OS

Tigress (2013)

Tigress (2013)

OS opened here a couple of days ago, and seems to have aroused some interest. It’s the start of a collaborative exercise with the poet Liz Lefroy and covers several themes, though the pictures are all still-lives. Despite a number of requests I shall not be putting them online, apart from the title image above. They are intended to be seen as tangible objects, printed to a specific size, mounted in a particular way and viewed, thoughtfully, in the context of a gallery. What’s the digital alternative? – a flow of electrons to screens of unknown size and uncalibrated colour in some distant country, where the pictures might just possibly be given a passing glance, should they even surface among the great deluge of images washing around the Web. So my apologies to those who are prevented by distance from visiting the show – but wherever you live there are makers and artists whose work can and should be seen in glorious three-dimensional reality.

The exhibition is at The Workhouse Gallery, Presteigne and runs until the end of this month, open most days including this Sunday. It’s also open on Bank Holiday Monday, when at 11am Liz Lefroy will be reading from her new work as part of the Presteigne Festival. Tickets available here or on the door – further information to be found here.

The Workhouse Gallery

The Workhouse Gallery (and photographer)

And finally a little late summer colour to relieve the sombre tones of this post

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Going, going . . .

It’s not every day you see the equivalent of a cathedral being flattened, so when I found myself an hour’s drive from Didcot last Saturday evening, I was immediately on my way. Three of the famous cooling towers were due to go the following morning. Like many people I’ve always considered them beautiful structures – that lovely sexy curve at their waists! – which enhance the landscapes in which they are set. They can quite legitimately be compared with cathedrals; their architect, Frederick Gibberd, was also responsible for Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (Paddy’s Wigwam to the irreverent).

I reached Didcot after sunset, and eventually found a position on a railway bridge with a fine view, about a quarter of a mile away. The towers could still be seen in the last of the light.

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The bridge dates to the earliest days of the Great Western Railway, and is itself soon to be demolished and rebuilt. This place had seen the birth of a new technology, and here we were to witness the passing of an outmoded one.

The demolition company had taken the unpopular decision to destroy the towers during the hours of darkness, hoping to discourage spectators. However Didcot was not to be deprived of its fun, and within an hour my railway bridge was packed. So was every other viewpoint in the town, as well as the Ridgeway where at least a thousand people held vigil – or rather an all-night party.

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About midnight the towers were illuminated – for safety rather than for our benefit.

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It was to be a long night. All anyone knew was that demolition was scheduled some time between 3am and 5.30am. We chatted, shared coffee and chocolate, read and gazed at the towers. I thought of the crowds who must similarly have gathered during the dissolution of the monasteries, watching as another set of old certainties were buried under the falling masonry. Four o’clock – a possible time for the blast – came and went. We watched the railway workers preparing to clear up debris. For once First Great Western might have a reasonable excuse for delay – ‘cooling towers all over the line’.

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Five o’clock, and a grey dawn. Suddenly the middle tower appeared to slip quietly sideways, and an instant later we heard and felt three huge blasts. As each tower collapsed in on itself it blew a series of colossal smoke rings in its own shape, which hung for a moment in the air.

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The middle tower lit red by an explosion

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The view vanished into what looked like a sandstorm. Those of us with (expensive) cameras ran for the shelter of their cars, and in a couple of minutes little could be seen except streetlights glowing through the dust cloud.

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Dreaming of Water

Twice this last week I’ve dreamed about water. Not the clear stuff  into which you dive rejoicing, or pour down your throat in the heat, but an opaque brown fluid like molten chocolate flowing slowly and unstoppably down steps and under doors, and then up, and up . . . I suspect this is a collective dream (or nightmare); the shared fears of thousands of people drifting across the sleeping land. We’ve had it easier than most here in Radnorshire. Familiar views suddenly become new -

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landscapes acquire ornamental lakes -

_DSC1776But it’s the sudden violent turbulence of the rivers in this quiet countryside that’s startling. _DSC0476

Watch the video below with the sound turned up high, if you can bear to after all these soggy weeks

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/87010870″>Bridge 1</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user25228744″>Alex Ramsay</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

You wait ages for a blog (part 2)

A lightning trip to Italy recently to shoot a couple of features – first, an unchanged 18th-century kitchen in a villa near Venice, still in use within living memory

Alex Ramsay

Then a three-hour drive to the mountains around Lake Como to stay in the sort of splendidly eccentric family-run hotel that is getting harder to find these days, followed by a day working in a lovely sixteenth-century villa, frescoed from top to bottom. Wonders behind every door – here a cupboard containing some of the family archives, going back to the early fifteenth century

Alex Ramsay

And back to catch the last of the sun and a little reward for two hardworking people . . .

Alex Ramsay

And finally, my latest book has just been published, The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto. Lots of pics, of course, and a luminously beautiful and perceptive text by Jenny Condie. As a reward for those of you who’ve scrolled down this far, I’m offering one free copy via Goodreads – see below to enter

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto by Jenny Condie

The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto

by Jenny Condie

Giveaway ends November 05, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

You wait ages for a blog . . .

. . . and then two come along at once. It’s been such a long time since my last post, back in May, that I think I’ll have to publish in instalments. That amazing summer is now just a memory of lazy evenings after work spent by and in the river, and meals in the garden.

Alex Ramsay

summer evening by the Lugg

Wonderful working weather, too. But before starting on that, the significant (to us) news is that we are not moving. Our house sale fell through at the very last instant, which gave us the chance to look at where we stand in a new light – and behold, it wasn’t so bad after all. In fact we’ve had all the fun of moving somewhere new without actually going anywhere. Now back to some pictures. A good spread of stories this summer, stretching from Marc Swan’s extraordinary ‘showman’s ship’ (seen here proudly floating among the Herefordshire hills)

Alex Ramsay

Sir Joseph Swan

to, among others, Dorian Bowen’s intimate reconstruction of a Welsh ‘Ty Unnos’ or one-night house

Alex Ramsay

Ty Unnos

What else? It seems to have been relentless, in a good way. Some wonderful shows, notably Salgado’s Genesis, perhaps the best exhibition I’ve ever seen. (Not to be missed either is Tony Ray-Jones at the Science Museum – Only in England). Parties, weddings, work – no holiday, but then who needs one of those in this glorious climate? A trip to the fantastic NoFitState Circus was followed the next day by a team of tree surgeons in the garden doing much the same sort of thing, but with added chainsaws

Alex Ramsay

Enough for the time being, before I ramble further. More next week.

Death, in Florence

Alex Ramsay

In the Cimitero Inglese, Florence

Back again and full of the joys of Spring, as you can tell from the picture above. I’ve just had a few days in Florence, combining a shoot in the curious ‘English Cemetery’ with a modest birthday celebration. I took the sleeper from Paris for the first time since about 1965. Nothing about the train, including the smell, seems to have changed much in the intervening years. I think I may be getting a little old for the intimacy of a six-berth couchette. An early breakfast in the astonishing Milan Central Station was a treat, however – coffee and brioche surrounded by a dictator’s imperial fantasy.

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And home to find that at least one creature in the garden had decided that spring was imminent, despite all evidence to the contrary:

Toadspawn

Toadspawn

April Fooled

Which is what seems to have happened, what with snow to the top of the hedges and the woods gone all Brueghel. For those of you lucky enough to be in other parts of the world, this is what it looks like now. ‘Oh to be in England now that April’s there’ – Home Thoughts from Abroad is the title of that poem, of course, and I bet most of us are thinking the other way round just now.

Alex Ramsay

Alex Ramsay

Alex RamsayAlex Ramsay

Came down for breakfast this morning to find that daughters home for Easter had remembered the date and consequently filled coffee jar with raisins, put eggs in unlikely places etc. However we managed to catch one of them with heavily salted early morning tea. Revenge (unlike the tea) is sweet . . .

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