tree, which I explained was for my blog. "Are you going to say that a tree has been chopped down?" he said.  "Well, yes." I replied.

A tree has been chopped down. First the tree was truncated, but its branches had still reached nearly the height of the new development, which Stephen and I guessed had signalled its demise. We do not know though. In fact, the former height of x tree is now rather vague in my head, as is the shape its foreshortened limbs made against the sky. This new 'uglier' version of the tree replaced the original in my mind and quickly became as present and attractive as the original. In fact I became more attached to it and its fate after taking a photo of it.  On my daily journey through the meadows I acknowledged its presence without really realising. I suspected its days were numbered, but there it was every day, still standing. Then it was cut down. "It could make a rather nice table top for someone", remarked Stephen, who was  conscious of the fact that he would not live long enough to see a new tree grow to take its place. How long would that take, maybe 60 years? We did not know. He instinctively placed his foot on the tree. In some cultures pointing feet at something is insulting, or in our culture it could be seen as some gesture of conquest. But Stephen, I think, was feeling through his feet, just as he might gauge the current on his board. "It could be a sycamore, he said. Look it up" he said. "but then it would ask you the shape of its leaves,"he added wryly.  

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Grammar of Leaving

When you leave, I'll still be there
Left of centre, right of care,
where leaves are growing underfoot
Just one leaf taken from my book

A has-been, left in the ground
The surface scratched and without sound
But there is room still left to grow
through the bricks and mortar of tomorrow.

But perhaps you don't know the grammar of leaving?
Because it is so:

I leave
I have left
I have been left
I will be leaving
I am going to leave
I would have left
I will leave
I left

Sunday, 10 January 2016


Oh Cyclesuperhighway3.
Deliver us by bike (once we have crossed the foot tunnel to the Isle of Dogs)
into the cold heart of the City, 
from Greenwich, via Tower Gateway
past cranes, housing estates, murals, skyscrapers, wharfs
ungated communities, Spindrifts and big spenders

Let us ride your cold blue artery
over the quiet of a New Year's Day
Forests of Boris' bikes, where scaffolding holds up real trees
No one needs the countryside
where an erased corporate identity
forms a landscape in black, white and silver behind glass.

(A good tip for Boris' Bikes. The hire is 2 pounds for 24 hours, and the first 30 mins free. If you swap the bike at another station within half an hour you can hire another and ride the next half hour free, and so on. Otherwise it is 2 pounds for each further 30 mins. )

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Lomo Lyrical

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin

This photo is made from 2 Lomo pics taken in Berlin, cut into strips and woven together. I think at the time (5 years ago) when I made it, I had an urge to do something hands-on with photography. It was also a way of recycling some old photos. I found it oddly appealing that the weaving technique looked like a reject filter on photoshop. I could imagine this filter consigned to the trash with the developers saying, 'why would you want to weave a photograph for Christ's sake? Get real.'

I also used a kind of weaving technique to brainstorm some lyrics for a friend's new song. For the verses and chorus I dipped into different books at hand, taking words out of their context and mixing them up with ideas of my own. In the first verse I looked at a book of poems, the second a catalogue of an architect, the third a story for children, and the fourth a book by an art curator. Not sure if the ideas work for my friend's purpose, but maybe he can change it into his own version, or alternatively, put it into the trash.


Lend me a piece of you
Astronaut food, cellophane wrap
galloping through fatal skies
swimming in constellations

Nearing the sky, walls dissolve
Moments before light and stone
Most Tokyo-like, our empty room
Children are in command

Was it your eyes that lied?
Versed in monsters and mistakes
In harmony with the wind
Reeling my dreams further in.


I'm reading, writing, endless snow scenes
I'm reading, writing, endless snow scenes
You're casting, shooting, static objects
You're casting, shooting, static objects

Construction site near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin

These reverse of the cut up lomo photographs.