The last few weeks have brought some sad and unwelcome events to fruition, as three lights in my life have been extinguished. Not the gut-wrenching devastion of the loss of someone amongst your closest friends and family, but nevertheless losses that make you think twice.
First there was Leonard Nimoy, who will be mourned by anyone who grew up with star Trek. Being fascinated with science even as a child, Spock was my favourite character. I related to his inimitable logic and practicality in any situation. I wonder how many fans also knew of his great love for fine art photography? As a skilled photographer, he used his chosen medium to address issues close to his heart.
And then we lost Terry Pratchett. I bought each Discworld novel as it was published, and still have the full set. Whenever I have a clear out I know there is no question that they will be staying on my shelves. Sir Terry had the most amazing ability to make you laugh with his fantastical and Topsy-Turvy view on all matters. His words painted pictures in your mind, no camera required.
And the third in my hat trick is a soul who was much closer to home, an ex-racing greyhound I helped to rehome with my friend after he was returned to the Greyhound Trust by his original family. A bright light who burned out too quickly. RIP Paddy.
So it is with quiet reflection that I ponder the impermanence of all things this month, and find myself photographing decay once more. Saddened by the loss and yet knowing it is inevitable. A sharp reminder of mortality to freshen my attitude to life in this moment. Words made real in the inexorable march of time.
I often joke that when it comes to photography, I find flowers most interesting when they are beginning to decay. There is something I find quite beautiful in the inevitable changes that occur once they begin to fade.
As nature begins to reclaim its prize I am reminded of the impermanence of all things, however beautiful. The aging process itself often reveals changes in colour, texture and form which give the fading blooms a certain dignity as they begin the process of returning to the earth, to return to component molecules and atoms that will in turn bring forth the new and vibrant blooms of next summer.
These roses have a particular poignance for me as the year nears its end. The days grow shorter and the solstice is barely a month away. They are a reminder of what has been and what is to come, in the endless impermanent cycle of life.
In my search for Curzon Street Station I could hardly fail to visit Eastside City Park in Birmingham, given that the station building nestles on the edge of the new park, opposite Millenium Point. As I only visit the city centre occasionally, this was the first time I had come across it. The park was officially opened in December 2012 and is said to have cost a staggering £11.75 million to create. I found it to be a great location for photography. The park is very ‘architectural’ in its design, with clean lines, formal water features and solid structures. These are offset by swathes of grasses that add movement and perennials and colour. As one who is not very fond of what I refer to as the ‘municipal planting’ favoured by so many councils, the absence of serried ranks of pansies or geraniums was very welcome!
Exploring the park I found myself absorbed in photographing aspects of it that are perhaps not the ones its creators would be espousing. The gently waving grasses are perfect for a spot of ‘in camera movement’ to produce blurry abstracts and I was fascinated by the colours and patterns of the rust stains from the water spouts along the formal canal. It is also ideal for a little street photography and the strong structures and pale paving offer great opportunities for photographing ever-changing shadows. The fountains are a source of entertainment for both human and doggy visitors and I spent an enjoyable few minutes watching a Labrador attempting to pounce on one of the water jets.
However, despite all the attractions on offer the aspect of the park that fascinated me the most was the strange juxtaposition of the modern and the old. Again, back to my recurring theme of this summer! Alongside modern steel and glass high-rises squatted derelict and tumbledown buildings, with broken windows and railing roof tiles. More little pockets of history holding back the inexorable progress of development. I wonder how long they come to still be there, how they escaped the bulldozer and how long they will last before they succumb to redevelopment. A strange city indeed.
Street photography, or the art of photographing life as it happens, is becoming increasingly popular these days. New rangefinder cameras are being marketed as ideal for street photography due to their unobtrusive nature. There is a lot of skill as well as luck in capturing special moments out of the life of a city and it’s an area well worth exploring.
When the photographer in me is dominant, I am hopeful of being poised to record ‘the decisive moment’ when it happens. More often than not these moments are recorded by my mind rather than my camera, stored up in my memories to inspire me on to greater efforts next time.
However, I also like to use urban environments as a way of observing change. Sitting on a park bench, or leaning against a wall alongside a busy street, you can bring stillness to your own self as you watch the bustle of life around you. I like to focus on a particular scene and wait and see what or who will pass through it. It really makes me aware of all the movement that is around me as the participants in my view changes; people, pets and wildlife pass through my window on life, briefly connecting to my day as they experience their own moments in time. One moment the space is crowded, the next it is empty as fragments of the teeming life on this planet take it in turns to occupy the space before me. I am reminded of a closely choreographed dance routine as the characters act out their roles in sequence. All connected in time and space, part of the larger whole that is life on this planet.