Posts Tagged ‘ photographs ’

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. UPDATE – the talk sold out and the gallery was packed, with many interesting points raised during the morning – thanks to all who came! (and apologies to those who couldn’t get in)

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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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

That Time of Year Again

Autumn, and a primeval urge of overwhelming force drives the salmon up mighty rivers to spawn in the remote headwaters that witnessed their own conception. Likewise, in another of nature’s spectacular seasonal rituals, vast herds of photographers feel compelled to visit the nearest wood and take snaps of fallen leaves. Not to be left out, here are a couple I spawned recently.

oak apples

Oak apples

spangle galls on an oak leaf

Spangle galls

Off to Kyoto tomorrow morning, so a restful silence will ensue until I return with far too many pictures of crimson maple leaves strewn across elegantly raked gravel. Sayonara to all.

Dover Beach Revisited

Some of us may still remember a line or two from Matthew Arnold’s poem ‘Dover Beach’, in which he describes the ebbing tide of religious belief. I’ve just returned from three days photographing a vast and now redundant Catholic seminary, where the endless corridors echoed to that famous ‘melancholy, long, withdrawing roar / Retreating . . .

One of the boys' dormitories

The only other people there besides myself were the caretaker and the odd-job man. The building is on such a huge scale that we had to carry walkie-talkies to communicate with each other. The buildings are mostly neo-Gothic – every Catholic architect of the nineteenth century seems to have worked there, including three generations of the Pugin family. Surprisingly there was also a girls’ wing, with cubicles painted a delicate shade of eau de nil and littered with old sewing machines.

The girls' dormitory

Work and prayer in the shadow of the Cross

In the girls' wing

Most of the buildings are in good order, though the Junior School with its grade one listed chapel and its dormitories has long been empty and vandalised. The pupils’ home-made toboggans lie scattered around the floor.

The derelict Junior School

A junior dormitory

St Aloysius' Chapel

St Aloysius' Chapel

St Aloysius' Chapel

 

Great Gardens of Britain

Stourhead

Great Gardens of Britain is out at last and so far to a good reception, judging by the first reviews. We’ve enjoyed seeing the other European editions, too – Germany is currently in the lead for the best foreign title with Gartenlust. Should you happen to be in Devon and anywhere near Totnes tomorrow (Tuesday 12th July), Helena Attlee and I are speaking about this book and related matters at the Ways With Words festival at Dartington Hall (4.00 pm.). And if you can find a moment, we’re always grateful for reviews on Amazon!

Just one other picture with this hasty blog post, but I couldn’t resist it – freshly churned butter in the artist Anne Belgrave‘s ‘Self-Reliant Kitchen’, open as part of the local ‘eco weekend’.

real butter

Of Courts and Courtiers

A spell of feverish activity has at last resulted in my finishing The Gardens of Cornwall. The mad rush at the end was caused by a summons to undertake jury service, a potentially open-ended and unavoidable commitment. About the case itself I can say nothing at all, for obvious reasons, but it was one of the most absorbing weeks I’ve spent for a long time. Having someone’s future in your hands concentrates the mind wonderfully. The drama is intense, however trivial the matter. The faces, the body language – are they lying, are they simply nervous? And then the atmosphere of the court, all heavily grained Victorian woodwork with the hook still to be seen where the judge’s black cap once hung.

From one court to another. There’s been a royal visit to David and Sara Bamford’s carpet workshop here in Presteigne. I found myself on the royal press rota and being firmly briefed by the (glamorous and charming) Clarence House press officer as to what I might and might not do. It’s tricky, trying to photograph people and yet keep moving backwards in front of them, so that it’s as if you don’t exist and they are moving freely through an empty room. A strange illusion of total freedom for the royal couple, who are at all times surrounded by staff anxiously counting down the seconds until the next stage of the occasion.

Meeting and greeting

A pat on the back for Phil

The Cornish book finished on a definite high with a wonderful last day, an early morning at the open-air Minack Theatre, with low sun striking across the waves beating at the cliffs below the amphitheatre. More Cornish pictures to be seen here.

The Minack Theatre, Cornwall

The Minack Theatre

The ancient chestnut trees at Dartington Hall

With that out of the way I’m free to concentrate on the imminent publication of our latest book, Great Gardens of Britain, due out on the 15th of July. We’ll be holding a small event locally to celebrate, about which more information later. Helena Attlee and I are also speaking about the book at the Ways With Words Festival at Dartington Hall near Totnes. That will be at 4.00pm on the 12th of July (all information on their website, www.wayswithwords.co.uk). I hope we’ll also get a chance to tell some stories about the weird and wonderful things that have happened to us while working together on our books. Incidentally, there are a couple of good reviews of the book out now, one by David Wheeler in the current (July) issue of Gardens Illustrated and the other by Claire Masset in the July issue of The English Garden.

The present order is the disorder of the future - Saint-Just. Little Sparta, Scotland

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