One of the decaying boats on the Fleetwood Marshes in Lancashire, decomposing beautifully. I remember this place well. It was so boggy my boots would sink into the sandy mud well past my ankles making walking around heavy going and very tiring. Since going digital two years earlier I'd been buying budget brand Integral 4GB SD cards. They'd never let me down and still haven't. However, I was persuaded not to risk my precious images by using a cheaper, 'inferior' product and the more expensive SanDisk range was recommended to me. I duly bought a what was then a (to me) whopping 32GB fast write card, loaded it into the camera and, on its first outing, trudged somewhat less than tirelessly through the quagmire that is the Fleetwood Marshes, capturing wonderful scenes such as this.
In those days I still treated a digital camera as if it had film in it and so hadn't quite got used to the ritual of chimping after each shot. It took several hundred metres of sinking into the mud and a couple of dozen shots before I realised that not one of my fine images had saved onto my 'superior' brand card. I'd been unlucky enough to have received a card that was not SanDisk quality control's finest moment. They replaced the card, of course, but unfortunately their warranty did not remedy my stiff ankles and sore calf muscles due to retracing my steps and re creating my images. Sometimes we do suffer for our art.
My favourite spot for street photography is probably this lamp post in a pedestianised street in Essaouira. Around 11.00am each morning in winter the sun creates the shadow and I'd sit on the ground leaning against a wall for stability and open the shutter for any interesting looking people that might walk on by. Here's one. It's getting harder to find interesting subjects, though. I've been to Essaouira several times. The first visit was in 1992 when the majority of people wore traditional Moroccan clothing. Nowadays it would certainly be less than half.
Old trucks lined up at Old Tailem Town, near the small township of Tailem Bend, South Australia. Originally named Tail'em Bend, no-one seems to be sure how the town got it's name. One story is that the original Ngarrindjeri inhabitants named the area, located on a bend in the River Murray, 'Thelim' which translates as 'bend', giving a literal translation of the town's name as 'Bend Bend'. Old Tailem Town is the largest open air museum in Australia, comprised of >100 old buildings from the 1920s-60s originally sited within a 150km radius of Tailem Bend. Plus a lot of old trucks.
I have both a scientific and historical interest in Charles Darwin and have written several extended essays concerned with his work, for example here, here and here. A short while ago I read a book dealing with Darwin's attitude toward and use of photography in his published work, 'Darwin's Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution', written by the art historian Phillip Prodger (Oxford University Press, 2009). A little later I was asked to photograph a collection of vintage photographs and to arrange their sale on behalf of a charity. The image above caught my attention straight away. I cannot be certain who she is, other than she attended a photographic studio in Bromley, on the southern outskirts of London in about 1869. And I didn't particularly notice the image for its aesthetic value, though I do enjoy this solemn Victorian style. It's fairly typical of the background, stance and serious demeanour of many full length carte de visite portraits of the time. No, what captured by attention was the name of the photographer, having recently read about his brief professional connection with Charles Darwin from Prodger's book.
In the late 1860s, Henry Thomas Melville (b. 1833) owned a studio in Bromley, which is only a few kilometres to the north of Darwin's home in the village of Downe. When he was writing 'The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animal' (at the same time as writing 'Descent of Man'; the two books were originally intended to be combined) Darwin commissioned Melville to take some photographs of muscular contractions of the face and head that he had observed were shared by humans and other primates. Indeed, it is not widely appreciated that Darwin was not only a pioneer of evolutionary biology, he was also, in a more indirect way, a pioneer of photography, 'The Expression of the Emotions', published in 1872, being the first scientific work to supplement text with photographs. Although the bulk of the photographs Darwin used were produced by the Swedish-born photographer Oscar Rejlander, using his wife and himself as models, one of Melville's images, of the forehead 'grief muscle' as Darwin coined it, made it into the book.
The remainder of Melville's images are in the Darwin Archive and have the initials K.E.W. inscribed on them. It is believed that Darwin's niece, Katherine Euphemia Wedgwood (later Farrer), known to the family as Effie, was Melville's model. There are no publicly available photographs of Effie from that time to compare with those taken by Melville but we know from, from a variety of sources, including the diaries of Darwin's wife Emma and daughter Henrietta, as well as miscellaneous correspondence, that Effie was a frequent visitor to the Darwin family. As a child she was particularly close to Darwin's daughter Annie who died in 1851 aged 10 (Effie was two years older). Emma gave Effie Annie's embroidery basket as she thought she would “like to possess some little keepsake out of poor Annie’s treasures. She was always the one Annie loved best.” Also, from correspondence in the late 1860s it is apparent that Effie had an interest in photography. Arguably, there is a likeness between the unknown woman in the above photograph and Katherine Euphemia Wedgwood.
Curiosity aroused, I delved further into Henry Melville's life and career and uncovered an interesting though sad tale of coincidence and tragedy. In 1870, shortly after working with Darwin, Melville, his wife Mary Ann and their 2-year old son moved to Mary Ann's hometown of East Grinstead in Sussex, where Thomas opened a studio. There was already a photographic studio in the town run by Alfred Gear (who worked under the name Alfred Francis), a former coach painter who had taught himself photography. Gear was not only a similar age to Melville but also coincidentally, married to a Mary Ann. They had eight children. Within the next three years, Melville and his Mary Ann had a further two sons and a daughter, while Gear and his Mary Ann added a ninth child. It would appear that Melville's business in East Grinstead was thriving early on as the census of 1871 shows that he employed a live-in servant.
In June 1874, 43-year-old Alfred Gear committed suicide by swallowing potassium cyanide in his darkroom. This chemical was widely used as a fixing agent in the early days of photography. There was apparently no warning of this happening, and it occurred just a few minutes after he had taken an order from a customer. This left Melville, in bittersweet fashion, as the sole photographer in the town which would have have further enhanced his business. However, in a further cruel twist of fate, Melville himself died less than four years later of natural causes at only 45-years of age, leaving Mary Ann with four children under 11 years. Remarkably, in an era of very few female professional photographers, she kept the studio in business for another five years, advertising herself as an architectural, portrait, landscape, & equestrian photographer.
The Golden Gate Bridge through the natural lens of a light sea fog, unfortunately (from a photographic perspective) nothing like the dense fogs that sometimes occur. An hour or so earlier I had walked across the bridge and back under a cloudless sky and warm sun.
Street performer Iya Traoré, originally from the village of Kebeya, in Guinea, West Africa. A soccer freestyler and ex-Paris St. Germaine player, here performing on a lamppost outside the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre, Paris. He's made the Guinness Book of Records several times for having achieved the world record kickups, has performed in more than 40 countries and appeared in numerous music videos and TV shows. The show is well worth catching, and don't forget to leave a donation.
Many Irish pubs are rightly famed for their murals. This is the side wall of An Bóthar (The Road) Pub on the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. The pub name on the sign is written in An Cló Gaelach, the traditional Irish script. I have some familiarity with Scottish Gaelic, having lived in the Scottish Highlands for a few years and worked with people from the Outer Hebrides and I made some effort to learn the language, so written Irish in modern text is often familiar to me also. However, the traditional Irish script can be difficult to read for a non-Irish speaker because it has now become so diversely stylised. I mistook the first letter of the second word for a 'D' and made an amadán beag of myself ( a little fool; it's just about the same in Scottish Gaelic) when inquiring why the pub was called An Dóthar.
I've since learned that this wonderful work of art no longer adorns the end wall of the pub, being replaced by a copy of a vintage advertisement for Guinness and the pub name in a modern, diluted version of An Cló Gaelach. Is mór an trua!
I was sitting in a café across the street watching an earnest and lengthy conversation taking place with a woman on the footpath below. A split second after I pushed the shutter, both the woman in the window and the woman on the footpath waved at me and smiled broadly. I guess the conversation wasn't as serious as I first thought.
Detail from the Calatrava designed City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia visited when much of it was still under construction. This is one end of the Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe, an interactive science museum completed in 2000 and modelled on the skeleton of a whale. At the time, the vast majority of images of this place on the web were in colour, so I deliberately chose to shoot in black and white also. Unfortunately I found I only had ISO 400 film in my bag and was concerned it might suck in too much light in the strong sunlight, resulting in washed out images. In hindsight, the film had quite a bit of latitude and I quite like the subtle high-key effect.
The tiny village of Cadgwith, situated on the southern Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, is one of my favourite English villages (though calling anywhere in Cornwall English sometimes meets with raised eyebrows in these parts). It has everything I like in a traditional village. It's relatively carless and private cars, even those of the residents, have to be parked on the outskirts. The houses are traditional with many thatched roofs, no hideous new builds. A couple even have paintings on their stone walls depicting bygone galleon days. But my lasting memory was forged in my first night staying in the 400-year old Cadgwith Cove Inn, after a hearty fish supper, drinking one of my favourite ales, the local Doombar. Afterward I was highly entertained by the sea shanties of the acapella Cadgwith Singers.
The story surrounding the singers is so wonderfully Celtic. Apparently the Irish monk Saint Inebriatus, was the sole survivor of a shipwreck nearby and was forced to forge a makeshift raft from beer barrels bound together by virgin's hair. His raft ran aground at Cadgwith on a Saturday night and he hastened himself to the pub. Hence every Friday in Cadgwith is known as St. Inebriatus' Eve and reverently and irreverently celebrated in song. I also had a lengthy and interesting conversation with a guy who had worked, a decade or so earlier, as one of the camera crew on a documentary on the life of Henri Cartier-Bresson. So all-in-all a few hours well spent courtesy of St. Inebriatus. This image was the first of the following day, captured the following morning.
Whenever I look at this image it's the eyes that grab me. I can't decide whether they're in the world or not, sad or inquisitive, brain cogs quietly turning. I'm reminded of a line from Charles Bukowski:
"But your eyes - they're beautiful. They're wild, crazy, like some animal peering out of a forest on fire."
Taking photographs of a shabby but photogenic apartment block in the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerifé in the Canary Islands, I turned around to see this guy sitting on the footpath staring at me. I hadn't noticed him before. He kept staring, emotionless-faced, which was a little disconcerting, so I decided to break the ice to ask, by gesturing toward my camera if I could photograph him. He nodded. So I knelt down, changed my lens and ran off a few frames. He sat patiently and all the while his demeanour changed not one bit. Before I left, I thanked him and offered him a few Euro coins which he slowly pocketed and again he nodded, still staring intently. Not a word. After I'd walked away perhaps 50m I turned around and he was still staring intently at me.
This 17m high statue, has been walking down Leopoldstraße in Munich since 1995. Leopoldstraße is a very busy city centre street and the Walking Man statue, by American sculptor Jonathan Borosky, is surrounded by a lot of urban visual clutter. Most photographers choose to include the office buildings in the background but I felt the artwork deserved more sole attention. This was the only angle I could find that isolated the work from the background. Even if it does cut off the lower legs and feet, it gives the impression of an alien being walking through a forest. At least it does to me.
Yr Wyddfa is the local (and correct) Welsh-language name for Snowdon. At 1,085m it's the highest mountain in Wales and the highest mountain in the British Isles outside of the Scottish Highlands, ranked 19th overall. Captured handheld, half-hanging out of a second floor bedroom window of my home in the village of Llanfrothen. It always looks most handsome after a fresh snowfall, especially when it floats above cloud.