As part of my Streets Project I photographed a local marl hole back in April. As we had had a bit of snow last week and it had turned to icy lines, I thought it may be interesting to revisit the site, about half a mile away. I didn’t find what I was looking for, however the teazles looked great against the snow as did the clay in the bright winter sun. Marl holes are where clay (marl) for centuries had been dug for the pottery industry and one of the reasons North Staffordshire became centre of that industry. They are dotted around the area, deep, cold and dangerous.
On Friday I posted a blog with the last photograph in my 2014 Still Life Project. For those who follow me will know that each week during 2014 I created a still life related to the events in my life during the past seven days. A few people have questioned why I am stopping, however this project was planned to be just for one year, if I continued then I would have to create one every week for the rest of my life for the concept to make sense.
It may sound odd but I am still not completely sure why I created this ‘diary’. It was not about pictorial or photographic qualities, though I did ‘arrange’ objects to make a comprehensible composition, the actual objects in many ways didn’t matter and yet did. I did not choose objects for any other reason that they represented something; a feeling; an event during the past week.
The initial idea came from an appreciation of the still life paintings by Zurbaran, the simple row of objects on a shelf which has influenced many photographers and artists in their complex simplicity. Looking back maybe I should have been more rigorous and built a shelf to line objects up on. From the first one I used the same sheet of paper for the background, if you look at the photographs from the beginning on the dedicated page, you will see how this £1 two meter roll of grey craft paper deteriorated. Only one Still Life didn’t use this background, when I was on holiday in France, I feel now I should have taken it with me! The paper was taped to a mirror and rolled out onto the same roll around IKEA unit, as can be seen below.
I only used the available lighting from a south facing window, I usually took the photograph between 9.30 and 10am, a couple had to be taken later because of low light and on two I used flash from the side to enhance the natural light.
I used the same camera, a Canon EOS-M with standard 18-55 lens, always on 100 ISO, so exposures were quite long. The best setting seemed to be f8-f11 at 2 seconds, which gave the least ‘noise’ and fullest range of colour and tone. I used an electronic remote, and my 30 year old Slik tripod.
All the images were worked on in Adobe Lightroom and trimmed to a 4×3 landscape format. The main work in Lightroom was usually to increase the colour and lower the exposure of smaller or more detailed objects. I could have done with my old Sekonic Studio Pro lightmeter, but that got stolen over 20 years ago.
The camera and technology are there to create the image and shouldn’t be just about them. The photographs were sometimes highly personal, for instance there is one which features all the medical aids and tablets I use on a daily basis during the week; I have a stoma following an operation 11 years ago for acute ulcerative colitis. Maybe not the most pleasant thing to highlight, but if this ‘diary’ were to be complete they had to be there. Some weeks I highlighted one aspect of my life – all the clothes I wore – the mugs/cups I drink from. I created a couple of ‘specials’, in one I made cut out subbuteo style footballers of my favourite player each day during the first week of the World Cup.
What I will do with this set of photographs I am not sure. I will probably make a book on ISSUU, it would be hard to exhibit them without exhibiting all 52, so maybe a large poster.
It wasn’t an easy Project. Each day I wrote a word down on an Excel sheet which I then tried to illustrate. They could be called visual poetry. My life is not particularly busy so some days were very hard to find something, a bit like the childhood diary which after a few days peters out. But I have completed it, maybe not how I envisaged. About a quarter way through I could see a potential but couldn’t introduce other elements or different ways of working without starting from the beginning.
The Project has to be seen as a completed whole, rather than in its individual parts. I learnt a great deal from it as the technical processes were so different than what I usually do. This has led to new ideas for future projects, one of which will begin in January.
Sometime soon I may work out what exactly it was I was doing and perhaps why.
This is the 52nd and final Still Life of a project which has lasted through 2014. Each one charts in some way my week gone past, the past ones can be seen on the Still Life Page.
For last week’s meeting of Renegade Writers we were asked to write a piece with a theme about Christmas up to 600 words. We don’t usually have themes, but sometimes it’s good discipline. My piece Christmas Card is exactly 600 words and it is below. Renegade’s site is publishing as many as we can so please go and take a look, they are much better than mine!
Kevin was woken by persistent beeping.
“Damn” he said as he checked the electric meter. He pushed the green plastic key in; “…there should be plenty” he mumbled, but it appeared it hadn’t gone on.
He found the receipt soaked with tea at the bottom of the bin, it told him he’d put £30 on the previous day, Christmas Eve. He pressed Emergency, all but 1p had already automatically been used during the night.
“Damn!” he said as the room went dark.
Opening the curtains the room flooded with orange street light.
Kevin rang Customer Services; a pre-recorded message wished him season’s greetings and told him they were closed until the 27th. He rang Emergency and was told there was nothing they could do as he wasn’t registered as a person at risk.
He thought the only place that may be open would be Rupyal’s, they didn’t celebrate Christmas. It was drizzling but mild for the mile and a half walk. They usually opened at 5am, but today a notice said they wouldn’t open until 10am.
As Kevin turned towards home the rain changed into an icy blizzard of snow which surprised him, it hadn’t been mentioned in the weather forecast. The street lights were transformed into an odd pale creamy yellow, morning hadn’t broken and it felt much darker. He choked as he breathed in what smelt like a bonfire. The snow was thickening and getting slippery under foot, Kevin pulled his jacket in.
A clanking and crackling was approaching behind him. He looked around and there was a single round light pushing through the storm. The noise stopped beside him and a tram pulled up. A man in grey coat and peaked cap leant out from the back.
“D’you need a ride mate?” he called out.
“You going up High Street?” Kevin said without thinking.
Kevin jumped on. The tram was empty, it smelt of stale tobacco and sweat and was cold, but dry. A sign told him ‘no spitting’.
The conductor came to him.
“Sorry” Kevin said, “I’ve got no change on me”.
The conductor smiled.
“Dunna worry duck, it’s Christmas, no Inspector’s today” he said and winked.
The tram rattled along, it didn’t stop. Kevin wiped clear a patch on the steamed up window to look out. The streets were much darker than usual but the snow was relenting. He recognised the church in the gloom, he couldn’t see the War Memorial which was his usual place to stand up and get ready for his bus stop. As he stood the conductor pulled at a wire which ran along the ceiling. The clattering of the tram slowed down and it stopped.
“Is this a special for Christmas feels just like the real thing” Kevin asked the conductor.
“No, we run everyday, usually packed at this time” he replied looking at him oddly.
The tram grumbled off up the hill as Kevin turned towards his flat. Looking back up High Street, there was no sign of the tram or snow and orange streetlight glare competed with a pale lightening in the sky.
Trying the electric key in the meter one last time, the power immediately kicked in, the tree lit up, the television flickered into life and the central heating pump began humming.
Kevin was making a pot of coffee when he heard an envelope drop through the door. It was a Christmas card, his first.
“Odd” he said when he’d opened it, “…how very odd”.
It was a picture of a tram dated 1908 travelling past the parish church, inside it was unsigned.
Tim Diggles, 2014
Renegade Readers met for a third time on December 18th and another good turn out; and very interesting and enjoyable readings with some familiar and unfamiliar pieces. This is a list of what was read (if I can correctly read my notes!):
- Andrew Marvell poem – To My Mistress
- Robert Shearman short story – Patches
- Charles Causley poem – Timothy Winters (go to the 5th poem read by Causley)
- Dorothy Parker short story – Christmas 1921
- Jacqueline Ram poem – A Christmas Tale
- A chapter from Helene Gestern‘s novel – The People in the Photo
- Bryn Fortey short story – Shrewhampton North East from Merry Go Round
- Clement Clarke Moore poem – A Visit From St.Nicholas
I apologise if I have missed any of the other pieces!
The next meeting is at Newcastle-under-Lyme Library at 11am on Thursday January 29th 2015, we would love to see you there!