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Sensational Developments – Newsworthy Victorian Photographers No1

Whilst working from home this last year, one of my tasks was to rebuild a basic spreadsheet of Welsh Photographers (1850 -1920) – names, addresses, dates.  In all honesty this became a little tedious, so I started doing a little research. Every now and then I’d have a quick search on Google, which didn’t produce too many results. Then I started using online newspaper sources, searching specific names, as well as the simplest search term -“Photographer”. 

Much of what I found were simply advertisements or notices of bankruptcy, quite a lot of bankruptcy actually! But of course, to be really newsworthy the stories had to have a sensational flavour and I found tragedy, assault, theft, accusations of indecent behaviour, drunkenness and fraud!  I will visit some of these stories in future writings, but I thought I’d start with an interesting occurrence in the Police Court at Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire on 20th October 1897.

John  Martin Powell of Milford Haven, photographer, artist and lay preacher, aged around 60, had been summoned to court by his wife of 32 years who wanted “..Separation and maintenance on the grounds of cruelty,”, something which Mr. Powell, of course, denied. His wife had been living with her daughter for some time and with the help of her sister, had brought the case to court.

The proceedings were progressing, albeit with some vocal outbursts from Powell, when suddenly, “… The court was startled by an hysterical scream from Mrs Powell, who was shrinking horrified away from where her husband was standing. Simultaneously there was a scuffle, and it was seen that Powell was pointing a revolver at his wife.”

Powell was still advancing towards his cowering wife when he was surrounded by half a dozen people, one of whom was his own son-in-law, and the revolver was ripped from his grip by  Police Sergeant Brinn.  “…It was a question for a moment whether the defendant would be preserved from violence..” as the crowd went into uproar with shouts of “Lynch Him!”, and people tried clambering towards the bench. Mrs. Powell had been ushered from the room and one of the Magistrates, Dr.Griffiths, stood on a chair and “…Appealed to the public to suppress their feelings, threatening to place under arrest anyone who incited a riot. He assured them the magistrates would do their duty by this man, and urged them not to say another word…”

Once calm had be restored, Powell, now handcuffed, stood before the Magistrates and was charged with the attempted murder of his wife and remanded in custody.

On 10th November Powell was brought to Carmarthen Assizes to be tried by Judge and Jury, and you’d think it was a fairly open and shut case. But, no, there was some question as to whether the trigger had actually been pulled. No one could say for certain that they saw Powell’s finger actually on the trigger. Some said they had heard a click, others heard nothing, but on examination the cartridge in the chamber of the gun had indentations as though the hammer had struck but not fired.

The jury retired for fifty minutes, and on their return announced that they had not reached an agreement.

“Then why have you returned?” asked the Judge.

“We wanted our dinner,” A juror said, to much laughter from the the crowd, “I don’t think we can agree, as we are eight to four”.

“I have known eight to convert four. I’m afraid I cannot discharge you,” replied the Judge, then adding, to more laughter, “Not withstanding the fact that you want your dinner.”

“I’m very sorry for that,” the Juror said, ”For I shall never be converted.”

To the sound of more laughter the jury was ordered to retire once more, and in quarter of an hour they returned.

“We find the prisoner not guilty of pulling the trigger, but of presenting the revolver for the purpose of intimidating his wife.”

The Judge had to concede that this amounted to a verdict of not guilty and before he discharged Powell he warned that any further cruelty to his wife would result in serious punishment.

Ten days later a settlement between Powell and his wife was reached with maintenance of ten shillings a week to be paid.  Powell continued in business until 1901.

Sources: South Wales Echo 21st October 1897.

               South Wales Daily Post 10th November 1897

               Cardiff Times 13th November 1897

               South Wales Daily News 19th November 1897 

               Carmarthen Weekly Reporter 12th November 1897

WONDERFUL THINGS

 

 

 
 
 
 
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before my apprehension and general discomfort at travelling into London. However, the galleries and museums are among the few things that, for me, make it worthwhile. The other few things being food drink and some good photography opportunities.
This particular trip had been planned for some time, we’d booked tickets to see the Tutankhamun  exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery pretty much as soon as they became available.  Back in 1972, my parents had taken my sister and I on the journey from South Wales, to see the exhibition at the British Museum. My memories of that time are a bit hazy. I remember the queues and being exhausted, and I remember the iconic golden death mask and a few other bits and pieces. It would be great to see it all again, and this time there were many different artefacts on show.
 
It was an amazing display, and I couldn’t help reflect on how different things were now, nearly 40 years on from when the Pharoah’s treasures first visited these shores.  In ‘72 I  remember being paraded past glass cases with little time to contemplate what you were seeing, and there was definitely no photography allowed. Now, as well as the objects themselves, beautifully displayed, perfectly lit, and viewable from all angles, there are rich sources of information in print, on personal audio guides and video screens. The biggest difference of course is that photography is positively encouraged, and everyone, in the form of the mobile phone, has the means to capture all that they want.
 
I stopped taking photos after a while. Partly I was happy just to stare and absorb the wonders around me, and however good my lenses were, I couldn’t really capture what I felt about them. I became fascinated by how others were experiencing and interacting with the objects. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Most heartening was the way children were so engaged with it all. Yes, some, like my tweenage stepdaughter, were snapping away with their phones, but she was also listening intently the narratives, asking questions and then enthusiastically sharing her experience with her WhatsApp friends. 
 
 
 
I heard a lot of kids asking questions their adults couldn’t answer and that’s because some of them seem to breeze through waving their phones at everything in an almost offhand way. Some clustered briefly around any given object, and jostled to get the same shot as everyone else, venerating the Pharaoh in their own way before heading to the gift shop with it’s rows of golden statues, key rings, t-shirts, books and hats. They were even selling sand (from Egypt apparently) in a bottle for £6 a go!
 
 
 
 
 
 
This interest in how people experience galleries and museums continued later in the week when we spent a day at The Victoria & Albert.  I love this place and haven’t spent nearly enough time there.  

 

 


 
As I wandered and pondered, I was taken by the different ways people used the spaces and interacted with exhibits. 

I like the sketchers. They’re always so utterly engrossed in what they’re doing. Studying, squinting, the scritch-scratching of pencil or charcoal, and the occasional frustrated discarding of an attempt gone wrong. They are almost completely oblivious of all those other visitors meandering around them.  

Others that are oblivious are of course the sleepers. Sometimes snoring, occasionally waking with a start only to nod straight back off again. Mostly men in my experience. Are they bored? Jet lagged perhaps. Have they just tried to fit too much into their visit? 

 



Some like to touch and really commune with the objects, something I’m sure isn’t entirely appreciated by the curatorial staff…

 

 
Simply sitting…one of my favourites…      
 
         
 
 
 
 
 
Some find a good spot for some posing, again, oblivious to others around them, completely relaxed…
 
 
 
 
 
So, it seems to me that some visit places like this to tick it off a list and flick through a load of hastily taken photos on their phones, happy that they’ve “ Done the museums” and taken it home with them in the form of transient data.  Some come because it’s somewhere to bring the kids on a rainy day, and, let’s face it, there are worse places. With any luck, at least some of those kids will put down their phones for a while and grow into those who find these institutions places of learning, contemplation, relaxation, or inspiration, thus helping to secure their future for generations to come. Here’s hoping.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Love Venice, Hate Being A Tourist..

 
I hesitate to attempt writing about Venice, and as a photographer, it’s a challenge to produce images that are vaguely original. So many people have done it, and probably in a more competent and informative way than I can muster.  Looking around for meaningful quotes led me to several which express a similar sentiment. American writer Henry James, writing in 1882, probably sums this up best ;  “….I am not sure there is not a certain impudence in pretending to add anything….There is notoriously nothing more to be said on the subject. Every one has been there, and every one has brought back a collection of photographs.”
So, that’s that then.
Well, no. I may not be overly good with words, and I sometimes struggle to create the images I want to, but I feel the need to express….something…. I suppose that’s one of the things Venice does to you.
Photographically, I knew I’d be faced with endless opportunities. I tried to avoid the usual and the clichéd, but it turns out to be almost impossible. There’s something striking, but slightly familiar around every corner – The sun reaching down through the high, narrow spaces at various angles, lighting up the cracked and crumbling buildings on it’s way to illuminating the greeny-blue water below, which ripples and sparkles as the bow of a Gondola, almost silently, cuts through the waterway. See what I mean – cliché!  Don’t get me wrong, I love it. It’s all gorgeous and textured, captivating and evocative, and a lot of the time I found myself just standing, staring with a daft smile on my face. However, as much as I find the sunlit city a feast for the senses, for me, there is just as much magic in the hours of darkness.
Around Campo san Rocco
 
” In the glare of the day there is little poetry about Venice, but under the charitable moon her stained palaces are white again…” Mark Twain.
 
 
 
Wandering the alleyways and bridges in the dead of night is an absolute pleasure. It becomes a different place entirely. The crowds disperse. You still see people, mostly with map in hand, looking for street names, but it’s so relaxed, so quiet. There is no constant drone of distant traffic because, of course, there are no cars. Occasionally the silence is broken by a lone late water taxi, or even some local lads cruising with bass booming sound systems. But the sound is soon dulled by walls and water as the boat disappears off into the labyrinth, leaving just the liquid lapping noises along the edge of the canal. Even the crazy crowd hotspots of Rialto and San Marco can be almost deserted, allowing a leisurely look at some of the architectural wonders without having to dodge the backpacks and selfie-sticks.
 
 
The belltower of St.Giocomo del Orio,looming over the building in which we stayed. Yes, it was noisy at times.
 
 
You can even find space for a a dance at San marco at midnight!
Light spilling out of doorways and windows creates soft, coloured mozaics in the dark waters with their reflections.
 
 
 
I love photographing people. Like most cities, Venice provides plenty of opportunity to capture some of the local faces, especially around Rialto Market. After around 9 a.m. the place begins to heave with shoppers and sightseers alike. I saw guided tours coming through there, groups of up to 20 or 30, possibly from one of the giant cruise ships docked out near Tronchetto at the western end of the city. They’re all baseball caps and Nikon DSLRs, which are as ubiquitous now as the old Box Brownie was in Edwardian times. 
 
Most locals get their shopping done early, in an attempt to avoid the mass of onlookers parading along the market stalls.
 
The loading and unloading of fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, and fish goes on most of the morning.
 
 

It seems that at markets all over the world, there is always at least one old chap who comes to watch. This man stood for almost an hour in the same spot, every now and then he would survey the stalls of fish with owl-like movements of his head. Eventually he moved in to buy a handful of shrimp from one of the fishmongers. He then stood back in the same spot and devoured them there and then.

 

At one point a group of guided tourists flowed past him as though he were a permanent fixture of some sort, like one of the pillars of the building itself. They seemed oblivious to his presence, and he to theirs. It was almost as if they passed straight through him, like a ghost.

 




” Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors.”
-Henry James, 1882.

 
 
Venice gets in the region of 20 million visitors a year. This is a city of just 55,000 residents. The authorities are trying to minimise the impact with their “Respect Venice” campaign with, it seems to me, limited success. I still saw plenty of people doing exactly what the posters ask them not to. If the number of residents continues to drop, there is a danger that the city, as a living, breathing, working city will just die long before  it’s in danger of sinking far below the waves.

 

Don’t block jetty’s or steps where access is needed…


                                    

Don’t feed the birds…

 

 
 
Of course, the numbers have been swelled in recent years with the arrival of more and more huge cruise ships. In the high season the city can registers upwards of 20,000 passengers coming ashore per day!  There have been some changes in the routes taken and in the maximum size of ships allowed, but the debates over environmental and economic issues still rumble on.
…”No big ships”

 

I so wanted to see this place. It’s one of those places on the ‘must see’ list, and I absolutely love it – the architecture and the art, it’s people and it’s history,….But I kind of hate being a tourist! I am well aware of the strain the city is under, the sheer numbers of people and the effect that has on the residents and the functioning of the city, so I feel slightly schizoid about this. On one hand I don’t see why I shouldn’t experience the place, but on the other there’s the slight creeping guilt at being a part of the problem.  In the end I think you just have to go, treat the place and its people with respect, be humbled by it all and soak up as much as you can of it’s utterly unique atmosphere. 
 
 
 
More photo’s  HERE
 

MM & MF Go Camping

The 14th Century Church Of The Holy Cross (Eglwys Y Grog) Mwnt (MFV Lobb Collection. NLW)


It’s been a while since I got around to writing on the subject of the Mary Lobb Collection discovered at The National Library of Wales some five years ago now. For those that are new to this story you can catch up by reading my article in the Library Journal HERE, and maybe some of my earlier blogs on the subject. 

Last year, 2017, I helped curate an exhibition at Kelmscott Manor. While this was running I was invited to a meeting called by researcher and author Jan Marsh who had recently been in receipt of an interesting little collection.The purpose of the meeting being to look over the materials and discuss where the archive should end up being housed.  I’m never that keen on the train journey from Aberystwyth to London, but obviously I accepted the invitation!

Around the table in a small meeting room at The National Portrait Gallery, there were, aside from myself, several interested parties from other museums, archives and galleries. With all introductions made, we all delved in to the little box of treasures. Out came bundles of letters, some from May to her mother and sister dated 1913, photographs and postcards from various places including many from Iceland, and 14 hardback sketchbooks in which May had written accounts of the travels she and Mary Lobb had undertaken.
A first look at the new discoveries.

The texts are written in diary form, an entry for every day, illustrated, here and there, with little sketches and watercolours. May’s descriptions are detailed and full of atmosphere and humour. In places she has written out conversations between her and Mary in script form using MM to denote herself and MF (for Mary Frances) for her companion, and some of these make very amusing reading. 
I was drawn to the journals relating to the trips to Wales, one of my aims being to see if we could connect any of the material in MF’s collection at NLW with the narratives, but it was to be some time before I could read any of them in their entirety. The final decision was that the journals, photographs and postcard would be housed with The Society of Antiquaries of London who own Kelmscott Manor, and for now they are held at the society’s offices at Burlington House in London. At present they are being worked on by Dr. Kathy Haslam who, with the kind permission of S.A.L., allowed me to have a read of the first of the journals to be transcribed.


As it happens, the earliest journal relates the ladies’ very first camping expedition, which was to a little cove on the west Wales coast near Cardigan, in the summer of 1919. The two arrived at Cardigan, by train on July 29th. After spending one night in the town of Cardigan the ladies were taken, by horse and cart, along the coast to Mwnt. Much of their gear had been sent in advance, though the main tent pole had somehow never made it! A replacement was soon acquired and then, “ Up to the farm-road, then down to the cliff, and there we are, at liberty to pitch our tent where we please…” 

They had come well equipped. Two stoves, one, which had been given to them by MF’s mother was a roaring Primus which, to May was, “An unholy terror.” She was much happier with her own little oil stove named Beatrice. Several of the implements have friendly names, including “Brownie”, an enamelled saucepan, and “Kruger” a useful lidded jug. They dined well on local produce –  fish, lobster, rabbit, and vegetables from local farms, mushrooms picked from the fields around them and salted bacon which they had brought with them. MF was responsible for most of the cooking using “Primus The Terrible”, but May was fond of sitting and making girdle cakes around her smoky driftwood fire.  
Their bedding consisted mainly of sacks filled with straw and led to the first night being, “a night of agony” until they had been re-organised. The second night wasn’t much better with the tent leaking in some squally Welsh weather. The wind battered the tent on a number of occasions  and, “The thing flapped and thundered, our oilskins, hung on shoulder hangers attached to the pole bobbed and swing like ghostly mad things…” Though the weather was kinder some of the time, often allowing them to take their morning bathe, “..Undisturbed, lying on the fine sand and letting the waves ripple over us.”
They weren’t as secluded as they had hoped, with locals and holiday makers alike, flocking to enjoy the last of the summer weather at the beach. At one point MF considers making a few pence by boiling kettles on Primus for picnickers at 2d a go! At the end of one day May says, “I’ll have to take a stick and collect all the paper ‘the people’ have left and burn it. The place looks squalid with their remains.” How she would have hated the amount of plastic found on so many beaches these days.

The month was spent exploring the area, cycling or walking miles up and down the coast to Aberporth, Tresaith, St Dogmaels and Gwbert. There was a day trip, by car, up to Aberystwyth, stopping along the way in Aberaeron and making a detour to Devil’s Bridge. May describes Aberaeron quite favourably, not so with Aberystwyth, which she describes as  “…Unspeakable – crowds of aimless holiday-folk, each one looking more bored than the last.” 

Looking across Poppit Sands from Gwbert (MFV Lobb Collection. NLW)



They spent time with the families in the nearby farms, Fynnongrog, Clôs y Graig and Crûg and had many visitors to the camp, curious no doubt about the strange English ladies. Youngsters from the farms, would sometimes bring gifts of mushrooms, milk, honey and other produce with them and then stay to talk over girdle cakes, sweets, cigarettes and Turkish coffee – May had brought along her coffee making kit!  Some of those youngsters would have gone away buzzing!!


Clôs y Graig from Foel y Mwnt (MFV Lobb Collection. NLW)
One day, Joshua Evans from Clôs Y Graig,  having heard that the ladies “knew about machinery”, turned up at the camp asking for help with his Fordson tractor, which was pretty hi-tech for the time. May explained that she really couldn’t tell one end of a tractor from the other and it would be “the other lady” he’d be wanting!  Up to the farm they went and MF worked her mechanical magic. Before long Mr Evans, who had lost an arm in an accident when he was younger, “…Was careering on the Fordson down the slope at a pace that made me gasp, as it looked as tho’ he were making straight for the deep.”


Of course, camping always has its stressful moments and there were a few tiffs between the two. May recounts one example of her “Peppery Welsh temperament” being aroused after MF, in a grumpy mood, makes disparaging comments about her driftwood fire, ending in May angrily throwing a saucepan full of vegetables into the bush, as MF stomps off in silence. Another example is presented in script form and concerns MF’s use of various crockery to keep her precious sea shells:

Scene: Outside the tent. MM touching up a sketch, MF seated in a camp chair with her back to MM.

MM  What are you doing M?

MF    Oh Nothing

MM cranes her neck and looks. (disgusted) Oh those smelly old shells! Why must you spend so much time over them?
MF growls You go and make your smokey fire and leave me alone, can’t you? My shells don’t harm anyone.
MM I looked for that bowl everywhere last night! Besides, they smell.
MF  Well you’re not leeward of me now anyway…

Then to May’s continued annoyance, MF proceeds to fill another large bowl with hot water and more shells!

Mwnt has always been a popular spot. The little 14th century church has been a favourite subject for many an artist over the years. It was May’s painting which first alerted me to the fact that she had spent time there. I’d suspected that other paintings in the collection were also painted around the same stretch of coast, so a trip to Mwnt was in order.

One thing I wanted to do was to see if we could find the actual location of the campsite. Unlike a lot of their later expeditions, they don’t seem to have brought a camera with them so there is no photo of the tent. We have May’s descriptions – “…up a pleasant valley, decked with a musical stream..”  She often mentions how the tent is on a slight slope, and there are various other references which led me to suspect a certain area. Also, although we have no photos, there is, on the reverse of a small watercolour of the church, a very rough sketch of the tent in its surroundings. Along with May’s descriptions, this made it possible to pinpoint the very spot.

The place is very much overgrown, making it somewhat difficult to fight through the wet bracken and brambles, but overall very little has changed. We’re fairly certain that just to the left of where Kathleen is standing was where the tent was. The little stream is hidden by the undergrowth but still babbles its way down to the beach. The buildings in the photo are modern, built by The National Trust.
Cliffs just around the corner from the campsite at Mwnt.
(MFV Lobb Collection. NLW)
This is Crûg farm.  “The old house stands enclosed L shaped, making a pleasant square inside the stock-yard – old gray slates and the nice dormer windows…” May mentions sketching it and returning later to paint it, while the children of the family there played with MF “.. as though she were a friendly Troll.”
Crûg farm (MFV Lobb Collection. NLW)

This was the first in many camping expeditions. We know May returned to the area again, though as yet, I have seen no evidence that they camped at Mwnt again. With all the sleepless nights due to vicious weather, fear of snakes, “…all the Daddy-long-legs and startly-boos and snails…” invading the tent, and other wildlife making off with their dinners, its a wonder they ventured out again, most other women of the time certainly wouldn’t. But these two were no ordinary ladies.

Quotes from May Morris’ journals by kind permission of The Society Of Antiquaries Of London.





Early One Madeiran Morning

 
 
The warm, humid, flower scented air greeted me as I stepped out of the cool, conditioned atmosphere of the hotel around 7am. I was still feeling a little groggy and bleary eyed, but I wanted to wander through Funchal in the quiet of the morning and head for the fish market with the camera, before it filled up with too many tourists. 
 
 
 
 
As I headed down Avenue Sa Carneiro, there was a group of local youngsters, late teens, early twenties perhaps, all gathered around a Renault Cleo parked up on the wide promenade. There was dance music thumping out of the car stereo and they seem to be still buzzing from partying all night. They were a little raucous but good natured enough. They went quiet, throwing wide eyed looks at each other as the group parted to let me pass. There were stifled giggles from some of the girls as I strode through in my rather obviously touristy attire. Across the road there was a burger van, there to cater for the late night/early morning partygoers in need of breakfast.
 
 
Every weekend in June there are concerts, street performances and a huge fireworks display out over the harbour, all part of the Atlantic Festival. There were little groups of activity all along the otherwise empty promenade in preparation for the first night of festivities.  As with any kind of activity like this, there is always an audience. Older folk, usually, take a seat or just stand and watch as chattering workmen go about their tasks. Maybe I noticed it more, being in a different place, but there seemed to be a lot of just observing – people sitting and letting the world unfold around them. Some sit alone looking out to sea or watching boats come and go in the harbour. Some sit in pairs, occasionally making an exchange of comments.
 
As I approached Mercado dos Lavradores – The Farmers Market, I paused across the road and just did what several locals were doing around me. I watched.
 
 
 
 
There were the flower sellers, just setting up on the wide pavement. The two women were dressed for the tourists, in traditional costume. The younger of the two was talking with a passer by, an acquaintance it seems, who appeared to make fun of the traditional hat, carapuca, that her friend had to wear. 
 
 
All along the streets there are little espresso bars where people stop, briefly, to sip down the morning caffeine. Here, outside the market, people were a little more leisurely, some sitting at tables perusing the newspaper, and some simply staring into their coffee, not quite ready to take in the activity around them.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On entering the building, I passed by the aromatic flower stalls, the colourful mounds of fruit and veg, and headed straight to the fish market. The locals had already gathered on the steps overlooking the hall below, and I paused for a while to observe with them, while acclimatising to the rising fishy smells. 
 
 
 
 

The people buying fish here seemed to be mostly women.The housewives and restaurant owners, I presume, seem to spend a long time discussing the cuts and prices. One pair of ladies were with one vendor for about an hour and watched like hawks as the vendor carefully cut up his wares. Whatever the language, you can always understand the gestures and sounds for “no way!”, “Too much”, “smaller”, “bigger” followed by the final smiles of agreement and exchange of cash.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Some seen to cut more carefully than others, or maybe its a matter of different techniques and cuts.  Some hack more than cut, quickly making chunks. Others are almost like surgeons, slowly deliberating and assessing before making precision incisions into the flesh.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

I descended the steps and hovered around the periphery of the rows of stone slabs, steel sinks and chopping boards. Doing my best to stay out of the way as crates of Scabbard Fish were dragged around the floor, I started looking for pictures. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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I’d been shooting for while, wandering from place to place. A couple of times I got a prolonged stare from the some of the women going about their shopping. I knew I stood out, white legged in my shorts and wearing my creatively decorated “summer” hat! There were still no other sightseers around at this point, so I carried on wandering and snapping. At one point, I stopped to change lens, and as I looked up, someone beckoned me from across the room.
 
 
“Hey camera man!” he called with an insistent wave. I walked over to where he stood, behind a stone slab where he was working on what looked like Tuna.
“Americano?” he asked
“No..err…”, I grappled for the Portuguese for Welsh, only to come up with the French!
“Inglés?” He continued. Then I remembered.
“Galés!” I blurted out, and for a second he looked thoughtful.
“Ah, Galés,” he nodded, then picking up the cleaver, looks more like a machete really, in one hand, and giving the thumbs up with the other, he struck a pose.
“You take my picture camera man Galés!”
 
 
 
He laughed, and the couple of people who had gathered to watch ( yes, even in that short time an attentive audience had formed! ) joined in as they dispersed.
 
I noticed a few people taking snaps with their phones, selfies with the ugly Scabbard Fish, as a the trickle of sightseers increased. Very soon the fishermen, fishmongers, their everyday customers, and not forgetting their regular, early morning audience members, would be outnumbered by visitors. Just as I started my way out, I had to struggle against the incoming flow of a torrent of Japanese tourists being led by a tour guide. Once they had passed I climbed the steps, and almost immediately, the distinctive, cold, sharp odour of fish and their entrails was replaced by a warm mixture of floral, fruity, earthy and spicy aromas. I’m getting a bit peckish by this time and buy a few bananas, then it’s back out onto the street. There was a little more traffic now, and I followed a man carrying a large sack of potatoes on his shoulder across the road and away from the busier streets. 

Sitting down under a tree to eat my purchases, I noticed the thermometer outside a nearby shop. 21 degrees, at 9am.  Nice.  Its going to be another good day.


More Photo’s from Madeira HERE

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

FfotoAber Photo Marathon

I’ve never done one of these Photo Marathons before. I’m a plodding sort of person. I like to wander, with my camera, taking my time to shoot what it occurs to me to shoot, as and when images unfold in front of me. I see what I see and photograph accordingly. I love taking candid images around town, or, sitting and waiting for the light to change in a landscape out in the hills. I’ve done photo a day challenges, sometimes for a couple of consecutive years, but without any thematic structure, leaving me free to choose my subjects, or, more frequently, my subjects to choose me. This has its difficulties too, but I always came up with something, sometimes spending hours over any one image. So working with themes, within a fairly tight time frame, is not something I would normally choose to do. But it’s good to challenge yourself from time to time, and step out of your comfort zone, so this year I signed up for the Ffoto Aber event in Aberystwyth. These events have been running for some years now, and seem to be increasing in popularity. Six photos in six hours, two themes being handed out every two hours.


 A small crowd set off from The Morlan Centre as soon as we had the first two themes – The Other Side and Four. I strode confidently off into town, with that “how difficult can it be?” attitude. I thought I could easily think “outside the box”, and come up with some fantastically original interpretation in the time allotted. Then my brain froze. Time seemed to speed up, and a slight panic set in.

“The Other Side”
I also thought about a gravestone, a shot over a wall or from the inside of a shop window, but somehow ran out of time before moving on to the next image…
“4”

Part of my problem was that I kept getting distracted by all the things I wanted to photograph, rather than concentrating on what I had to take! I felt like a child whose mind keeps wandering, going off at tangents, rather than putting their efforts into the homework that has to be finished on time. Only this wasn’t just about simply handing in the homework on time, there were no simple “right” answers, and the results had to look good. My inability to come up with the ideas and produce images I was really happy with, was both frustrating and somewhat humbling.

“Raw”
I tried not to head straight down the butchers where a lot of people went, although, in fact, the winner in this category was a shot of raw meat.

“Pattern”

 I was pleased that I completed the challenge. I can’t say that I was really happy with the images I produced, and I was exhausted by the end of the day, but I think I learned a few things. I learned that, in a situation like this, I tend to overthink things. Also, on the technical side, I came to realise how much I rely on a certain degree of post-processing. Not being able to make various little adjustments once the shot was taken really added to the challenge. Normally I tend to work with black and white, but for the sake of consistency, I decided to shoot entirely in colour. I guessed, based on what I’d seen from previous events, that one of the themes would be a colour, and I really didn’t want to give myself the added challenge of interpreting a colour theme in monochrome! Maybe next time.

“Collection”
Probably my most literal, obvious, and badly composed shot!
“Blue”

All in all, a very challenging, but enjoyable day for most people, I think.  The results are fantastic to look at. There are similarities in many images, as you would expect, but also great diversity in style and content – see them on Ffoto Aber’s Facebook page.

I must put in a good word for the organisers, a dedicated bunch who work hard to make this event a reality year after year. There was slight chaos when it came to downloading everyones photos, understandable under the circumstances, but over all, a well run event bringing people of all ages and abilities together. You might just see me there next year.

On London Transport




I don’t often venture into The Metropolis. Being a country boy, I’ve always found it all a bit overwhelming. There’s so much going on, it’s too, well, busy. But, of course, despite it’s down sides (and for me, there are a lot of those) the city has many marvels to behold. When The Lovely suggested that we take The Small One (not quite so small any more) into London to visit the museums, various landmarks, and to see a show, I was happy to go along. 
We were travelling in from Broxbourne where The Lovely’s parents live, some twenty minutes by train from the central London.  Apart from my general discomfort with the crowds and the searing summer temperatures, everything went very smoothly. I’ve often heard tales of rail chaos, delays, cancellations and angry commuters, but, even on previous work related expeditions, I’d seen no evidence of this. We’d travelled all over the city centre, hopping on and off the tube with relatively little stress. I was actually becoming quietly impressed by how well it all worked, as well as enjoying taking photos of my fellow passengers.
Later in the week, when the rainy weather set in, The Lovely and I decided to take a look at The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow. A simple, short journey from where we were. Catch the train at Broxbourne, grab the Victoria line tube at Tottenham Hale and on to Walthamstow Central. Easy. We got there without a hitch and after an enjoyable afternoon, began our journey back. 
Our timing was slightly out. It was around 5pm, so I was preparing myself for a fairly hectic, but thankfully short trip back. The station at Walthamstow didn’t seem too busy. So far so good. Then, as the tube train lurched forward, an announcement rattled out of the speakers. It seemed all trains from our connecting station at Tottenham had been suspended. Signal failure. This kind of thing is not, so I gather, a particularly rare occurrence, so, apprehensive, but still quite calm at this point, we disembarked in an attempt to get more information. 
All trains had been diverted to the Seven Sisters station, and by the time we reached there, the confused crowds were already accumulating on the platform. A couple of officials were being swamped with questions, and I could see people turning away from them in disgust, amid much muttering and head shaking. When we got closer, we could hear the reason for their despair. It seems we had been misinformed. We had to go back to the station we had come from. So, back on the tube.
The main platform was heaving. Across the tracks, only a handful of people sat, occasionally glancing dispassionately at the ever growing, frustrated hoards of travellers. We waited. We waited a little more, and the whole time more and more people arrived. The P.A. system squawked into life and we were informed, very apologetically, that we had to go back to Seven Sisters. Again. Now, my stress levels were rising. 
As we stormed back to the tube once more, I passed a large American man, dripping with sweat, hauling a massive suitcase. He was shouting loudly at an official about how “Unbelievable” this was and what the hell was he was supposed to do, he had a plane to catch, and so on. Further on I passed another official manning the gates as we all tried to pile through, she was nearly in tears as she tried to explain and appologise to the more irate amoungst us.
So, off the tube at Seven Sisters, again. Up the stairs to the platform which by now was uncomfortably congested. The usually loud, piercing announcements seemed like whispers, lost in the constant mumble of the anxious crowd, but we learned that all the diverted trains would soon start arriving. Sure enough within a few minutes a train squealed to a halt and the doors opened to reveal the already packed carriages. It was plain to see that just a tiny fraction of those waiting stood any chance of actually getting on. Despite the obvious futility, we all lurched forwards. I found myself muttering, “No way….No way…”, and my stress levels peaked. I felt the beginnings of sheer panic rising in me, and I rapidly backed away, fighting my way out of the densest concentration of desperate would-be travellers. 


I found myself in a corner, some way back from the platforms edge. There was a small space around me. I could breathe. The Lovely had stayed in the crowd, trying to make sense of the announcements which may give some clues as to the next train we might catch. I watched as people approached up the stairs, many blissfully unaware of what was ahead of them. They would round the corner and their faces would drop. There was a difference between the local, regular commuters and those, like me, who had never experienced anything like it. The regulars were pretty stoic. The despair flashed across their face and was gone. They would just sigh or roll their eyes and get on the phone to calmly inform their loved ones that they would be delayed. Foreign travellers or those unfamiliar with London retained the look of despair, constantly looking around for someone or something to inform them what to do next. Then there were people like me, who just wanted to hide in a corner until it was all over! 
Finally, a train turned up into which we could actually fit, just. We were all pressed in tight with hardly an air gap between us, standing as still as one can as the train jogs and lurches about. It was hot, uncomfortable and claustrophobic. About as far from my comfort zone as I could get! When we eventually disembarked, what should have been a 20 minute hop had taken about 2 hours.
I thought the daily rush hour could be bad! Having seen what happens when it all goes pear shaped, and knowing that it does so quite regularly, I don’t know how anyone copes. Through my eyes it seems like a kind of hell, torture, and I wouldn’t last very long at all if I had to live like that on a daily basis. 
So, you commuting Londoners, and the ever suffering Underground staff, I salute you!


Tunick Memories

Today, in the news, I see that artist Spencer Tunick has been at it again, this time in Hull.   I took part in his  Installations in Newcastle, back in 2005, and seeing this latest event brought back the memories of a rather interesting experience…and almost longing to do it again!
At the time, I wrote an account of the day, but no Blog back then so, for the record, here it is.

Naked In Newcastle

A normal Sunday for me, as with many others, I suspect, involves a bit of a lie in followed by a leisurely day at home, visiting family or maybe going for a walk. Sunday 17 July, 2005 was a bit different.

It all started a couple of months before when a friend sent me a link to page on the internet; it was all about American artist Spencer Tunick.  Using mostly urban settings, he changes the landscape by arranging large numbers of naked people into various forms and documents it all with photographs and video.  I had long been a fan of his work, fascinated by the images themselves and by the technical and logistical skills needed to make such a thing happen.

The web page was announcing that Tunick had been commissioned to work in Newcastle, and that they were calling for volunteers to take part.  An insane resolve took hold of me.  I found myself filling in the online form and clicking ‘send’.  It was easy.

Time flew by.  Having never been to Newcastle before, the drive alone was a bit of an adventure.  I got lost and spent almost an hour going round the city in circles as I tried to find the hotel.  By the time I fell into bed it was 10 pm.  I set the alarm for 2 am.  The information I had received stated that we were to meet, no later than 3.30 am, in Mill Road car park near the Baltic Centre – an early start is essential, so as to minimise disruption and to catch the dawn light.  As I had very little idea about how to get to this location, I thought I’d better get going in plenty of time

I confidently drove into the darkness, and was almost instantly lost.  I knew I was in roughly the right area, as I could see the Tyne, awash with the rippling reflections of the lights that illuminate the Quayside.  The fear grew in me that I might not make it.  To come all this way and not get there was unthinkable, and yet the geography of the place seemed to conspire against me.  By now it was approaching 3 am.  Finally, I decided that the only thing left to do was to try approaching one of the many people staggering around the streets.  This could be a bad idea, but I just pulled the car into the first space I saw and got out.  As I looked around, trying to decide which one the somewhat drunk locals I was going to approach, a car pulled up a little way from me.  Two women in their fifties got out.  One was quite tall, very thin, as in ‘as a beanpole’, the other was much shorter and rounder.  Seeing as they seemed sober, I thought they might be able to help me. 
“Uh, excuse me….” I ventured, ” I wonder if you can help me, I’m….”
“Going to the Spencer Tunick shoot?” interjected the tall, thin woman.
“Err, yes. Do you know how to get there?”
” Oh yes, no problem,” said the shorter one,” You come with us.”
We proceeded to introduce ourselves and, as we walked briskly along, chatted about where we were all from and how we’d come to be there.  It turned out they lived locally, though neither of them had the local accent.  The tall one spoke with a diluted American accent, and the other more of Southern England.  At one point, the smaller woman fell behind a little and complained that people with long legs are always bounding off ahead of her.  We slowed the pace just a little.

Suddenly, as we rounded a corner, there were people everywhere.  A young couple ran in front of us and were ushered by two policemen toward the long queue forming up ahead.  Soon, the queue stretched behind us by at least another hundred people.  It looked like there had been quite a turnout.  Mr. Tunick might well have got the numbers he was hoping for, somewhere in the region of 2,000. 

In front of me was a group of people all in their late teens or early twenties.  There was lively chatter and joking about what we’d be expected to do.  There were two men, both in dressing gowns, seemingly unaffected by the chilly, pre-dawn temperature.  Most people had come dressed warmly in loose, easy-to-remove clothing.  One of the three girls in the group, a dark haired, plump girl was wearing a fairly skimpy top and was already complaining that she was a bit cold.  Another, slumped on the grassy bank nearby, muttering that she was really tired and couldn’t she just have a nap!

The queue started to move quite steadily along.  We all had to fill out model release forms.  I, like most others, had done this in advance by getting the forms from the internet.  It made things a lot quicker.   We all handed over our forms at the entrance to the car park and were given bags in which to put our clothes when the time came.  There were security personnel all over the place so everything would be safe.  It was still quite dark at this point and it wasn’t really possible to see how many people there were altogether.  The two I had walked there with disappeared in the chaos and I wondered if I’d be able to find my way back to the car later.  But that would be later, and it was soon out of my mind as I watched the crowd grow and grow around me.
I was chatting with some people from Leeds when an amplified American voice cut across the loud mumble of the crowd.  One of the artist’s assistants bid us all good morning and introduced the man himself, Spencer Tunick.  The New Yorker welcomed us and thanked us profusely for making the effort to be there.  He explained that we’d be doing four different pieces.  A slightly nervous laugh rippled through the crowd as we were told that after we’d undressed we’d be leaving the car park and crossing the Millennium Bridge for the first set up.  There would be another set up in Dean Street and then back across the river, do a shot by the Sage Centre (an amazing domed building of steel and glass) and then one final shot in the car park.   He was going to be shooting the first shot from the Tyne Bridge and he’d be about ready in 10 minutes or so.  The time for us all to shed our clothes was almost upon us.

As I waited, I looked around at the waiting crowd.  People from all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, from the petite to the enormous.  The youngest were probably the minimum age of 18, and the oldest I saw must have been in their 70s!   I heard local accents, there were some speaking French, and I chatted for a while with a German chap.  It was truly cosmopolitan.
“OK, ” the assistant announced, ” I’m being told that Spencer is just about ready……So…” 
There was a brief moment of silence.
“As I’m now quite fond of saying,” he continued, ” Get your kit off!! “

There was instant activity all around.  For a few brief seconds, as garments came off, I felt a trace of panic.  People started chatting and laughing in those nervous first moments of nakedness.  There were cries of “What AM I doing?!?”, as the cold morning air made its presence felt and the goose-bumps rose.  The panic went, swept aside by a light headed elation.  I, like many, just stood for a few seconds to take in the sudden transformation, looking around at each other with sheer, child-like joy.  There seemed to be an instant familiarity with those I spoke to around me.  Intense eye contact and smiles said it all.  I joined several others in a jubilant cheer as we started to move en mass.  We were each now ready to become a brush stroke in a surreal artwork. 
The crowd burst from the car park – poured, in a glorious stream, no, a torrent, of varied flesh tones down the steps, over the grassy banks and converged on the magnificent Millennium Bridge. As the procession reached the other side, the turbulent stream formed into an ordered line, three people wide, as we had been instructed to do, and moved slowly toward the Tyne Bridge.  It was an amazing sight.  I found myself nodding my head and smiling.  I seem to recall uttering the words “Wow”, “Amazing” and “I can’t believe this!”, just like so many around me.
When I got to the end of the Bridge, I tried to fit in to the 3 across pattern and walked along the line until I found a spot. 
“Oh, hello!” said the dark haired man in his twenties as I stood in line next to him.  We shook hands and he introduced himself and his girlfriend, a slim dark haired, dark eyed girl. 
“Hi!” she said, and reaching across to shake hands, she added, with a beaming smile, “This is mad isn’t it?!”
They were just telling me that they’d come down from Scotland, when the loudspeaker system crackled into life and the voice of Spencer Tunick echoed along the Quayside.
“OK, you’re looking good!”, he enthused, ” Now, arms at your sides, look straight ahead.  Don’t smile!  I’m going to take some shots now, stay as you are, you look beautiful!”
It was almost silent for a minute or so.
“OK, great!  Now I want you to lie down.  Heads towards the river…heads back looking straight up.  Knees down, you have to be totally flat!”
With a sharp intake of breath and a slight groan I lay down on the cool paving stones.  There was some giggling as we tried to fit together in the required pattern.  Somewhere, a clock chimed four o’clock. 
“I don’t believe it!’, chuckled the Scot next to me,” It’s four in the morning and I’m lying, stark naked with hundreds of complete strangers, in the middle of Newcastle!!”
My sentiments exactly! 
We were told that we looked great and that the shot was about to be taken.  The crowd fell silent once more.  One thing about lying down was that at least I was out of the wind, and I lay there, staring at the vaguely blue sky streaked with thin cloud feeling surprisingly relaxed.  It seemed quite a while before we got the OK, and there was cheering and clapping as we rose.  Using the dark, plate glass of a building nearby, a group of women in their thirties were trying to see the lines and dimples they’d acquired from the texture of the pavement.  Others just laughed as they caught a glimpse of their own reflections in the glass as we slowly moved forward and on to our next location.  I noticed a figure moving against the flow; it was the young plump girl who had been standing in front of me in the queue earlier.  She seemed very cold and headed back across the Millennium Bridge.  It was a strange image in itself; that lone, naked figure, separated from the rest of us, on that huge structure. 

We made our way along the Quayside.  There were police scattered along the route with bewildered expressions. A woman in front of me pointed out there was someone in the doorway of a closed cafe, taking a photograph with his mobile phone. 
“Quick, get him! ” someone said jokingly.
“Yeah,” came another voice, “He’ll never forget being attacked by hundreds of naked people!”
The crowd ahead was disappearing around a corner near to where the impressive span of the Tyne Bridge meets the ground.  A few moments after rounding the bend I was confronted by an awesome sight.  The shop-lined road curved sharply upward, under and beyond a massive brick arch.  People filled the road as far as I could see, and they were all facing down at us, I was among the last few hundred to arrive.  It was as though the whole street had been draped in a massive, flesh-toned patchwork quilt!  Stunning. 
Looking back down the street, I could see, just above the rooftops, a section of the Bridge, and it was from here that Spencer Tunick addressed us.  His slightly distorted voice echoed up and down, bouncing off the tall stone buildings.  We were to stand in rows across the street, about an arm’s length apart.  We dutifully shuffled into position.  It was cold here.  Every now and then the wind picked up causing a wave of low moans to issue from the crowd.  As if in defiance of this, several people near the front started slapping their backsides and thighs.  This was soon repeated, and a ripple of slapping sounds travelled up the street.  I’ve never heard anything quite like it, and I’ve certainly never seen so many rosy, red cheeks.

 We were instructed to take about ten steps forward, only I don’t think the message got through to the whole crowd and some disorder ensued.  This is obviously one of the problems with managing such large numbers of people.  The equal distances between us broke down and took a while to re-establish.  Back and forth, from side to side, slight giggles as people bumped into one another.  Eventually we were told to turn to our right, kneel down and put our heads right down, making ourselves into human boulders.  The pavement was very cold and, where I was, it was also wet, having not long been washed down.  It was a bit frustrating not knowing how this was going to look.  Though now, I think it may well be my favourite shot.  Another wave of shivering attacked me and I was glad to get moving again.
Down the road a little there were assistants handing out water and white plastic poncho-like things.  We had to cross back over the river again, and the organisers had thought it best if we had a bit of a warm up.  We all struggled into the thin plastic garments, and they did indeed offer a little warmth.  Though they were not flattering in any way. 
“Oh, sexy,” said a local lass sarcastically, ” I’d rather stay naked!”  But she put one on anyway.  Further down the street there were boxes and boxes of flip-flops and sandals.  I rummaged around until I found a pair that fitted and carried on towards the other side of the river.

The plastic ponchos and sandals were removed and left in a big pile on the pavement near to the Sage building, and we were told to wait in the road there.  During our quite chilly wait, some of the staff of The Sage who were watching from above sang a rendition of “You’re too Sexy” which we applauded enthusiastically!  Finally, a couple of shots were taken of us standing in the road.  Then there was a pause and I couldn’t hear what was being said up at the front. The next thing I know everyone is suddenly climbing the steep, stepped embankment, on top of which is the Sage building.  Another magnificent sight!  The contrast of all those bodies against the green of the bank was marvellous.  We did two shots here.  One where we all turned our backs to the camera, and another where we faced the front but turned our heads towards the Baltic Centre.  It was about now that the sun came out. Oh joy! Never have I been so pleased to feel that warmth.  All around, I could hear relieved sighs.

Our work wasn’t quite finished.  One more set-up to go, so it was back to the car park where we had started.  Unfortunately, this location was hidden from the sun and I began to feel colder than ever.  The sun peeped around the edge of a building, creating a pool of warmth in the middle of the car park and people huddled in that one spot, determined to stay warm.  We waited for our instructions.  And we waited.  Nearby there was a truck with a lift on the back.  Assistants jumped to the commands of the artist, but were unable to get a satisfactory position for the truck and, in the end, they were told to forget it.  He’d use his trusty ladder instead.  Anyone with large tattoos or tan lines was removed from the front rows for this one, so too were the two girls who had dyed their hair very bright colours.  We were then herded between two ropes, held by more assistants, to form a triangle.  After this had been documented, we were told to split down the middle and each half was to lie half on the person next to us, with our heads to the outside.  This must have looked good from the camera’s viewpoint.  That was it.  We cheered and clapped as we were thanked profusely once more.  There was a call for volunteers to do one more special installation later that night, live on TV.  It sounded great, but I really had to get back that day.
So, with a mixture of relief and a little sadness that it was all over, I joined the long queue down the steps to where our clothes had been left some three and a half hours earlier.  As I searched the piles of plastic bags, a tall stocky man with ebony black skin and short dreadlocks joined me in the search. 
“Unbelievable!” he said shaking his head and smiling, “Cannot believe I just did that! No one’s ever going to believe me!”
“Not something we’re going to forget in a hurry!” I said with a smile as I found my bag of clothes.
“Unbelievable!”,  he uttered again, pulling on a t-shirt, “Unbelievable…”

Despite the cold, most people didn’t seem in as much of hurry to dress as they were to strip.  Slowly, all around, the extraordinary crowd became a ‘normal’ crowd again.  Dressed, I felt odd for a while.  The clothing seemed restrictive, but oh, SO warm!  I walked down the slope from the car park and onto the road I’d arrived on.  I turned, walking backwards for a moment, to take a last look at the scene.  People were still coming down the steps naked, and as they disappeared more people left the site clothed.  It looked like a big machine taking in nudes at one end, and delivering dressed people at the other!

I turned back to concentrate on my route back to the car.  To my surprise, I saw, a little way ahead of me, the two ladies I had met on the way in.  I’d be able to find my car again now.  I ran a little to catch up with them and, after a brief ‘hello’ not much was said for most of the short walk.  We were all tired, stunned into silence, but very, very happy!

It had been a surreal, bewildering experience.  I hadn’t once felt embarrassed, or self-conscious about being without clothes.  For those few hours, reality had been pushed fairly and squarely to one side.  It was extremely sensuous, liberating, slightly erotic, but somehow never overtly sexual.  Once the markers of social status had been discarded, we were simply Human Beings.  All basically the same, just in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, and there was a feeling that, as a group, we had helped achieve something out of the ordinary.

Why?  Well, as far as I could tell, there were many, varied reasons for being there.  Some were extremely serious about Art, some used it as a way to boost self-confidence: “If I can do this, I can do anything” mentality.  Some were there for the sheer joy of new experience, and some had come for a laugh.  I think with me, it’s a mixture of all these things.  There are some who’ve just smiled at me, in a patronising way, and muttered something about a “mid-life crisis”.  It may be some ‘mid-life thing’, but ‘crisis’?  How can it be a crisis when I’m having so much fun?!   Whatever the reasons, everyone will take something special away with them.  The images created will live on to be loved or hated, discussed or dismissed, but for those who took part, the images will hold the reminder of a unique and wonderful experience.


https://www.artsy.net/artist/spencer-tunick

Kids Eh?!




Having just taken delivery of a nice new lens, I set off to give it a test run. My random route around town brought me to the castle. I often find myself passing through the ruins and today it was quite crowded. There were several groups of youngsters, mostly aged around 12-13, possibly a bit older, I’m not known for my accuracy when it comes to guessing ages!  

One or two of the lads were taking large rocks and slamming them against the walls in an attempt, I think, to impress the gaggle of girls standing nearby. They climbed and jumped, shouting insults at each other and were being generally boisterous. They were being kids.  A mother with a toddler passed me, looked at the frantic activity, then looked at me, then back at the kids again and I wondered if she thought I should be saying something, or if I was in some way connected. I just smiled.
I have to admit that somewhere in the back if my mind, the grumpy old man voice was muttering something about telling them to be careful where they were throwing things and to have a bit of respect for other people who might want a bit of peace and quiet. But then the other voice spoke up and reminded me of what I was up to at that age….there was the time that……oh yes and THAT time…..Probably a lot worse than I was witnessing in front of me, and I suspect I could have ended up with several ASBO’s! They were just being kids, and as long as I perceived no actual threat to life and limb to themselves or others, I wasn’t going to get involved. The mood was not generally aggressive, and I found it quite encouraging to see kids this age being active rather than sitting down staring at a screen. They weren’t there for that long anyway, and soon headed off.


Later, I encountered another group, older this time, the BMX crew. I’ve often seen this varying sized group racing about town, along pavements, nipping the wrong way up one way streets, doing wheelies and jumps whenever the terrain allows it. I’m sure I show my age by how amusing I find it to see large teenagers riding bikes that seem several sizes too small for them, but I suspect its considered quite “cool” ( or whatever word they’ve currently usurped to express that concept!). I had a couple of close calls, near misses, as they appeared suddenly around a corner, though it has to be said that I got an apology every time.
“Whoa! Sorry mate!”, was the usual offering, quite polite really.


As much as I might smile and just think “Kids will be kids”, they were a bit rowdy, possibly a danger to some and there are plenty less tolerant than me, so I kept expecting, at some point, to see at least one of these groups having a talking to by a Community Support Officer. Maybe they did and I missed it, if so it hadn’t deterred them any. Then I saw something else. 

Now, I can’t be entirely sure what had happened. However, the only person I saw being approached by the police was one young black man in a hoodie. He was not part of the other groups, and as far as I could tell, he’d been riding his bike on the pavement. He was stopped, asked to show his face and produce ID.


Figures produced last year show that black people are still much more likely to be stopped, questioned or searched than any other group ( just one of many articles on this subject can be seen HERE ).  As far as I could see, this lad had done nothing wrong because he was allowed to go on his way after the CSO had examined his ID. So, was it really necessary? I never want to believe these statistics, surely it can’t be that bad, but on just one day, in quiet little Aberystwyth I had witnessed something that seemed, in my experience at least, to suggest that it is indeed the case.

The Peculiar Migrations of Objects


I didn’t really give it a second thought, when I told The Small One to “Just leave them there for now.” She’d been sorting out her room ( for an 8 year old, I suppose that’s worthy of note in itself ) and had found a couple of things she thought should go to the charity shop. Of course, they stayed exactly where she left them, and I only noticed days later how Papa Smurf was eyeing up Cinderella.
I’ve always been quite fascinated by the way random objects can frequently end up in interesting arrangements. Some things seem to migrate, through various mechanisms, towards each other. This often  happens through the process of “temporarily” putting things down until you can find a better place for them. Of course, it’s not long before they’re “temporarily” joined by other bits and pieces. As this process continues over time, and the individual items are shoved and shifted, it can lead to the emergence of vaguely aesthetic, usually quite surreal, displays. This is especially true when there are children around.  The Small One, by randomly discarding various items in her menagerie of fluffy creatures, or some of her collection of small humanoid effigies, often contributes to this phenomenon.
Somehow, Jessie from Toy Story seems quite sinister as a bride, lurking in the shadows.



This chap made himself comfortable on the arm of the sofa, remaining that way for some time after Halloween

I just kept catching the glint in the eye of this one. It was removed once the photo had been taken.

Barbie seems to have had a terrible accident. Probably shouldn’t have gone naked scooter riding.

Those years in which I did the photo-a-day challenges, I often turned to everyday objects to fill my quota. I think 2011 was a classic year for the “Things on my shelves” series! 
It seemed an easy option, especially during the dark, winter months, but I found that I could end up spending ages playing with different angles, lighting or lenses. 
Sometimes I would grab whatever was close by, re-arrange them slightly and snap a couple of quick shots. I’ve also been known to spend hours in Photoshop making more outlandish creations based on whatever is to hand. 
But, what I really like is when chance has done it all for me, when I suddenly notice a meeting of objects, like Papa Smurf and Cinderella, that just calls out to be recorded without needing any other interference from me.