Thursday, 26 February 2015

Glittering and Shimmering

London never looked so fine as when I set out last week on another amble along the Thames, my route taking me from London Bridge to Southwark Bridge and back the other side. This time I made sure to monitor my photographic output so my battery didn't run out on the return leg!

The pleasure in the air was almost palpable as I stepped out onto the riverside path - people were everywhere enjoying the winter sunshine - strolling, running, eating lunch, chatting on the phone or just taking some quiet time to enjoy the view or read a book. Unlike the Seine and many other European rivers, until recently I hadn't really associated the Thames with public recreation. In fact, access to the riverbanks in this central area of London is easy apart from a few stretches where the path deviates away from the waterside. Contrast this to many areas both up and downstream which are being heavily developed with upmarket apartment complexes and where public access is increasingly thwarted, as featured in an article in the Guardian this week. As I venture further west, I'm sure I will encounter this problem.

The great ribbon of water creates myriad effects in the sunshine - glittering and shimmering, reflecting itself in the plate glass of the buildings thronging the riverbanks, slipping in and out of view, under bridges and behind parapets, then suddenly reappearing as a tantalising sliver of silver down some steep steps......

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Extract the magic

A couple of months ago I bought a book called The Photographer's Playbook - a collection of 307 assignments and ideas from photography practitioners - artists, teachers, curators, commercial photographers - ranging from the practical and the inspirational right through to the enigmatic and the plain ridiculous. The overall idea behind the book is to encourage experimentation and play, to overcome the clichĂ© and avoid the overfamilair, to find a fresh approach to photography. The assignments take the form of exercises and lessons, games and challenges, tips and musings. Some are short and pithy, others long and complicated. I glanced briefly through the book and promptly put it aside! 

I picked it up again the other day and started leafing through it (you can either work through each contribution in order or more fun would be to follow the recommended pages at the end of each individual page taking you on a journey through related content.) I disregarded some immediately eg. Philip-Lorca di Corcia's suggestion to 'make any kind of work just as long as it involves sex' or a rather impractical assignment involving the purchase of a drone! But I found several that piqued my interest straight away and decided to try out a few over the next few months. At the very least, it should challenge me a little and maybe get me to try something different...... 

         Extract the Magic
         by Elspeth Diederix
"Choose an object that you normally wouldn't give a second glance. Something that you see all the time, but don't find very special.
Study it carefully and discover a quality that you like about it. Maybe its shape or colour, or even the way it moves or feels. 
Think of a way to photograph it that will show the beauty in this commonplace object. Most often, if you just document the object as it is, its particular beauty remains invisible. You might need to alter something to make the viewer see what you see. Take the object out its normal surroundings, or change its colour, or make it look like something else. All it might need is some special lighting. You must provide the extra element that will extract the magic from the ordinary to make it visible."
On the chest of drawers my eye chanced on an old empty perfume bottle which I've been meaning to throw away for some time. It has a very distinctive shape which I like. Perhaps it's cheating a little as it's quite an attractive object in itself, but by placing it on the windowsill with the light streaming behind it, I think I've managed to extract a certain magical quality which wasn't apparent before....

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The great cord of humanity

The final leg of my first journey crossing the bridges of the River Thames.....a watery world, a palette of soft blues, greys and browns, reflections of water and sky, changing colour as the sun comes out and goes in.....

In Thames: Sacred River, Peter Ackroyd describes London Bridge as 'a great cord of humanity' linking the past to the present:
"It is the most frequented of all bridges, the great highway of the city. If we may speak in an Aboriginal sense of a songline, or dreamline, of London, then it is represented by this path across the river. It is a great cord of humanity. It creates the great stream of human beings, contracted and innumerable, which in itself becomes a river echoing the Thames. For a brief passage, vehicles and people are brought into relation with the push and flow of the sea. The wind and the dust, the noise of the traffic and the cry of the gulls, are brought together.
There are no buildings upon it, as there were in past ages of the bridge. Now the pedestrians are outlined against the sky and framed by the water beneath their feet; they are caught between immensities. They become frail and evanescent, a pilgrimage of passing souls suspended between the elements. Over the bridge cross all the varieties of human character with no complicity, or community of interest, between them. They are together but alone; they evince expressions of endurement or of merriment, of suffering or of abstraction. It is the most suggestive of all bridges; it has evoked in many writers and artists, phantasmal or oneiric images."
On the day I was there, the passage of souls was relatively modest, but I have witnessed the huge surge of humanity streaming across the bridge at the end of the day, headed for home, each trapped in their own little bubble, heedless of their travelling companions. It is a sight to behold and marvel at!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Picturing the Shard

Here are some more photographs from my wander along the Thames the other week, crossing Tower Bridge and London Bridge - up one side of the river and down the other. Of course, there was no getting away from the Shard. Soaring upwards out of the muddle of buildings on the south bank, it duplicates itself in myriad forms, whether reflected and distorted in the many glass windows facing the river like some crazed doppelganger of its true self, or rising dreamlike through the clouds mirrored in a puddle. Compared to many of the buildings appearing on the skyline in the City of London, the Shard is elegant and graceful. It is one of a kind, although if and when other skyscrapers inevitably start to mushroom around it, its presence will be diminished. Even though it is an emblem for the worst excesses of greed and extreme wealth in our society, I can't help but appreciate its beauty......