Placescape #1 Southern England

SE montage header-2Now that I’ve invented an excuse for posting inconsequential items about place within this new ‘placescapes‘ theme here’s a throwback to September 2012 and a holiday spent largely in the Kent and Sussex area known as The Weald. I hadn’t set out to document this ‘touring holiday’ and I can’t remember why we chose to go there (apart from a middle-aged yearning to visit the gardens of Sissinghurst and Great Dixter), but it turned out to be a bit of a revelation.

Some places may have felt a bit over-preserved, others were just what you might expect in 21st century south-eastern England, with miles of bungalows and sprawling factory estates, but the remarkable variety of landscapes, architecture Continue reading


Introducing – placescapes

IMG_7061There’s an accumulation of notes and images that I’ve made, or had in mind that are loosely about ‘place’, that I’d thought would become a single post on this blog. They’ve been drifting around for while now – certainly since writing an earlier post on ‘particularity‘; but I’ve been waiting to unearth some keystone of information to bring the strands together in a coherent story-arc. No such thing has yet emerged and some de-cluttering of the desk and head are needed.

So, instead of a focused and considered piece of writing with illustrations, I’m going to put the notes and images in a series of occasional posts largely as they are, a hotch-potch of thoughts, memories and images about places – places I’ve been to, or that I’ve seen, or heard, through other people’s eyes and maybe ears – through paintings, prints, photographs, writing, music…often those places are landscapes but they’re also town streets, marginal land, gardens, places in transition such as demolition sites or scrub clearance in fields; or ‘temporary places’ where something stays only a while but transforms a space, like a temporary public artwork, or a street market. They’ll be under the title of Placescapes.

For decades now I’ve been having continuous conversations, usually with myself, about what makes a place and why Continue reading

A footnote to the Automatic Selfie


Slackers-Friday-1The last post on the algorithm topic for a while, maybe ever, but the theme has intrigued me and maybe I’ve learned something. After writing the last post and subsequently finding this article I thought I’d test Google stories further to see if I could work out what criteria might be applied to data and images by photographing a trip into Bristol and back on a bus with some Continue reading

The automatic self(ie) and the making of memories.

A '19 Moments' Story

’19 Moments’ – a Google Story, to be included in a future post.

All the features in the recent post (about the application of algorithms to popular online photo sites) have the potential to be ingredients in a story, so what algorithmic tricks might be available to spin your photos, your ‘moments’, into a yarn, automatically? For a start Google Stories can take the effort out of selecting and sequencing your holiday photos, locating them as ‘moments’ on a ‘fun timeline’ with a location …

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‘Halloweenify’ special

Some seasonally spooky examples of the Google+ ‘Halloweenify’ effect (part of Google’s ‘Auto Aweswome’ enhancements as featured in my recent post), if there are faces in the photo that the software can detect they’ll get an undead makeover (or something less scary if you choose the ‘fun effect’), if it can’t recognise a face your image will be transformed into a ghostly scene. Continue reading

‘Auto Awesome’, ‘Interestingness’ and al-Khwārizmī

Google+ chose to Auto Enhance this prosaic shot of palettes stacked in the garden!

Google+ chose to Auto Enhance this prosaic shot of potential firewood stacked in the garden.

Following on from recent posts about online software that will automatically arrange your photographs, I’ve been finding what else is going on out there, and discoveries include some odd features as well as the next stage of automation – story construction. This won’t be news for the tech savvy but there may be a few people reading this post who share the same low level of technical comprehension that I have and might find these topics entertaining, if not useful.

What intrigues me about this subject is that somewhere behind all the algorithms there must be teams of human beings involved in identifying and agreeing criteria on which the code is then based. I know little about how this process works (pleased to hear some explanations) and the only personal experience that has any relationship to this goes back to 2000 when I collaborated briefly with a computer science researcher who, for his PhD thesis was working in the field of metadata for image databases and was investigating classification, indexing and retrieval of images. Continue reading

Cardiff photo workshop


The Wales Millennium Centre, opened in 2004 and the Pierhead building, completed in 1897, Cardiff Bay.

A very short-notice photography opportunity turned up for me out of the blue a couple of weekends ago – a sequence of phone calls on Saturday evening led me the next morning to Cardiff Bay to stand in for a workshop leader from Photography Made Simple who’d been taken ill.

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Englishness / England – Keep’n it shabby.

Is this a uniquely English pursuit? Nature tamed and tormented at the local flower show.

Is this a uniquely English pursuit? Nature tamed and tormented at the local flower show.

Over the last few months I’ve encountered a range of ‘stuff’ – exhibitions, books and articles – that has English written through it like seaside rock; some are featured here, more may follow in future. It seems there’s been increasing debate about this elusive quality of Englishness going on for a while now (centuries really), and clearly there’s been some specific focus on the topic lately – the forthcoming Scotland vote on independence is churning up an awareness of the UK nations; the wild aspirations of our national football team had some people’s blood up for a while in the summer and much was made in the media of the Commonwealth Games a few weeks back – I was intrigued to discover that the English ‘national anthem’ played at the Commonwealth Games was ‘Jerusalem’ – but it’s only now that I seem to have become attuned to the recent output on Englishness.

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Letter to an Unknown Soldier

Over the summer I worked on a WW1 Centenary Art Commission project called ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ . It’s part of the 14-18-NOW  programme of activities and events and was inspired by the Charles Jagger statue at Paddington station of an unknown soldier reading a letter. The project was produced in association with Free Word and from June to August this year the writers/artists who had originated the project, Kate Pullinger and Neil Bartlett, were inviting everyone across the UK to write letters to the Unknown Soldier to create a new kind of war memorial – made only of words. Continue reading

Oporto photo shuffling

Porto montage 1Ten years ago, I was commissioned to create a poster to help mark the 20th anniversary of Bristol’s twinning with Oporto/Porto in Portugal – one of the nicest commissions I’ve ever been asked to do! I had proposed the idea to the Twinning Association way back in the 1980s and it lay dormant for a long time, but the anniversary provided an opportunity that I jumped at. Continue reading