Apparently, they were known in some countries as 'bubble' cars, though I can't help hearing the tune to the Beatles 'Yellow Submarine' when I look at this. It's actually a two-seater BMW Isetta 300, sold between 1955-1962, displayed in the BMW Museum, Munich. I learned recently that an Italian company has redesigned the car to be more steamlined and the modernised version, powered by an electric motor, has gone into production.
From the interior of a very old rural church in Kent. That's all I can remember of this place. It was the first time I'd used film kit for at least a year and I quickly came to realise one important difference in approach between digital and film photography. Before 2008, when I shot only film, I'd usually keep a small notebook handy to jot down the location, frame number and technical details of each capture. Handwritten, what we now call EXIF information. There's no need to do this with digital; the EXIF file automatically tells all. Except, that is (sans GPS widget), where it is you're at. So I was bumbling around with a kit bag of film gear, and I never thought to keep a record of which particular old church I was photographing among the several I visited that day.
I found this old David Brown tractor from the early 1960s near Penrhyndeudraeth. It immediately brought to mind 'Cynddylan on a Tractor', a memorable early poem by one of my favourite poets, RS Thomas, perhaps a decade earlier. It begins:
Ah, you should see Cynddylan on a tractor.
Gone the old look that yoked him to the soil,
He's a new man now, part of the machine,
His nerves of metal and his blood oil.
Many of my images captured in rural Wales have been inspired by Thomas' poems and his earliest work often commented on the emergence of mechanised farming in Wales. He pokes semi-anodyne condescension at Cynddylan the farming yokel for emancipating himself from being a slave of the soil to something Thomas considered far worse, a slave of the machine; his very own 'rage against the machine' born at least forty years before a certain popular American rock group.
When he was in his mid-80s, RS Thomas lived for a couple of years in same Welsh parish as I do and his legendary curmudgeonly manner did not wane with age. The first time he went to the local shop he complained that someone had spoken in English. Most fine days his gaunt frame could be seen slowly making its way up the hill past my house, stopping often to take in his surroundings. The first time I spoke to him was on one of these walks, thanking him for the poems in my all too obvious, non-native clumsy Welsh. He took one look at me as if I was a lunatic from Mars, let out a loud harrumph! and proceeded on his way, lest I ruin his walk more than I already had. Probably a good thing I didn't ask for his portrait. Though in hindsight, an opportunity sadly missed. He left the village and died a couple of years later.
A traditional thatched cottage somewhere in the Cotswold region of England. I borrowed the title of this image from a poem by the late Cotswold poet Frank Mansell. I'm not generally a fan of sepia toning and this is one of my very few images where I've bothered with it because it does seem to occasionally work when emphasising age and tradition in iconic English scenes such as this. Even so, I sometimes look at this image and think it's overbaked. A short but popular essay written by myself and expanding on Mansell's views concerning the social and cultural impact of second home ownership can be found here
One of the many old doors in the small historical town of Bergerac, in the Dordogne region of South-Eastern France. In this case, the 39th door. The intense shadow makes the door appear to be chopped, which appeals to me. The deep black shadow is courtesy of the Pancolar and Delta pairing.
Although I hold no belief in a deity and find the very concept of such both philosophically suspect and empirically unevidenced, I do confess to enjoying both the historical and ambient aspects of old churches. And they don't get much older than St Tanwg's church, sinking into the sand dunes just outside the small village of Llandanwg in North Wales. The stone building has been dated to the 13th century but the church is much older than that, attested by the presence of inscribed stones from 6th century, while St Tanwg himself is said to have lived a century earlier. It's rarely used for church services nowadays, but it's nearly always open during daylight hours and, if you're lucky enough to be alone, a place of great calm and moody photography.
In addition to Veronica, patron saint of photographers (and, apparently, laundry workers), photography and Christianity share two important concepts, that of light and darkness. In Christian symbolism, darkness reliably conveys the notion of evil, death and the unknown. In contrast, light conveys only positive aspects such as life, goodness and hope. For example, Genesis tells us that God not only created light, he also saw that it was good. The New Testament describes Jesus as the light of the world and the visionary revelations of John depict Heaven in terms of light. The medieval use of coloured and stained glass within European churches is probably the best physical example of Christianity symbolising the goodness of light; as if the colourful light of the heavens floods the interior of the otherwise dark church with goodness.
Although it appears as if Christian symbolism deals with light and darkness in rigid ways this is not always so. Some sects of Christianity view evil and good, not as polar opposites, but in relative terms, evil being the relative absence of good. This is not unlike how photographers see things. A dark scene can be illuminated but an illuminated scene is not made darker by adding darkness, only by reducing the amount of light. An underexposed scene can often be post-processed to reveal physical features but a grossly overexposed, blown-out scene has lost all such features to the light. Thus to the photographer, darkness is not a thing in itself, either physically or symbolically, but a relative, and eminently measurable, degree of light. And, of course, photography cannot exist without some light, for without at least some photons hitting film or sensor, no image is captured.
Photographers are able to manipulate the light and darkness in a scene in two ways. First, symbolically, they might purposely include a large amount of darkness within the frame (labelled, fittingly, as negative space) to convey the notions of evil, trepidation, unknown, horror etc. Second, they might also include negative space or relative darkness simply as a means of diverting attention to the subject of their image.
As an atheist, I view Christian imagery and iconography wholly as depictions of mythology and consider them to convey stories and ideas and perhaps some abstract truths, but not necessary literal truths. This gives me much to play with in terms of interpreting the imagery as photography because I feel no onus to deal with the symbolism according to tradition, or to present Christian imagery in the ‘right light’. Consequently, although I freely use Christian imagery concerning itself with death, I do not naturally equate the symbolic use of darkness with evil. Rather, I sense solitude and calmness, ignorance, or the unknown, all of which are able to be dispelled by the light.