Friday, September 28, 2012

(S)Praying To The Aliens

Mornin' playmates.
Well another weekend nearer to death is what I say.
We have had terrible problems with a great misunderstanding this week.
Mog (strangely) took umbrage with Mr.Sheephouse about his mention of spraying.
Now Mog was 'done' many years ago and he's a couthie cat, but he does take the hump about nothing, and this week he has done so quite bizarrely.
Yowls and tantrums is all it has been; wet whiskers; runny noses; yowling; growling; tail swishing - you name it, it has happened.
I can't be doin' with it.
It's no way to run a ship.
So when I threatened the both of them with a good old fashioned keel-hauling, and quarter rations for a month they stopped and made up.
Mog is now sitting on Mr.Sheephouse's lap and he is showing Mog some photographs of some very dull places.
Peace reigns.
All is good with the world.
But watch out for spraying anyway.
You've not lived till you've had a Circus Tiger spray out of his bars at you.
It takes at the very least a month of Sundays and scrubbin' with carbolic to get the pong out.


***


Sorry for the rather obvious Tubeway Army title for the weeks FB.
I remember being at school when Replicas came out - what an album and it still hasn't dated.
My friend Alan Currie bore more than a passing resemblance to Numan, and to say he was beseiged by the girls at Lockerbie would be an understatement . . . anyway . . .

Wot's This?
Pre-Blog Digression?
In a public arena??
A'll 'ave you arrested for loitering with intent to amuse . . .

Anyway, this week I think we are going to go all practical and try something that might seem like an anathema to some of you .  . though not all . . of course I am probably preaching to the converted, but you never know.
And I've been meaning to mention, if you've been referred from the Scottish Photographers site, welcome! We're Scottish and we're photographers - we need to stick together!
Anyway, you'll maybe know what I am going to be talking about here, because it is time to don the hair shirt and start whipping yourself with that thorny briar you'd been saving for just such a moment.
Forget normal Saturday morning routine.
Drop the bacon sarnie, in fact, chuck it in the bin, because it is for softies, and you have to prove you are hard . . . damn hard.
Today (no slouching at the back) could be a momentous Saturday for you.
If you had a mind to make some photographs today then that is great; what I am going to suggest might seem a bit severe, however keep going and you'll see that actually it isn't as severe as it seems , and it might actually be of benefit.
Now firstly, I am going to make one simple assumption about anyone photographically-minded reading this - you are probably not using film . . .

A little aside along a quiet country lane, where men looked dapper, ladies wore tweed skirts and the world seemed like a sunnier place.

As much as it saddens me to say it, film use seems to be dying on its feet.
Personally I feel myself being driven ever-deeper into a corner from which there is no way out except to get a bloody digital camera, and to be honest I don't want one. But that's just me. I don't know, there is something that just feels right about loading a roll of film into a camera and doing your stuff and processing your film. I definitely do not get it from looking at a screen, whether on the camera or at home. It just doesn't feel right. Am I mad? It seems to be perfectly fine for most of the rest of the world. I do question myself sometimes and often come to the conclusion that when the whole world seems to be heading in one direction, I turn right around and head in the opposite one. 
Curmudgeonly?  
Possibly. 
Definitely an innate sense of wanting to be my own man though. 
I find myself these days thinking back to the (almost) pre-SLR days of the 1950's and thinking how marvellous it would have been when all you had to worry about was whether you chose a slow film or a fast film, and whether your own mix of Stoeckler's Developer was still alright. 
As basic as that. 
And a nice place to be.




Anyway, this is more digression, so let's FFD to the sickly dayglo glare of modern times. 




If you are a digital user - welcome. I have no problem with that at all. I suppose image making is image making no matter what the medium.
What I am going to propose today can be easily done and achieved by anyone, with any sort of camera.
And unless you were the sort of person who always played the Banker in Monopoly and knocked your opponents hotels to the ground and whilst they were scrabbling around for them, helped themselves to hundreds of pounds from the Bank . . . hmmm . . . yes . . been there done that . . . (sorry Steve!) then you might find yourself being able to hold to this, because today we are going to be looking at something which whilst highly unpopular, will sort the men from the boys, the chimps from the apes, the dogs from the puppies . . . oh yes, ouch, ouch, oo-ya, ouch . . it's, ouch . . . 

Discipline


***


Whilst being an altogether top-notch album written by Mr. Robert Fripp and his jolly bunch of gnomes, Discipline photographically is something that you have to adhere to . . . well, at least for today it is. And if you are willing to be a lab-rat for a day, I can promise that there's a rather nice piece of Emmental at the end of this maze.
It might seem to be a very obvious to want to make one photograph count, but as far as I can see, these days the world has gone as far away from photographic Discipline as it possibly could.
It is now the case that, because people aren't having to pay on a frame by frame basis for processing, they have been given the keys to the sweety shop and are no longer photographing (rendering a moment in time as a single image) but merely spraying.
By taking as many frames as they can in a small space of time (because the technology will allow it) and picking and choosing from the end result they are firmly based in the photographic school of the elimination of all doubt . . . to wit:

I spray, therefore I have a good image.
The camera knows best and I will point it in that direction and it will help me.


For example, having heard tales from a number of sources in very recent times, it is not uncommon these days for the amateur wedding photographer (and professional too for that matter) to come away at the end of the day with anything between 700 and over 1000 images!
Now if they can't see that something IS NOT RIGHT about this state of affairs then they really shouldn't be holding a camera.
Up the frame rate and you have film making, not photography - do you see what I mean? Buy a video camera, don't pretend to make photographs, because all you are doing is spraying and hoping you'll get a defining image and then picking the best one from your gander bag of sliced-up time.
Personally I find it a simple thing to imagine that this state of affairs has occurred due to an extreme lack of (here it comes again): Discipline.
Technology has given photographers the ability to make as many pictures as they like and as such the normal human qualities such as thought and trust in one's own abilities have been thrown out along with the baby and the bath water.


***


Humans are resourceful and talented, quick-witted and lightning-reactioned, so how come so many people are so distrustful of their own abilities that they decide to spray and pick?
Such activities do not a photographer make.
And doing that, I don't even think you can pass muster as a happy snapper either.
You (not you . . him over there!) have become a lumbering leviathan who spends more time editing down this giant pile of STUFF into something that looks passable than you did at the actual even itself!
More time seems to be spent on photoshopping than is spent on learning the craft skills and the compositional nuances that could make you and your compositions a thing of lightness and air rather than a twin-tub washing machine filled with concrete and pig-iron and forever never destined to fly!
Gosh it's sad isn't it.
Such actions must be based on insecurity - does that make sense to any of you?
The roots of this mad behaviour rest firmly with the large camera companies and the press photographers of the late '70's (yes I know it was developed a long time before that, but that is when it really came to the fore) who demanded mechanisms that could pass vast amounts of film through their cameras very quickly, hence the motor drive and (ugh, I can barely type it) f.p.s. (frames per second).
Machine gun cameras captured every nuance, and that attitude is still there today, mowing down endless advancing ranks of subject matter.
Millions and millions of rolls of film.
Millions and millions of pixels.
When one photograph could say it all.
I hate to harp back to Mr.Cartier-Bresson, but God love us, could that man say more with one photograph than any of the industrial-strength press photographers (of course there were exceptions . . I do realise that). And how did he manage it?
Discipline.
And a canny eye.
An ability to read a situation, and the en-erring ability to predict a moment in time and make sure he was right there. But the key of these was Discipline.
See how I started that with a Capital letter and in bold and green and in a  different typeface?
I did so for the simple reason that it is something that you have to learn.
This is important stuff.
Simple as that.


***


For today's excercise, I am going to ask you to imagine something - it might seem hard but it isn't. Users of Medium Format Cameras are used to this, so get with it and stop whining.
You are going to imagine your camera can only expose 12 photographs.
If you have a film camera and a 36 exposure film, that means you have 3 films. For today's exercise I am going to ask you to imagine you can only use 12 frames or the equivalent of 1 roll of Medium Format film. The same if you have a 24 exposure film . .that is 2 films, and you can only use one today.
So effectively you've got 2 or 3 concentrated picture making sessions at different points of time . . remember it is just one session today.
Yes there will be a delay in getting your film processed, but that is half the fun.
If you are a digital user, you could expose millions of pictures, however please, for the sake of this article, be true to its spirit and just expose 12 . .
There - I really appreciate that.
Oh, and  NO CHEATING .
This is the hard bit.
You can't go back and check your screen, until you have made 12 exposures, just as the film users can't go and get their film processed mid-roll.
It's fun, so don't worry. No body will get hurt. Your camera will be able to sustain a bit of menu relief, and you might possibly find it of some benefit.
Now for all concerned I am going to get you to ask yourself a very important question every time you think you might be about to take a photograph.
Even if you are using a medium format camera and so only have 12 or even 10 frames anyway, this is still a pertinent question:

Is this the world's most boring photograph?

Be honest with yourself and your eyes and your heart. If you can answer Yes, then it might well ensure that you turn away from that really dull landscape, or that picture of some vegetable vendor handing over a bag of veg at a market! I have been there and made many many photographs of such stuff and Lordy are they DULL!
My other tip for this is that rather than standing well back and making a photograph, try and get in close. This is especially important with Street Photography, where being in the thick of things works, but random snaps of stuff going on in a street often doesn't.
Think of all the inspirational photographs made on the streets of the world you have looked at. I would say the majority of them were taken at close quarters, because a photograph generally has to have a subject . . even if that subject seems inane.
So get in close.
Fill the frame.
Depending on the lens you are using you might well find setting a hyperfocal distance useful, and certainly if you are using a slower Black and White film just average out a shutter speed of about 1/60th of a second with an aperture of either f8 or f5.6. You'll find the films natural latitude copes very well with any exposure mistakes - honestly . . the older I get the more latitude (the films ability to cope with varying lighting situations) amazes me.
Now get out there and make some photographs, but remember you can only take 12, so anticipation is the key.
It takes guts, and it takes Discipline to control your shutter finger, but it will pay off.
Good luck and don't annoy anyone
Landscapes are a little different.
Your subject is generally far away, so in order to avoid the it's-over-there-I'm-over-here style of landscape photograph (which unless handled by a Master, can be painfully dull) try isolating a nearer object and using that as a focal point within your landscape. It is OK to make a photograph of a tree, so long as it is an interesting tree!
Wander around with your eye on the viewfinder (but watch out for those rocks . . and that p

r

e


c


i



p



i


c


e



)



.
Ouch!
Quite often a composition will jump out at you. 
I would also ask that if it were possible, you over-ride any auto settings on your camera and deliberately underexpose parts of your landscape. This can lead to large areas of darkness within the photograph, but I personally feel that landscapes are quite often improved by such things.**
Landcapes obviously benefit beautifully from atmosphere too, so try and avoid a mid-day scene and get out early in the day or last thing, or even if there is inclement weather. In landscapes, it can also be a useful excercise to make a number of compositions of your subject . . oh and don't forget the old 180 degree turn. I've quite often found that strangely turning around can elicit a better photograph than the one I was photographing in the first place.
Anyway, this is digressing. I am not a guru, I just want to pass on some stuff I have personally found useful.
12 exposures is limiting, but you know what, I have often been out in the mountains with my Rollei and come home with less, simply because I have been concerned about what I was making a picture of. So it isn't really as bad as it seems.
Anyway, hopefully you will be able to get out and do some concentrated photography, and when you come back you can look at what you have, or if you are using film you can wait a bit, forget what you took pictures of, do it another twice, get the film processed and have a lovely surprise (or not).
At the end of the day, the one photograph that makes you go YES! is the one that counts. The whole point of this page is that if practicing this simple thing can help you to concentrate more and learn how to Discipline yourself so that the urge to snap away at everything is replaced with a more considered view, then personally I think a better picture maker you will become.
It is a simple practice and as such requires practice.
And it is hard.
And frustrating.
But ultimately rewarding.
Just remember to keep asking yourself:

Is this the world's most boring photograph?

If you can answer yes, then turn away and try and find something different.



***


These are examples of two photographs of virtually the same subject matter. They are a style of photograph I enjoy taking and often are records of our ever-disappearing urban environment, but boy are they DULL.





world's dullest photograph
Peep O'Day Lane, Sunrise
These toilets were a relic of a by-gone age in Dundee.
They were demolished about a year ago




The first whilst of interest probably only to me, is very dull indeed, and could well hold the record for being the world's dullest photograph
It shows no Discipline and was a random snap whilst out walking.




Stairs 3
Whilst appearing to be in a correctional institution,
these are actually nothing more than a staircase at
the Olympia Leisure Centre in Dundee
at Sunrise


The second I prefer because it has atmosphere and because it can set your imagination going. 
Has anyone just passed down these stairs? 
Where do they lead? 
Why are there bars on the window? 
It was a more considered photograph, and what I saw and imagined as a print, actually came to fruition.
Anyway, enough of my rambling. please give this a go. 
Trying to be a  Disciplined photographer is a very good way to be. 
Hopefully you'll get to the stage where you don't need to keep spraying all the time
Please remember, it's a terribly bad habit and often results in neutering.
God bless, stay dry and as usual thanks for reading.



Technical morass ahead:

** Obviously extreme underexposure can lead to lots of problems too, so unless you have a bit of experience and can predict what your film/sensor will register, I would point your meter at a shadow area and underexpose that by 1 stop. That means that if the exposure reads say 1/60th of a second at f8, you could either use 1/125th of a second at f8 or 1/60th of a second at f11. In other words (to be basic) set your shutter speed 1 speed faster, or set your lens aperture one number higher.
If you haven't been able to turn your meter off, then use the AE lock on your camera - point that little square (or whatever the metering area of your camera is) in your viewfinder at an area that is just slightly lighter than a mid-tone in your viewfinder. You can often do a basic tone scan by half-closing your viewing eye. This breaks a scene down into blurry shapes, but that helps you concentrate on which bit is lighter, which bit is darker, which bit is just right . . 
Make like Baby Bear in Goldilocks bambino
What we want is just slightly lighter than 'just right'. Partially depress your shutter button to lock the meter and then, still holding it down, recompose your picture and make the photograph. This makes the camera adopt the settings like it was making that slightly lighter patch the average for the whole scene. Amazing as it seems, all camera meters, even sophisticated ones, come from the premise that you want to expose the scene for an average reading. In black and white photography this means a mid-grey tone! So if you want mid-grey everywhere, then just use your average meter reading. Colour photography is different, but generally colour print film has a pretty decent latitude (after all it was originally designed for holiday snaps); colour transparency film is a little more finicky.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I Walk The Line

Happy Saturday m'hearties!
Yes, that day is upon us again when all kind o'folk throw caution to the wind and sally forth on some bold new adventure.
Oh yus, many's the Saturday when I have decided to throw caution to the wind as well and chance a plate of hough from the Galley. It's a funny dish, all flavour and stringy meat, but when it is properly made it does one a power o'good.
When I was a nipper we used to dream of food like this, and now as man of my own helm I can indulge meself whenever I like, but it wouldn't do to overdo it, so we only has it every now and then.
Such is the sea of plenty we swim in these days, every sensory enrichment can be easily overloaded. Sometimes ye need a break from the world of epicurian delights, and just get back to some basic old honest cookin'.
Even our erstwhile gentlemen photographer Mr.Sheephouse has been seen relaxin' with his feet up on a chair this week, camera nowhere to be seen.
When I asked him about he said:

"It's no use having all the jewels of the world but no crown to set them in."

Cryptic, I know.
A prophet is ne'er praised in his own country. 
I worry about him.
Anyway, he also said:

"Pleasure is a great thing, but best in smaller bites."

To which I thought the best thing to do was counter with a quote from the famous Mr.van Beethoven:

For sunshine in Autumn
Tho' passing too soon
Is sweeter and dearer
Than sunshine in June.

That made him smile.
In fact we both smiled.
One day I'll sing it to ye.
Mog does a very good job of it on the old pianner.
We likes a bit of Beethoven 'round here of an evenin'.



***



It's (well to me it is) interesting and unusual what a key thing can have on your development if it catches you at an early enough age. I'm not going to go all now tell me about your childhood on you - I'll leave that to the professionals, though I do often wonder about them as well - who polices the police as it were. There's an awful amount of importance placed upon these people where maybe, before a small thing became a problem, a chance for a sit down with a cup of tea and a sympathetic ear might have been just the thing. But then, not everyone is fortunate enough to know a pair of sympathetic ears. It must be hard.
Anyway, as usual I digress.
I've long known that my sense of humour has been heavily influenced by heavy exposure to Ramblin;' Syd Rumpo from the age of about 8 onwards. Yeah you thought I was going to write about very early childhood stuff didn't you. No, of course not, but I can recall the funniest joke I ever heard when I was small (probably first year in Junior School, and which, I realised very quickly, if I repeated it verbatim, and with the correct pauses, I could render people of my age in fits of laughter.
Now that is a very big build-up for a very small joke.
I hope you are sitting down for this one:


What time is it when an elephant sits on your fence?










Time to get a new one.


Oh yes, as basic as they come, but it made me realise quite quickly that I could use such collections of words and timing to make people laugh, and if you can make people laugh, generally they'll like you.
Don't get me wrong, I wasn't in need of people liking me, I could make friends easily when I was young, but laughter was a good defence mechanism, and attack (in this case a soft attack) was always the best form of defence.
Unfortunately for me, little was my developing humour prepared for the full-on attack of a certain Mr.*** and a certain Mrs.*** who at that time taught at *** Junior School in Northolt. We're talking mid to late 60's here.
I will not speak ill of the dead as no doubt they are now, but suffice to say that their approach to educating very small bods was nothing short of animalistic.
I was once forced to stand on a table by Mr.*** as he exhorted the class to " . . . look at fatty. Isn't he fat!" which of course resulted in extreme embarassment for me and howls of laughter from the rest of the class. OK, I was a miniature porker, but all the same . . . . 
Hmmm.
Not the sort of laughs I was looking for.
Mrs.*** was the loudest, most violent person I had ever met in my early life and she could easily render a class in a state of terror. She was an imposing woman and very fond of the 'Cork In A Storm'.






Mr.Searle and Mr.Willans have got the proportions just about right. I couldn't believe it the first time I saw that in 'Down With Skool' - it was so real.
But again, I digress, suffice to say that I have no doubt now that their actions managed to render a small (well big) lad who liked laughter and fun and entertaining, into someone who was (for a huge amount of time) a tad reticent about getting up in front of people; and (strange to think of it) at times painfully shy.
Little do these people entrusted with the education of small but quickly-developing minds, realise the power their influence has.
Sad to say they cast a long shadow over a large proportion of my friends too, with fear and incontinence rearing their ugly heads. Just horrendous. These days they would be prosecuted, but they weren't, and indeed finding the tiny amounts of quotes about *** out there, these two have attained semi-legendary status, so it isn't just me putting arms and legs on things.
Fortunately for me though my time at *** was saved by two superb teachers:
Miss Gledhill, who was American and introduced us to the power of 'Charlotte's Web' and Dr.Seuss, and Mr.Walsh, from Raratonga in the Cook islands - he was a man raised on fable and deeply powerful folklore and could tell a tale like no one I have ever met.
I would love to meet both of them again. They held the flags high for inspired and inspiring teaching.
Digression being the order of the day, I have moved away (again) so it's back to me being shy. Time is a wonderful thing - those early bad experiences eventually got mashed to a pulp and nowadays I'll talk to anyone which maybe belies the whole Nature/Nurture argument. My Mother was a very gregarious person. My Brother and Sister are. The genes will out . . ergo . . . me too!
So eventually I get around to my original point (or maybe I have still been talking about it, but in an off-road way): early influences.
When I was very young, my brother and I used to share a room - he was 16 years older than me so it made for an interesting time: many's the night I was lulled to sleep by his Hacker radio playing endless symphonies being broadcast on Radio 3. He also had a modicum of the detritus from his early years and I don't know where he got them from, but he had a small collection of very strange and fascinating books. He had an incredible magic book, which I absolutely loved. It fascinated me, because it contained a superb illustration of a rabbit pulling a man out of a hat! Oh how I wish I knew what it was called now, however it went to the St.Richards bring-and-buy when my parents were having clear-out.
I tried to buy it back at the bring-and-buy . . . but too late.
He had all sorts of things - loads of train identification books and EPs too as well as a train ticket to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch which as you can imagine is the longest train ticket ever printed!
However my absolute favourite of his strange books was by Roger Price and it was called 'Droodles'.
The book was from the mid-1950's and had been heavily read by my brother, but in my hands it became a companion. I remember taking it to Barantyne and showing it to the other kids, and I don't think they really got it. (I also took volumes of a 1950's Encyclopedia in my duffel bag too . . I was always interested in the interesting!)
Droodles were simple drawings, syndicated to papers across the United States during the early 1950's, and in the book 'Droodles' collected under one lovely paper roof.
They were always a square and made up of a few simple lines or shapes or squiggles with a snappy caption which made you go: Oh YEAH!
Now you'll have to excuse me as there are precious little in the way of good images of the originals online for me to use, so I have had to knock up the following with Irfanview . . it's a tad jaggy and misshapen, but you'll get the idea:



Man Playing Trombone In A Lift

Midget Playing Trombone In A Lift

Deceased Trombone Player



Do you not think it is incredible that such a simple collection of lines can resonate so clearly and make you laugh out loud.
You see that was the beauty of Droodles. They set things in motion in your mind. You made connections based on very little information at all and you had fun doing it. They were (in my opinion) the perfect embodiment of visual education.
If you've ever browsed a record shop, you may well have encountered probably the most famous Droodle:






Yep, it's an album from the man with the impossibly plastic looking moustache, Mr. Frank Zappa. I never liked his music, however I did  admire his taste in choosing one of Mr.Price's simple epics. It's just a shame they had to put his name above it. It would have better suited his ethos if it had been un-named.





See what I mean. There's a bit of a Z there, there's a bit of an A there. 
It didn't need the frippery of the super-dated Zappa logo. 
Frank, people would just have known.
But fortunately for you and me, here it is in its original context, which top trumps everything:










Anyway, there's that digression again.
I think what I am trying to say from this is that, you shouldn't really accept an image on its face value.  
Now that sounds a bit Pseud's Corner, where observers of images will stand and muse on the obscurity contained therein, however it does have its footing in some fertile earth. 
A Quick Word About Pseud's Corner:
Aside from it being a column in Private Eye, the whole concept of Pseud's Corner is alive and kicking on Planet Earth.
If you have ever gone through the mill of a visual education establishment (read Art College) you will have encountered it in various forms.
It is everywhere, or at least it was in my experience.
The whole art world is riddled with it:
Talk the talk. Come up with some inane concept about why you have assembled a painting mixing oil paint, jesso and some polo mints, and you have a pass! Be articulate about just why you wrapped a bandage laced with lighter fluid around your head, set fire to it and ran around until a janitor put you out, and you are onto a winner.
Loose assemblies of random shapes? 
Lines? 
Blots? 
Empty woven material? 
A room? 
An empty room?
A room crammed with detritus? 
A coat? 
A reel of electricians cable? 
A chicken's carcass in doll's clothing? 
Last night's carry-out spat back into its polystyrene box?
It's easy.
If you can explain just what your feelings were and where the concept was heading when you assembled the piece, in words which are articulate enough to out-articulate your peers, then you have a Solid Gold, Grade 1 Passport to the meadows where your fellow masculine horned-ones drop big piles of it everyday. In other words Bullshit Heaven.
A lot of artists are poor Artists; a lot of them couldn't make the grade as Craftsmen. It is a very sad state of affairs.
And that is why I think Droodles are superior works of Art
Yes they are just an assembly of line, shape and thought, but they are clever and make you think. They educate your eye to look beyond their simplicity and find things that are other.
Think about the impact on an eight-year old's brain. 
Quite wonderful, and inspiring. 
The deeper I dig, the more I realise what an inspiration they have been to me. I even make square photographs for goodness sakes! **
So why aren't these books part of the Art Curriculum for school children? 
Why aren't they required reading on a Foundation Course at Art Colleges?
Well, they might be in the good ol' US of A where they had their origins, however over here in Old Blighty I can tell you why they aren't used in Colleges:
Aside from the fact that maybe people are unaware of them, it is because they are Too Simple, and because they are Too Everyman.
Anyone can make them.
The Pseud's can't hide.
Droodles are direct and to the point, yet can have different meanings without getting all bull-shitty.
The Pseud's ponderings have been rendered inert by Mildewed Spaghetti or a Tall Cow or a Flying Saucer Traffic Jam.
If it sounds like I am railing against Art College, you're right. 
I've been there, bought the book, read the postcard and (ahem) exited through the gift shop.
They can be (and sometimes are) incredible and inspiring places, where craft skills are taught, raw talent is nurtured and a rounded education in the visual arts is encouraged. Often however they seem to be places where very little is taught and students are encouraged to articulate what they are doing rather than viscerally striving to make it. Forget learning your craft, just come up with pages of roughs and sketches, assemble a mish-mash and talk freely about it. You'll do nicely. 
"All mouth and trousers" was the old London saying.
I say:
Bullshit Baffles Brains
Sad . . . but true.
And unfortunately all too prevelant.
Which rounds things back nicely to Droodles. Mr.Price said a wonderful little thing about his inventions:

"When I invented Droodles I used to refer to them as (ha ha) a "sub art form" but now I think they have earned the right to be called a legitimate Art Form - with capitals. They have outlasted Conceptualism, Abstract Expressionism, Ingmar Bergman movies, and with a little luck they will outlast the Gong Show, Frozen Yoghurt and Water Beds."

Whilst they may not have the same following in these days of instantaneous now-ness, there is just something about them. I can't talk objectively about them without getting all gushy . . they're too familiar (even though I haven't owned that book in about 35 years!)
So for your edification and enjoyment, here's a quick culling from the net of some very poorly scanned material with captions (and bear in mind they often had two or three captions . . I've picked the better known ones):



Two Bugs Who Made Love In Spring




Four Elephants Inspecting A Grapefruit



Bubblegum Champ







 And a couple of colour covers to round things off:










I'll leave my last word on this subject to the following Droodle.
There are no subtexts with this one, no pretentious musings, and definitely no art-speak.







Personally I would rank that as comedy genius.
So thank you Mr.Price. 
You might not be so well-known these days and you might never have been that well-known over here, but you've left a legacy, and perhaps a strangely twisted take on the world in the shaping of the mind of a young lad who you made laugh and think.
God bless and thanks for reading - hope you enjoyed it.


** Regular FB readers please note, I will be heading off into the photographic fields again soon - please be patient - I am just recharging my batteries

Friday, September 14, 2012

It Was Twenty Forty Years Ago Today

Greetings shipmates.
This week we have been lazin' around doing nowt of any interest.
We've been becalmed on the Sargasso of early Autumn and do we care?
Do we two hoots.
Even Mog has enjoyed lounging around in patches of sunshine more-so than he usually does.
Mr.Sheephouse was seen at the start of the week, picking up a camera, saying "Bah!" and putting it down again.
It has been one of those weeks.
His typwriter has fair been rattling though, so hopefully he has pulled an interesting rabbit out of the bag for your enjoyment.
And if he hasn't?
Who gives a cuss.
You see, he's discovered that there's only be a few of you reading this, despite the impressive viewing stats. He be most dejected about it.
But then I've plonked Mog on his lap, poured him a stiff totty o'Rum and told him to not be so hard on himself.
It's only an Electronic Diary and a portmanteau of the words Web and Log.
So what?


***


I have been rather struggling to come up with anything interesting to write about photographically this week, so imagine my surprise and relief when, last Saturday, I was informed that Tuesday, the 11th of September, 2012 marked the 40th Anniversary of a rather auspicious occasion.
(Thank goodness I thought, I possibly don't have to write anything about photography this week, though I will add that the photos in this article were all made on 126 format Kodak Instamatics and show the importance of relaxing before pressing a shutter button!)
As is often the way with my brain, nothing happened immediately, but sure enough, there I was, on Tuesday morning, at approximately 5.24 AM with two large mugs of industrial-strength tea and a brain slowly whirring, about to commit to the world and his Uncle, just what the significance of that day was.
Forty years ago, in 1972, I was 11 years old, and both very nervous and uncomfortable.
I had made the solo journey to my new school, via a relatively unknown bus route, and to get to my bus I had had to pass amongst people who, up to that point in my life, I had mostly regarded as friends, but who now rather regarded me as the enemy.
My parents had made sure I knew the route, so that wasn't really a problem. It was the Number 140 which went from Northolt to Harrow and though I had travelled it infrequently in my life, I knew enough of where and when to get on and off.
My main problem though, were the crowds of kids heading to St Vincents (now called Northolt High School) who would decant in vast hordes at the bus stop I used, and the fact that I was wearing a different uniform and a cap!
Understanding and appreciation of the awkwardness of my situation were not even considerations.
Yet, by some strange quirk, fate was working with me.
My parents had decided that:
Despite the fact St Vincents was literally a stone's throw from where we lived in Newbury Close, Northolt;
Despite the fact that every other kid my age on our estate was going to St Vincents;
Despite the fact I would have to make a journey flowing against a tide of some really rather nasty teenagers **
and
Despite the fact that I was a bit of a podge and thus an easy target
They would send me to a school in a different area, which required the payment of annual fees and had a uniform policy which was decidedly archaic!


Oi! Fat Boy! Wot Skoool Ya Garncha???
Er, Harrow High School if you please, Mr Gorilla Sir.
Where's 'at 'en?
Er, Harrow.
Arra?! Wotcha Garn'ere Faw?
Er, School.
Wassat 'en?
You know. An educational establishment where one learns things.
Wotcha doon 'at faw?
To learn.
Wot skoool Ya Garncha 'gin?
Harrow High School.
'Kin Poof!


I think you can get the drift of these interminable conversations from this. Actually I have added arms and legs on this because generally the threat of very immediate violence meant that I tended to avoid as much as I could. This is no snipe at the kids I knew at all though. They were a really nice bunch from round the Newbury Close area, however, I think really it was just that Mum and Dad thought that in sending me to an Independent School, I would be in for a better chance of a rounded education.
Dear Mum and Dad . . oh how wrong you were!
Little did they know that I would become an outcast overnight.
Regular readers will know that I detailed my, ahem, education at Harrow High School a few weeks back in Molesworth and Me. Well, now I am going to tell you about a lifeline and the whole reason that such a terrible place was made, not just bearable, but somewhere I entirely looked forward to going to every single day of the term (apart from sports day).
Enter, Stage Right:
Stephen Roger Wakefield
Or just plain Steve.



Must have been about late 1972/early 1973.
That's me pretending to be a ship's Captain again.
Steve's jacket is really nice and makes him look like he has just breezed in from the Kremlin.
My jacket has a burst zip and I believe is my old milkround anorak, so must have smelled of sour milk!
Vive La Différence


You know how it is on the first day of school.
There you are standing around hoping that the lad with the single eyebrow and decidedly overhanging forehead isn't going to make a sandwich of you.
Groups of new beaks cluster together with a herding instinct more akin to shoaling anchovies.
Those on the edge will hopefully be picked off first and maybe enough of them will be taken to satiate the hunger of the prowling school beasts who are waiting to pick off the weak and exhausted . . .
Fairly typical experience for everyone?
Thought so.
Anyway, there we were, a cluster, at first break, fresh and lonely. The smells of school lunch preparation were wafting across the playground - initially familiar, and suddenly noxious and unbearable.
I happened to comment that they smelled like 'hot cat-food' and that was it. I got a good laugh (my podgy boy defence mechanism at work) and Steve chipped in with something else that made me laugh very much, and that was kind of it. We were instantly drawn to each others sense of humour and before you knew it, we were friends.
Harrow High was different to most every other school.
At normal schools you go to the classroom appropriate to the lesson; at Harrow High, the teachers came to you, so essentially you had for the perpetuity of the year, your own desk.
This was a great thing - my first real taster of being a property owner!
You could carve it, tramline it, use it defensively, gouge it, slam it, make it an incredible soundbox for the twangy ruler, fill it full of crap, fill it full of stuff, keep a mouse in it, plaster the underneath of it with bubblegum, sit on it, sit in it, sniff it, pretty much actually do anything you liked bar setting fire to it, and it was yours.
Your place of permanence for a whole year.
Of course, with the desks being two-seaters you required a co-driver, and in my case that was Steve . . . for three and a half years!



Two friends on holiday, hunting fossils at Black Esk Reservoir, Summer 1974



They were happy times actually. We laughed more than we learned. We almost lived in each other's pockets. Steve lived in a nice part of Ruislip before moving to Chorleywood; I lived on one of the 'Race Course' Estates in Northolt surrounded by countless streets of council housing. My Dad worked for an engineering company and my Mum was a bookkeeper; Steve's Mum and Dad worked together and owned and ran a small but very highly respected precision engineering company. But despite what might in different people have seemed to be cavernous differences in social circumstance it mattered little to me and my friend.
Both our sets of parents were utterly accepting of our friendship, to the extent that they accepted each of us as new members of the family. Always welcome, always made to feel at home from home.
His parents were fortunate enough to own a beautiful and extensive country pile on the edge of Sherington. The house was called Carrisbrooke and it was haunted.
My parents were renovating a cottage in the Scottish Borders called East Orchard Cottage, it was initially delapidated, but it had a warm Scots heart and eventually became a cosy hearth for the two of us.
Our friendship extended to wonderful weekend stays at Carisbrooke and in the case of Orchard, holiday breaks.



Fishing on the Annan 1975.
Dear reader would you not feel priviledged to say that a background like that was your playground?
Those were serious waders I was wearing too.


Inseperable is a good term applied to friendship and that is what were were like.
The more I think about the more I realise how totally fortunate we both were to have had places like these in our formative years - they were havens where you could do anything you liked.
We walked lonely Bedfordshire fields and were haunted by phantoms, climbed trees, dug massive pits, drove a small Go-kart, played snooker and ping-pong, scared the crap out of each other, created our own radio shows on the then new cassette format, swam and walked and dreamed.
In Scotland we fished and shot air rifles and spent whole days digging fossils and rooting around on quiet riverbanks; climbed hills, caved in dangerous places, walked slag heaps, listened to music, read, laughed, picked berries, cycled, collected cat's eyes (road ones, not real ones) and ate massive amounts of food.
There was never any danger of homesickness, because in both places we were home.
How lucky we were.



An out-take from the 1970's remake of 'Lord Of The Flies'
Quite why anyone would wear pale blue flares and white plimsouls to dig
a 10 foot deep pit in mud and clay is beyond me.
The clay hardened quite quickly and was a devil to remove . . .
And as far as I can recall, I didn't have a spare pair of trousers



Back to school and nothing really changed. We laughed and laughed, learned almost nothing, fought ill-wishers, created havoc, saved sandwiches (in other peoples desks), cartooned, wrote, came up with radio plays, took the mickey, farted and burped, laughed at the hopeless attempts at teaching, made more friends, made some enemies and generally survived what must have been the most awful educational establishment that dared to call itself such a name.
And then, in July of 1976, with a sudden realisation that Harrow High was doing him no favours, Steve's Mum and Dad helped him escape and he went to Amersham College where he was actually taught something. I was bereft; but with some well-learned fat-boy survival skills, I made it through to my O'levels and the disaster that was to unfold.
Despite being pulled apart (or maybe because of it) our friendship survived and flourished.
I felt he became older than me at this point, because he was being exposed to the real world and not some retro-nascent 1950's comedy education, but it didn't affect us.



That hot Summer of 1976, searching for Dinosaur bones at Arbigland.
Steve as usual, is appropriately attired. There's those flares again, though (unusually) I am wearing a rather nifty
Fred Perry.
I think I am saying something like:
"Gagh! All this 'ere mud is getting on me flares (again)!"


Then in 1977 I moved to Scotland permanently, and even though three hundred and fifty solid miles would be a test for any friendship, we only felt it at weekends.
We still wrote to each other and phoned and visited (though obviously less often).
Our friendship survived.
He helped me through a difficult time of fitting into a totally alien community (not that bad actually, but more on Lockerbie Academy in an upcoming FB)
Even moving here to the East coast in the '80's and managing to make it an even more solid four hundred and sixty five road miles of distance between us, you know what, we're still in contact.
We haven't stopped and I don't think we could.
Nowadays, thanks to the ease of email, we are in contact nearly every day.
We might have only seen each other about twice in twenty or so years, but it doesn't seem to matter.
We turned out ok too despite (or maybe because of) our underwhelming education. Triumph in the face of adversity and all that
Steve is an overworked precision engineer, Father, maverick inventor (with more patents to his name than I have cameras), collector, antiquarian, and all-round great person.
Me? I make photographs, make music (occasionally), make my family groan, make a passable cup of coffee and hopefully make a few people laugh.



Gottle Of Geer
"Has the Puppet Master finished with us yet mate?"
"Don't know mate. I'll let you know when he gets his hand out my jumper."


And we're still talking and laughing.
Our wives listen and roll their eyes.
Our children snort and laugh.
We're still Phil and Steve though, older and more gravity-challenged, but still us.
Lucky is what I call it.
Friendship can be a wonderful thing and without going all maudlin on you, I count myself fortunate the day my friend showed that he appreciated the smell of hot cat food too . . .
I like to think that when we've both pegged it, there'll be the shades of two teenage boys walking and talking and laughing along a riverbank somewhere, maybe letting off a SBD *** near a fisherman and seeing what he does.
God bless and thanks for reading as usual.
Goodness knows what on earth you find in these things, but well done if you found anything at all.


** Yes, really. There were some real nut-cutlets living in Northolt at the time.

*** Seriously? You need a definition?? Silent But Deadly . . .

Friday, September 07, 2012

Photographing Nothing

Greetings m'Dearios. Well this week we seem to have been a sailin' round in a big circle. 
We set off on Monday with all sorts of waves and well-wishes and we found ourselves back on Friday in the same port with all sorts of puzzled looks and warding.
For 'tis bad luck to return to the port you set off from in the same week.
I have an idea how it happened, and I will blame it on Mog.
That cat.
He'll sleep anywhere, and given we'd been re-caulking a part of the foredeck this week, he managed to get tar on his fur, but, before we had him trimmed, he had a snooze in my cabin, and left some nice tarry marks on me charts.
'Twasn't good though.
I made it onto the dock and was immediately beset by Cap'n Mash.
After our usual sailorly greetings, he took me aside and the following conversation ensued:

'T'isn't right cap'n'

'You're right there Mash.'

He'd found out about Mog

'In my day ship's cats were considered ill-luck when they got tarred.'

'My day too cap'n - we're the same age remember.'

'Oh. Ar. Aye, so we are.'

'You're forgetting yerself there cap'n'

He looked a bit offended.
Anyways after much beard strokin', he said:

'So where are you going to nail it?'

I've risked offending many people before, and I wasn't going to let Mash tell me what to do, so I looked him in the eye and said:

'You've overstepped yersel' there cap'n.'

He took this like a slap with a bowsprit.

'But it is cap'n. Bad luck is what it is. If you don't then I will. That cat'll bring it all down upon us again.'

'Bring what down cap'n?' I asked
He looked at me in a weird way and said in a small voice:

'The Fear, cap'n, The Fear.'

This was mighty strange, but I asked him anyway.

'What fear be that Mash?'

He rubbed at his jowls and took out his cloute and wiped his forehead and looked me straight in the eye and said:

'It.'

This was getting stranger by the minute.

'It what Mash?'

'It!'

Mr.Sheephouse had appeared on deck at this time and was observing us - no doubt he wrote it up in his journals. He was holding Mog in a friendly manner and supportive of the cat's behind, just the proper way you hold a cat.
Mog was watching too.
I didn't know what to say, so I let Mash qualify his statement. He was looking swole now, his face had lost that steely look like he was going to stop me and he had more the appearence of a big babby.

'Haven't ye noticed cap'n? 
No matter where ye go, from the Southern shoals to the Northern rocks. 
From warm water to cold. 
From the lands of the sultry-eyed ladies to the lands of the blubber-eaters.
The sea, cap'n. 
The sea! 
That's The Fear cap'n.
The sea! 
It all be the same!'

We headed out on the next tide and I am happy to report that our charts are now fine.
Mog is sitting watching me write this up. He has a dish o'cream and his favourite catnip mouse.
It takes a lot to change a sailor's mind once he's set on course, but a ship's cat is a capn's best friend.
I've raised Mog since I found him half-drowned in a burlap bag as a kit.
There was no chance of me nailin' him to a mast.
No chance at all.


***



Definition of nothing
[pronoun]
·   not anything; no single thing:
    I said nothing
    there’s nothing you can do
    they found nothing wrong
·   something of no importance or concern:
    ‘What are you laughing at?’ ‘Oh, nothing, sir’
     they are nothing to him
[as noun]:
     no longer could we be treated as nothings
·    (in calculations)
     no amount;
     nought.
[adjective]
[attributive] informal
·     having no prospect of progress; of no value:
      he had a series of nothing jobs
[adverb]
·     not at all:
      a man who cared nothing for her
      he looks nothing like the others
[postpositive]
·     North American informal used to contradict something emphatically:
      ‘This is a surprise.’ ‘Surprise nothing.’



***



You know, looking back over contact prints and boxes of prints I have, I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of money and time and effort on photographing nothing at all.
One generally supposes that a picture needs to have a subject, but as I shall show dear reader my subjects often consist of nothing other than a piece of wall, or fence, or moor, or tree. Nothing you could really call 'subject matter', nothing even that you could really call a snap. So why do I continue on this fool's errand when the world and his brother wants pictures of something?
When I was much much younger and still finding my feet on a fingerboard, my Mother would urge me, even cajole me, to play something with "a tune to it."
At the time, John William's Cavatina was the piece of classical guitar music that everyone wanted to hear, but I simply couldn't play it. I could have made a half-hearted, fumble fingered go at it, but I couldn't just sit down in a room with Mum and Dad, Trevor and Olive, and Arthur and Evelyn and Dolly and Tom and Doug and play it. I could do a passable attempt at the opening bit of the Concerto Aranjuez, or a Chinese-whispers version of Smokestack Lightning, but Cavatina?
No way hose-pipe.
Not a chance.
And I wonder now why I didn't even try to appease them. It would have been simpler, would have won me all sorts of appreciation, maybe even an extra piece of God's own pudding (in case you're wondering, an Apple pie, with shortcrust pastry and a hint of the exotic with cloves added for spice) and custard . . . but I didn't. I prefered instead to mumble and do the hard rasquedo-ey bit from Concerto and that was it. 
I sort of realise now why I was like that - basically, I am stupid.
It manifests itself in many ways, but generally, at the hint of being able to do something that might in the long-run lead onto something, I stand in the corner and just say 'No'.
It has been the same with every single creative endevour I have ever been involved with, and to be honest I find it immensely irritating.
So how does this contrary motion manifest itself photographically?
Well, I must admit that when (and if) in a situation where all comers are photographing the view or whatever interesting is happening, I tend to find myself off in a different direction, or around the corner, or just plain photographing the people doing the photographing. When in landscapes of incredible beauty, I tend not to go for the grand view (though goodness knows I have) but more for the things in that landscape that I find attractive . . . and that is . . . usually . . . what you could call . . . er . . . nothing.
So why bother?
Well I find this a difficult one to quantify.
Apparently John Szarkowski wrote in a forward to one of Ansel Adams’ books, a quote from Fred Astaire in the film Funny Face. Astaire was playing a fashion photographer. Audrey Hepburn’s character asked him, “Why do you photograph beautiful women?” and he said, “Madam, you’d be amazed at how small the demand is for pictures of trees.”
I think that is an interesting quote, because in Mr.Adams' case, pictures of trees and the grand vista were what he made his name with, however my favourite Adams photographs are the ones where people are involved and where the non-obvious is the subject matter.
There is one of walls and buildings from Mexico (where the light is just extraordinary and a dog just pops into the frame and Mr.Adams makes the photograph) that I love very much for the fact that other than the dog appearing at the appropriate moment, there is nothing going on.
But there is also another, a portrait he made on his Zeiss Contax, of Georgia O'Keefe and Orville Cox at the Canyon de Shelly national monument.
I think he out-decisived HCB on this.
From my own point of view, it is full of nothing, and yet it doubtless has something.




Georgia O'Keeffe and Orville Cox, Canyon de Chelly National Monument
©Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust


One wonders what was said, or maybe even un-said. There can be so much read into this seemingly simple photograph, but ultimately it is a photograph of nothing where something is happening.
For my own bizarre ends, you name it I have photographed it, from cigarette stubbers to barren, rock-strewn hillsides, to pictures of mist (taken from inside the mist) to piles of earth and posters and bits of light on walls.
There is never any intended subtext of duality.
They are just plain photographs.
So why do I do it? Is there some sort of attractiveness in my subject matter. Something that might halt a viewer in their tracks and make them say (Hmmmmm . .. I see!) . . Well no not really. A large number of my photographs aren't just as dull as dishwater, they're horrendously boring too. But the thing is, I quite like them. I made them, and even if they are dull to you and you and you, to me they are fine. Not great. Just fine.
I don't make photographs of sports events or society photographs - those tend to be pictures of something. Mine are more like random observations from a chaotic world (isn't that a great book title . . so great I am going to copyright it now):
Random Observations From A Chaotic World ©  Phil Rogers 06/09/2012
There, that's better.
What I think I am trying to say (and regular FB readers will appreciate the fact that every week they're delving into the thought process of a Stromatalite) is that photographic subject matter is obviously entirely a personal choice, but (and here's the kicker) like my refusal to play Cavatina, it doesn't actually have to be of anything at all.
It's a weird way to approach a hobby, but it is my way and unless I change dramatically, I can't really see anything beyond my random collection of images of unremarkable buildings, trees in the middle of nowhere, ephemera and detritus, random mist, forgotten parcels of land and the occasional person passing through the edges of my viewfinder.
A photograph is a photograph is a photograph; be it masterful archival print handled by be-gloved curators in a museum, or a snap permanently pasted in a plastic sleeved album handed round at parties and family get-togethers. From the £20,000 investment on a gallery wall to the plastic-papered object you collect from Tescos, to the thirty billion random examples littering the ether. All photographs. All of them of subject matter that might be something, could possibly even be something, but mostly is nothing.
Hmmmm (rubs beard and re-reads again) this has all gone a bit . . shite. I've got away from what I was trying to say and wandered off again. 
That dear reader is part of how this comes together most weeks. powered by massive mugs of tea my brain slowly grinds into motion, but it doesn't necessarily grind in the direction it was grinding the day before. But please be ensured that, like a fleshy orbital sander, it will eventually get to some obscure point.
Yes, what was I saying.
Why do I do it?
I think it all stems from something Gary Winogrand said when asked why he photographed so much, and his answer was (to paraphrase him) that he photographed to see what the world was like photographed.
There is (strangely) something to this seemingly obtuse, mad and random statement.

Strap on a helmet - he's headed off in a different direction again . .this is the Winogrand by-pass:

Gary snapped away like a good'un; like there was no tomorrow.
On the surface, seemingly endless random shots of people and situations.
Photographs of, really, nothing.
Tiny slices of time, chaotic and juxtaposed. Fleeting moments that would at their time of occurrence have absolutely no meaning at all to their perpetrators. An arm lifted here, a conversation there. A laugh. A burden. A fall. A bag. A coffee. The movements of the world. Bits of time that you would never analyse.
But with crafted observation, transformed into art.
When you view his images there is something that hits you straight in the nose.
He was a humanist.
There is great feeling and warmth deeply inherent in his photographs.
There is pathos and a very refined sense of humour.
They're not gritty in the way a lot of photography of the 60's and 70's was.
They're honest and human, no set-ups, just lightning fast reactions to unfolding situations; anticipation to the Nth degree.
But ultimately photographs of nothing made into something.
Here's a couple of examples - they're mad and funny and strange all at the same time.
The first image is almost like something from a surrealist painting don't you think?




Democratic Convention, LA, 1960
© Winogrand Estate




It's bizarre to think that in photographing nothing: three people, at random, up close (with the incredible fact that none of them seem to be aware of the camera) Mr.Winogrand has, like Mr.Adams, made a photograph into which so much can be read.
My next example from him is probably one of my favourite photographs these days.





Untitled 1977
© Winogrand Estate




Again, a picture of nothing.
A boy and a sheep (?) in what looks like a stock shed, and yet, one wonders what is going on.
My own thoughts are (every time I look at it):

Who is looking after who?
Is that some strange alien and the boy is disgruntled because he is hogging the limelight?
Have they had a fight?

Again in photographing the mundane Mr.Winogrand has provided us with an image which raises more questions than it answers and with the added bonus that we smile and chuckle and then this great photograph is now our new best friend.
I call it genius.
Sadly Gary passed away in the 1980's leaving an archive of tens of thousands of unprocessed rolls of film. One wonders what other gems are in there.


Ok, we've taken a left and now we're back on Sheephouse Drive


At this point in time, I have decided to shamelessly shoehorn some of my own photographic nothings into the proceedings . . . and why not . . . FB is my little kingdom and I can do what I like.
Of course these images are in rather grand company, but I like to think that if either Mr.Winogrand, or Mr.Adams were still alive and came round, we could sit and have some tea and good old chin-wag, so I am sure they won't mind my paltry efforts.
The photos I have included below are essentially images of nothing.
They're random snaps (well the first two are) from random moments of time.
There's nothing going on and there's nothing happening.
The first two were made on holiday with my trusty little Olympus Trip 35:





Mersey Ferry, 2012
                         
      


Yes, that flag is on the Mersey Ferry - I dunno, it just seemed like a nice little bit of Britishness that I rather like - but essentially it is a snap of nothing. I was just wandering around the deck blazing through a roll of film and pretending to look:
a.) Arty
and
b.) Important
Nobody was fooled - my family remained in the cafe area and looked unimpressed.


Two days before we had been a-wanderin' in the rain around the beautiful and lively City of Liverpool, when I spied the next subject.
The man was drunk or homeless or just plain desperate, but his back and the way he moved caught my eye and I had to briefly follow him and make this picture.
I felt (and still feel) sorry for him actually.
He exuded an air of complete lonliness.
It was him versus the world and the world was winning, and it was raining.
I should have bought him a coffee in hindsight, but such was his air that he would probably have told me to shove it.





Man In The Rain, Liverpool, 2012




The third is the most mundane, but it shows how, sometimes, unplanned and strange things can happen.
It was a lengthy set-up involving a 5x4 view camera and a large tripod.
Nominally it is a picture of nothing, that somehow seems to have become a picture of something.
Something weird.
Just why I decided to photograph this clump of trees is totally beyond me.
It took about 20 minutes to set the camera up, a few minutes to sort out the meter readings and make the exposure, a few minutes take-down time; and then of course there's the lugging time, the getting back to the car time; the processing time (one sheet of film at a time) and then the printing time.
A large chunk of my life has been wasted on making an image of absolutely no consequence or worth to anyone . . at least that is what I thought.
However, somehow, light and rocks and leaves and their positioning in the landscape have led me to capture an image of a dead man's face. You can see it quite clearly, near the bole of the left hand trees. He looks like he has been trussed rather in the method of Bronze Age sacrifices, and, putting arms and legs onto everything as usual, I feel that maybe some of the spirit of this quiet clump of forgotten land has manifested itself in a natural apparition.
We are programmed for faces. Just look around you and they are everywhere in the natural world. Strangely, I just seem to have found one in a pile of rocks and leaves, in a public cemetery, early on a May morning.





The Drowned Man, 2010




I could have illustrated this FB with loads more images of total inconsequence, but I have spared you dear reader.
They are dull.
Maybe when we get to know each other better I'll reel them out and await your judgement.
In the meantime, don't fuss over your photographs, just go and take a walk and take a picture of something that you find interesting to look at.
For the sheer hell of it, why not follow Mr.Winogrand and just photograph to see what the world looks like photographed.
It might well be nothing in the eyes of the world, but it will be your something.
God bless, thanks for reading and (as usual) stay dry.