Project: Hopes & Dreams

I should preface this by saying I’m really not that interested in football, and find myself somewhat bemused by the wave of fervent excitement (and almost always dashed hopes) that wash over the nation every 4 years with the World Cup. But this year was a little different, for once our team actually did fairly well, and I found myself fascinated by the St. Georges flags that were suddenly popping up everywhere. The idea for a project sparked into my mind. So here I give you, Hopes & Dreams. A mini project documenting how England’s brief blaze of glory at the 2018 World Cup expressed itself in the windows, on the cars and down the streets of my corner of West Yorkshire. All shot on my newly acquired Pentax MX on a mix of Fuji Neopan Acros 100 & ADOX Silvermax 100.

   

Football did indeed for a little while come home.

Project: In the Way

The first medium format image I took last year was of a stile I regularly cross as I climb the hillside en route to Hebden Bridge. I’m not sure if I’ve intentionally photographed it before in the years I’ve lived here and used the route, but anyway something made me think it would make for a decent first shot and indeed I quite liked the result when I got the film developed. As I continued my analogue journey, trying various cameras and films, I noticed the stiles and gates on the paths I was wandering often filling a frame or two on a roll. By around the middle of summer I decided that by the end of the year I’d collate all these images together into a bit of a project. The only rules I set for it were that the images had to be on film and had to be of a gate or stile on a footpath. As such it’s a mix of colour and black white, medium format and 35mm across a variety of film stocks.

I call it “In the Way”. It’s presented here in roughly chronological order.

These images were taken on a mix of the Bronica ETRS, Bronica SQ-Ai and Rollei 35 LED. Films used include Kodak Portra 160 and 400, Kodak Color Plus, Fuji Provia 100, Fuji Acros 100, Fomapan 100 and Ilford FP4+.

As usual if you enjoy my photography and writing please consider purchasing a print from the store here or on Etsy. If you see something not on sale you’d like let me know and I’d be happy to make a print for you.

Project: Leaving a Mark

Project: Leaving a Mark

I’ve been photographing street art and graffiti for several years now, where ever I come across it. From hasty scrawls to detailed artworks, abstract patterns to political messages. Graffiti can be a controversial subject; some people think it’s urban blight, has no value or is simply vandalism. It certainly can be all of those things, but that doesn’t change that it’s still fundamentally art – a form of human expression, and one that has a history as old as civilisation itself.

What interests me about it, and why I like to photograph it, is both its ephemeral nature and how it forms part of the texture of the world around us. Traditional two dimensional artwork is generally discrete, it has defined borders after which the world it conveys abruptly ends. Grafitti on the other hand does not, its world is our world. This makes it interesting photographically because you can both photograph the artwork itself, or the environment its in, or some combination of the two without the feeling that you’re simply creating a facsimile of someone else’s work.

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Stencilled pieces, like Silvia and her bike above, are very popular – just look at anything by street artist Banksy. Personally though I prefer the painted on the spot type, as they are more spontaneous and have a uniqueness that stencilled works can’t match.

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I love the dual textures in this detail shot, the fine paint flecks that make up the eye against the rough and ready chipboard it’s painted onto. Below is a detail of another, more abstract piece. Spray painted works that are done well usually have a fantastic feeling of energy about them.

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Typically when you think of what’s used for graffiti, spray cans are the first thing that comes to mind. But most of us will have encountered many other forms – names and doodles scratched into tables, initials carved into tree trunks, expletives in marker pen on the back of toilet doors and so on. I’ve noticed that hand drawn stickers seem quite popular locally. These micro artworks add little splashes of colour to places that would be difficult to turn into canvasses with other mediums.

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One of the perks of living in a fairly bohemian area, is that you’re probably more likely to run into something a little more thought provoking than your usual initials, tags and doodles. Whether poetic or political in nature as these pieces above and below.

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Even fairly ugly pieces can make for interesting photographs. There are some great colours and textures in this decaying old garage door. The silver spray painted face (or whatever it is) shines brilliantly when ever the sun hits it, in sharp contrast with the dreary old green paint and rust stains.

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In a world where every building in a city can have a CocaCola or a Visa logo present, I guess it’s only natural that people want to reclaim some of that space to express their own identity. Tagging is probably the most controversial form of graffiti, usually due to its repetition, frequent lack of obvious artistic merit and the way in which it appears to try to wrest a territory for its creator. It’s an aggressive form of the art. Like planting a flag on foreign soil, tagging is staking a claim on someone else’s property in a way that I feel more artistic pieces are not. Photographically I usually find tags on their own fairly uninteresting, instead it becomes about context. In the shot above the “Lovecats” mark is atop another, painted over tag, beneath a plethora of threatening signs. The tag on its own is meaningless, but in this context you get the sense of fighting against the rules, defying the wall’s owner’s attempts at silencing past expression. It’s hardly profound, but it’s a story nonetheless and makes the image more interesting.

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A lot of effort clearly went into this piece, but it was very short lived, which I think highlights why it’s important to photograph these things and create a lasting record. Unusually it was made of painted paper, and as a result it began to deteriorate within a few days. I assume this method was used to avoid making any lasting damage to the old stone wall, which was considerate of the artist.

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This detail of the artwork shown above was taken just a few days later and shows the paper starting to crack and peel. The artwork was removed entirely not long after.

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Big commissioned murals like the one above can actually help rejuvenate an area, which nicely counters the idea that graffiti is only a sign of urban decay. The old brick railway arch makes a lovely frame for this piece.

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Brickwork can add great texture and becomes as much a part of the artwork as the paint itself.

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Some colourful graffiti can really improve otherwise bland, utilitarian buildings like the enclosed electric substation above.

With exception of the feature image at the top of this article, which was taken in Copenhagen, all the other images have been taken around Hebden Bridge, Leeds and Manchester in Northern England.

Unlike past project pieces I’ve written up here, I consider this one on-going and I’ll continue to document interesting street art and graffiti as I come across it. I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at these images. As ever if you’d like to help support the site and my work please consider buying a print from my web store or on Etsy.

Project: Yellow Bicycles

Project: Yellow Bicycles

July is a special month in Yorkshire this year – le Tour de France is passing though! Two of the three stages of the Grand Départ are being held here, with stage 2 passing through my village on its way from York to Sheffield. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for the famous cycle race, with Le Tour themed displays in nearly all the local shops, schools and pubs. In particular the iconic yellow bicycle is near ubiquitous.

My X-E1’s autofocus is not well suited to trying to grab snaps of the peloton as it zooms by, but recording how the community celebrates le Tour on the other hand most certainly is. So here’s a little taste of what it’s like to live somewhere that the famous race is about to peddle through. Photos are from Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Cragg Vale.

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The Yorkshire Soap Company has produced these wonderful bike themed soap bars which they’ve been proudly displaying in their window.

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Hebden Bridge is a creative hub so it’s not surprising to see more than a few handmade displays to compliment the plastic yellow bikes.

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Some shop owners have really gone to town creating Le Tour themed displays like this hair salon in Mytholmroyd.

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This display of ascending yellow bikes a café window caught my eye. There was very little colour in the scene apart from the bikes so I decided to try desaturating everything else.

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Some home owners along the route are really getting into the spirit too with bunting and yellow bikes galore. It really adds to the festive atmosphere.

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A slight variation on the yellow bike theme. Lots of local businesses are making the most the expected surge in visitors with sales and specials to attract customers.

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Hebden is an LGBT friendly town so it’s nice to see this bike with rainbow wheels above Nelson’s Wine Bar.

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It’s hard to escape Le Tour at the moment, even relaxing in Mooch (a lovely bar/café in Hebden Bridge) my eye is drawn to more yellow bikes across the street.

Robin Hood Pub

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Finally a shot of the Robin Hood Inn in Cragg Vale. Cragg Vale has been attempting to set a world record for the longest stretch of bunting. I’m sure a few of the cyclists racing on Sunday will wish they could stop for a nice cold pint here as they struggle up England’s longest continuous incline.

If you’ve enjoyed these photos please consider supporting my work by buying a print or supporting me on Patreon (like Kickstarter for artists).

Project: Alexandra Shed

Project: Alexandra Shed

Shed is rather a diminutive term, but Alexandra Shed was the last remnant of Hawksclough Mill. A large cotton (or woollen) mill on the edge of Mytholmroyd on the bank of the Rochdale Canal in West Yorkshire, that had stood there since the mid-1800s. When I saw it was starting to get demolished I realised I had a unique opportunity to preserve a little bit of West Yorkshire’s industrial heritage through my photography. All shots taken from public rights of way.

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X-E1, 18mm f5.6 1/550 sec

The mill from the canal side, showing the oldest part of the remaining mill building. The part demolished chimney just pokes up above the roof at the rear. The old mill chimney had been taken down while the building was still in use, presumably for safety reasons.

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From the road side you could look in on the part of the building that saw the most recent use with what appears to be a little old stock left behind from the former blenders and slitherers.

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The view further back in the building is revealed as the demolition crew work back from the road side. That rear wall is part of the original 1800s mill building. Note the old windows and doors had been blocked off.

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X100, 23mm f5.6 1/40 sec

From the canal side at the base of the chimney where part of the rear wall had collapsed. Note the old pulley wheel on the collapsed wooden framework.

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I’d hoped they might repurpose the old mill building once the more recent part had been stripped away, but sadly it too came down brick by brick.

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The building had been derelict for quite some time and part of the back wall had collapsed, allowing nature to start to reclaim the land.

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X-E1, 60mm f5.6 1/125 sec

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X100, 23mm f5.6 1/90 sec

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With the middle of the building ripped away the well worn staircase is in plain view. Note the fold down side boards that presumably made it possible to raise or lower carts without needing a lift. You can see a mangled cart in one of the early shots above.

Today nothing of the old building remains apart from a 1 story high wall composed of the old mill’s rear wall. Where it had collapsed its been repaired with reclaimed stone. The old windows and doors all bricked in. Now Alexandra Shed is just a memory for those who once worked there and who passed it in their daily travels. If you know anything more about this old mill I’d love to hear from you, get in touch.