Monday, 20 April 2015

12 by 12 Challenge #1 Part Two

Following on from the first part of my 12 by 12 challenge, I made the same journey but in reverse - from Baker Street tube to Marylebone Station. In her challenge Vanessa Winship made the point that taking the same route may well lead to a different experience on another occasion. Walking in the opposite direction perhaps you notice things you missed on the way there - it's certainly always good to have an alternative viewpoint. Other factors will influence the look of the street - time of day, weather, amount of people and traffic etc. On my second trip it had been raining earlier, the pavements were wet and sleek in the sunshine, raindrops glistened on the reflective bonnets of parked cars....

The following month brings a fresh challenge which I will be documenting here later.  In hindsight, I found this challenge a little underwhelming but that was probably because I only engaged with it in a fairly superficial way. It's not too different to the way I normally operate when I go out with my camera in the city so I didn't really feel that I had covered any new ground! Onwards and upwards.....

Thursday, 16 April 2015

12 by12 Challenge #1 Part One

12 by 12 is a year-long series of photo-challenges set by renowned photographers. Every month a new challenge is issued and group members are invited to interpret it by submitting their responses on Flickr or Instagram. The idea is to encourage creativity and experimentation, in terms of approach as well as aesthetics. The challenge is a continuation of previous tasks 52 by 52 and 26 by 26 examples of which are on the website. 

The first challenge was set by photographer Vanessa Winship and urged us to take a route you’re familiar with but have never photographed along and photograph someone or something every 100 or so steps. It's all about looking at a familiar environment with fresh eyes and working within a set of rules and a restricted framework. I really like the idea of imposing limitations on yourself - some may see it as a restriction but sticking to a set of rules can actually free you up. It's a bit like having too much choice in a shop - when you go into a shop which has a limited selection of goods on offer, it actually becomes easier to make a decision! 

Initially I struggled to think of a route to choose as most of my familiar routes are already well-documented. I realised though, that one route I have never photographed is the short walk on my arrival in London between Marylebone Station and Baker Street tube. I take this route on a regular basis but have never felt the need to photograph it as I'm usually focused on getting somewhere else. These are the results, all taken with my phone......

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Yesterday in the artist's studio

Some pictures from yesterday when I ventured into the artist's studio again......

This is very much a work in progress, a constantly evolving record of a space in a state of flux. It has no natural beginning nor end and I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with the images. I'll probably make them into a book at some point in the future but I also think it would be a nice idea to show them together with some of the paintings that were created in the space. A possible future husband/wife collaboration?

All paintings copyright Mike Newton

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Growing old in front of the camera

There was a book published last year which really made an impression on me. Mother and Father by Paddy Summerfield is a poignant documentation of the photographer's elderly parents and their last decade of life together. Mostly shot through the window of their home, the black and white photographs show the couple either working or relaxing in their garden, together yet separate in that companionable way people have after a lifetime spent together, the mother often lost in her own private world, the father tenderly attentive. These are quiet, unspectacular photographs made with love and concern, so distant from the frantic posturing and self regard of much of the contemporary photography world. According to critic Sean O'Hagan they are "a reminder of the power of a certain kind of photographic attentiveness that has become increasingly hard to find in an age of manipulated image-making." You can read his review here.

  All photographs above by Paddy Summerfield

Intensely personal yet with universal appeal at the same time, they set me thinking about my own parents. My mother died last year, yet I have few photographs of her in her final years as she steadfastly refused to have her picture taken. I suspect this is quite a common occurrence and that in comparison to the large numbers of photographs taken of a person in the span of their lifetime, their old age probably remains sparsely documented. Perhaps the odd snap taken with family at Christmas or other celebrations, but the day to day minutiae of their lives are not often deemed worthy or interesting subjects. 

It is too late now for me to portray my parent's life together - the final reminder I have of my mother is a photograph of her sitting in the sun in the hospital garden, taken a couple of weeks before she died when she was too ill to notice or mind that I had taken a picture......

Friday, 3 April 2015

Pinhole Landscapes - Take 2

I recently uploaded some scans of various pinhole landscapes but hadn't actually printed any out. You can see some of them here and here. I spent a few days in the darkroom the other week and was surprised to see how well the prints turned out. They have a richness, drama and depth of tone completely lacking in the scanned negatives, which now look rather flat in comparison. Of course, looking at an actual print and looking at something on the screen is a completely different experience, but I had never really thought that there would be such a wide discrepancy between a scan of a print and a scan of a negative. Or perhaps it just demonstrates that my darkroom skills are superior to my Photoshop skills!

I now feel encouraged to continue developing my darkroom work and to expand my pinhole photography repertoire, perhaps exploring the urban landscape. I might even try colour......

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Tools of the Trade

Another peek into the artist's studio - this time looking at the various tools of the trade: brushes and palette knives, paints and palettes, canvases and paper, books and magazines, plus a surprising number of feathers! Not sure if they're just for decoration or whether they actually get used. The brushes come in a wide range of sizes and shapes and each will have its own defined specialist use.

Having looked at quite a number of  pictures of artists' studios, they seem to fall into two camps - the super-tidy and the messy. This one is a very tidy one and reflects the owner's character. Each item has its place, brushes are meticulously cleaned after use, processes and experiments are all noted down. A feeling of order and calm pervades the space, even in the midst of the creative process.....