Took a few pictures down at Upfest on Sunday (Europe’s biggest street art festival). It’s generally quieter than the Saturday, which I prefer because it means more opportunities for less crowded shots.
I’m not a huge street art fan necessarily, but I always pay a visit to this event, as the artwork seems to help create lively and interesting photos. That goes for graffiti, in general, and it’s something I often try to incorporate when I’m out taking pictures.
Down by the river, beneath the motorway is a place where the sun burrows deep. Concrete pillars are its pen, and the banks the paper, on which the light draws ever-shifting shadows.
Every so often, I venture down there, and try to capture what’s been sketched on the walls. Its particularly interesting visiting at different times of the day, with mornings casting a bright white light across the Easton side, while sundown brings a warm, yellow glow that dies out over the western end of the river.
There’s not many places like it, especially in an age where any unkempt space is quickly pounced upon by rabid developers. Closed in by the motorway in an area still overlooked by estate agents means it continues to exist for now; an obscure and gritty canvas for graffiti artists and sunlight, alike.
In the forecourt of a long abandoned house in the neighbourhood of Montpelier lie six Citroen Safari wagons. They’ve been there since as long as I can remember and each year the undergrowth takes them a little further into its grasp. I often wonder how they came to be there; was the owner an avid collector of the model? Did he used to drive them? Perhaps they had some sentimental value that was known only to the person who accumulated them.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever know and I think I prefer it that way, their story as mysterious as the boarded up house that looms behind them.
In March, I headed down to Putsborough in North Devon for a short holiday. On the way there, we took a wrong turn and ended up driving through Braunton Marsh, an area of ancient farmland close to the sea.
I was immediately struck by the tranquility of the area, particularly at sundown. There was hardly another soul around and the long empty roads and bleak landscape felt like we had stepped out of the world for a while.
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I was recently given a series of books on photography published by Time-Life in the 1970’s. They feature work from some pioneering photographers who were pushing the boundaries of their practice at the time. One of them was Ernst Haas.
As soon as I came across his pictures I felt I had found a photographer with whom I shared similar eye. Shadows, shapes and reflections all feature heavily in his work and his desire to ‘create’ rather than ‘take’ a picture is a notion I can really relate to. In an interview he stated that photography “grew out of the compromise of a boy who desired to combine two goals—explorer or painter.” This certainly shows in the images that he created.
When you find familiarity in another’s work, it can be greatly reassuring to know that there is another who shared your artistic point of view. Without this reference, it’s easy to doubt if what you’re trying to capture is relevant or interesting. While everyone else seems to be following a particular trend or theme, you can start to wonder if perhaps you’re missing the point.
He took photos of many subjects over his career, but its his work on New York that really stands out for me. I’ve been steadily building a collection of my own abstract images centered on the urban landscape over the years. I’m hoping to put together a series one day although I’m not sure yet what format it would take. For now, here’s one that I took on a recent visit to Newcastle that I feel reflects my interest in his work.
The bridge rose up, lifting me above the crowds that swarmed out of the train station and across from the bus terminal. That was when it hit me. Never before had I set eyes on a river that was so full of life.
Across emerald water, boats jostled for space, bumping past each other as they delivered groceries, goods and tourists to the quayside. Narrow pavements lined the sides where cafes spilled out to the water’s edge and the sound of chatter and tinkering cups echoed off rows of crumbling facades.
I crossed the remainder of the bridge and was instantly plunged into a labyrinth, formed by blocks of flats stacked impossibly close to one another. It was from here that the rest of my encounters with Venice panned out.
Amongst meetings with myriad rivers and fairytale squares, was a chance visit to Il Canovaccio and the beginning of a love affair with the city’s most famous export; the mask. My boat trip to the islands also stands out, where centuries of glass-making tradition survive and a Lego-like town decorated in rainbow colours seemed to belong to nowhere, except its own microcosm.
Not bad for three days, but the twinkling studs and knowing smile of the mask that now hangs on my wall tells me I only scratched the surface.