Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wait Until Dark

I've waited for years for this film to be released on DVD and after finally manging to get my hands on it I was not disappointed. In Wait Unitil Dark the timelessly beautiful, and possibly the most photogenic woman ever, Audrey Hepburn plays a recently blinded woman persecuted in her apartment by a gang of evil drug smugglers (the most dispicable of which is played by Alan Arkin). The film starts off rather slowly, but gradually suspense and thrills build up unto the rousing final duel between Hepburn and psychotic murderer Arkin. The film's last 15 minutes are simply pulsating. Judged as one of the most gripping and thrilling sequences ever committed to celluloid, with one huge superbly well-judged moment of nerve-jangling shock. Most of all Wait Until Dark is a movie of suspense. As with all great scary movies (Psycho, Jaws, Alien, The Exorcist) it is what you (and in this case, the heroine) can't see that terrifies you. Don't let the fact that this movie was released in 1967 put you off, this is definitely worth watching. The still below is from the final few minutes, and my god did I jump!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tea in the Park

This timber-framed haven is situated adjacent to the woods in Forge Dam Park (Sheffield) and I think it has to rate as one of my top 10 favorite places in the whole world. It hasn't changed in the 25 years I've been visiting it, apart from one or two new additions to the menu (chips and cheese, and fish finger sandwiches - verging on trendy!!!). I love places like this, they exist as timewarps, instantly familiar and homely, something you only really miss when you can't access it. I hope the cafe will be there forever, a place I can take my children to for a hot chocolate, or an ice cream, after they've fed the ducks or been on the swings. You can keep your wi-fi cafes and stainless steel, Forge Dam Cafe is the best eatery in town.

Christmas at the Covered Market

It's a macarbe olde world in Oxford's covered market. Built in 1771, after the academics, aristocrats and religious leaders complained so much about the revolting conditions of the market stalls on Oxford's streets, the covered market houses all the food produce stalls and shops Oxford has to offer. The salty tang of seaweed and fishing vessels mingle with the secnt of roses and lavender, the aroma of freshly baked pies, pasties, the sharp smell of marinating olives and the stench of Oxford Blue cheese. The mustiness of the second hand bookshops, the snippity snip of the barber's shop, the gleaming jewellry stalls, the tea shops, the market houses something for everyone. Buskers move amongst the tight allyways, drawn to the crowds. Over the hum created by the busy shoppers you can hear the sounds of an italian soprano or the harmonies of a barber shop quartet.

Christmas time is especially magical. Trees adorn the ceilings, ready for stall assistants to hook down with a long pole, truss up with twine, and deposit on your shoulder for the journey home. The Butchers stalls groan under the vast weight of their displays - plump pink turkeys plucked clean save for a ruffle of feathers around their neck, hang infront of every shop; venison, rabbits, pheasant, plump porkers and the occasional Highland deer clad in a coat of coarse gray-brown hair swing from huge hooks. It's how meat is meant to be seen - organic and real. Holly adorns every surface and lights twinkle from the ceiling. The shopper is transported back to Victorian England. Friendly, congested, facinating, vulgar, anchient yet cosmopolition, stimulating all of ones senses the covered market is one of Oxford's real jewels.

More pictures of the covered market can be found in my flickr gallery.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Great Fog of 2006

In the middle of last week parts of Britain was engulfed by a thick freezing dense fog. It was kind of spooky, the Hound of the Baskervilles and tales of Jack the Ripper sprang to mind. Most internal flights were grounded for days, and the roads and railways felt the burden of folks trying to get home for Christmas. Luckily, those who I knew who were flying in and out of the country made their final destinations, and now the fog has lifted to make post xmas travel slightly easier. But for those who missed it here's an attempt at capturing the great fog of 2006.

Friday, December 22, 2006

DxO Lighting: Give more pop to your images

Another fab tool from fd flickr toys. DxO Lighting enhances your photo's exposure and dynamic range at a click of a button, you can upload photos to the tool or it will work directly with your flickr archive. Of course all this can be done in photoshop and iphoto ect, however its's a great alternative for those who don't have this software.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Brighton Rocks

Starting to get the hang of night photography - shutter speed very low, f level about 2.7 and a tripod. More pics from my visit to Brighton can be found in my flickr gallery.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why the world is so dotty on Dawkins

So far all of my blogs have really been about pictures...words about pictures. I feel that words themselves have been slightly under represented, so here's some thoughts pieced together about what words do, mostly spurred on by a keynote I just attended given by the very charismatic Steve Fuller at a research conference in Brighton. Apologies for the intellectual divergence from my usual postings!

This year Richard Dawkins was voted the UK's top public intellectual in a poll by Prospect Magazine. But what is it that makes him the most intellectual human being in Britain...other than that selfish gene of course? What fascinates me about Richard Dawkins is not so much the ideas and theories he so adamently, and (self professingly) arrogantly, puts forth, but rather the power of his words and and medium that he conveys them in. This guy is a genius, when he talks he is not tied to his power point presentation, he does not need his science lab to protect him, he just uses words. He can convey his point using any medium he wants - the public lecture, the 50 line newspaper column, the TV documentary, the science book, an academic paper, a high brow debate. And what's more he can argue and defend his ideas without batting an eyelid. He has autonomy, he can think for himself, and speak for himself, he is the perfect example of what the university dreams of producing, intellectual enlightenment.

Powerful words combined with a large dose of charisma have powerful effects. As a result Dawkins now has his own congregation. I do find it slighly amusing that he reminds me of preachers I saw in Africa: "If you dont belive me, if you question me, you are an idiot - it's common sense" - the tone used by both camps. Now, I am not generally a sit on the fence person, if you have two equally as strong opposing views, it does not mean that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It may quite simply be the case that one view is just plain wrong. But often it is the interchange of words, the ability to have understanding of multiple viewpoints to form your own ideas where the real value lies.

My views on Prof Dawkins...I generally agree with what the professor professes, but that does not mean I do not question some of what he says, take what he puts forwards as gospel. I do think that religion and intelligent design have a place in science studies classes. We need this power struggle of ideas to create autonomous intellectuals. Personally, I do not think that Dawkins understands enough about the history of secular humanism to give it a fair run for its money. I have sympathy for religious beliefs and can see that religion has, in the case of science, been a positive influence, leading to scientific breakthroughs that people accept today even if they don't believe in God (Monotheism, Newton, Mendel...). Dawkins says religion is the root of all evil. Well, even if that were true, it's also the root of all science...I don't believe the two are disaggregated. When Darwin killed God, he also in a sense killed man. Reduced to animals we often ignor that there are things that make us human, a spirituality, it's so easy to shift the blame for our actions onto biology. An easy exit.

Dawkins, he deserves to be at the no. 1 spot, his intellect comes from places other than just his ideas: the words he constantly rewrites so his knowledge can be a public good, his ability to defend this knowledge very bloody well. However, a critical foil should always be applied to any intellectual idea so new words can be formed.

Will return to my pictures next time :-)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

365 days

Now here's an interesting concept I've just come across. Everyday for 365 days you take a self portrait and post it on Flickr (see stephenpoff, sadandbeautiful, and chrismaverick for instance)

It seems to have become quite a popular hobby, and a flickr pool has even been created called 365days. I can't decide whether this is a cool and challenging experiment that enables the world to see how your shape changes from day to day or just incredibly self-indulgent, narcissistic, exercise. I'm not sure I would have the inclination, or the confidence to do something like this. And how does one find something new in oneself to photograph everyday for 365 days??? Hmmmmm . . . it's certainly got me thinking about different types of portrait though - hair, toes, beauty spots, tatoos, piercings, earlobes - all the little bits of a person that makes them them, a faceless portrait if you like.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ramblings from Seville: Flamenco

Flamenco runs through the veins of Andulucia. It's difficult to put into words the power of this dance form, Flamenco is experienced through emotion and through the soul. It's a dance filled with sadness and anger, but also of passion, strength and beauty. Born from the expression of a persecuted people, most notably, the Gypsies of Southern Spain, its unique blend of influences and musical complexity can be attributed to the consequences of the decree made in Spain 1492 by Catholic Spanish King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella that everyone living under their domain convert to Catholicism. This proclamation was issued under the threat of varying degrees of punishment, the most severe being the death penalty, by fire. Gypsies, Muslims, Jews and anyone living in Spain at the time was ordered to convert. It is believed that because of this decree these different ethnic groups came together to help each other, and within this melding of cultures Flamenco was born.

One does not need to go to a show to experience Flamenco, the sounds of the cante (singing) and guitarra (guitar) echo from the tapas bars, sevillians break into improtu baile (dance) at nights on the city's streets, accompanied by hand clapping and palmas. It is an ever present undertone in a society deeprooted in a cultural cooking pot that continues boil to this day.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ramblings from Seville: The Virgin

In Seville it seems that every road has a church, all adorned with icons of the Virgin Mary. The power of the Catholic church is strong here, and the power seems to be embodied within the many images of the Virgin. The adoration of the Virgin is striking, a man who never attends mass is still feircly protective of the Virgin. This morning I sat in one of the most ornate back-street churches, where the Virgin stood above the alter framed by waterfalls of glittering gold. Many men just popped in on their way to work for a minute to cross themselves in front of the lady in question. Seville is unafraid of its emotions. It’s difficult for me to understand coming from a culture where the imagery of the church resides behind the hustle and bustle of modern day life and scepticism. I don't "belive". Yet today, as I wondered in and out of the incense infused churches, I felt a peaceful contemplation, a little bit sad, lit a candle or two, and put some of my Euros into the Virgin's collection box.

Ramblings from Seville: Orange

In Seville everything is orange.

Weave your way down through the compact maze of old narrow streets and they are lined with orange trees. The crumbling walls are painted orange, the window blinds are orange, even the buses are orange. The interior of the churches are awash with gold. At night the Cathedral casts orange light into the sky,the streets are bathed in the glow of the orange street lamps and the Moorish lanterns that hang outside the tapas bars and resturants. Orange is a good colour, it makes everything seem cheerful, even in the Andalusian rain.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Crawling into my dreams

For some reason I've been having a lot of dreams about spiders lately, of the pointy variety rather than the hairy variety. I think my recent photography hobby has influenced these creepy carwlies' portrayal because rather than having an entire dream about a spider, I'll be happily having a fluffy dream about something normal then suddenly there will be a big flash of a spikey spider which will jolt me out of my slumber, and on occaision has made my jump out of bed in a panic. It's really not very pleasant at all. Perplexed I refer to the fountain of all dream knowledge the Dream Mood Dictionary. It tells me:

To see a spider in your dream, indicates that you are feeling like an outsider in some situation. Or that you may want to keep your distance and stay away from an alluring and tempting situation

Ok, interesting, but not really ringing any bells, continue...

The spider is also symbolic of feminine power.

Nice! I am of course female and exert power over all around me ;-)

Alternatively, a spider may refer to a powerful force protecting you against your self-destructive behavior. If you kill a spider, it symbolizes misfortune and general bad luck.

Phew, never killed on in my dreams.

To see a spider spinning a web in your dream, signifies that you will be rewarded for your hard work. You will soon find yourself promoted in your job or recognized for your achievement in a difficult task.

Damn it, no webs.

Spiders are a symbol of creativity due to the intricate webs they spin.

Sounds good, might explain the photo like inclusion in my land of nod.

On a negative note, spiders may indicate a feeling of being entangled or trapped in a sticky or clingy relationship. It represents some ensnaring and controlling force. You may feel that someone or some situation is sucking the life right out of you.

That is quite negative, but I am suffering no acute vampiric situations.

Dreams really make me ponder. I mean a one-off is interesting, often a catharsis of the days events, but there have been a lot of spiders in my dreams lately, they have become a symbol. It has to mean something. I don't even really have a great fear of the little critters, although I must say the spikey kind are not my favorite, but they keep cropping up. Hopefully it will turn out they are money spiders, that would be nice!

Back to the meadow

I've already blogged a few photos of Oxford Port Meadow but today I returned there to take some photos with the Oxford Photographic Society.

The OPS is one of the top ten photographic societies in the UK. It has been going since 1889 and it's a great opportunity to boost photographic skills. It hardly costs anything (£32 per year) and is far less time consuming than any evening course. The society offers a mentoring scheme, instructional saturday walks, photo-tutorials, competitions, and monthly feedback meetings to discuss your photos. Everyone is really friendly and so helpful. It was a glorious sunny winter's day and there were lots of rowers out on the river and docile horses to pet. I really enjoyed myself and learnt a lot about shutter speed and aperture and all those fiddly little settings on my camera that I don't have a clue about. I must admit though I did get lens envy seeing the digital SLRs and telescopic lenses that the professional photographers had. I have to submit my four best photos from the trip to their website but I'm not sure which ones to send in, I don't feel that any are particuarly exciting but please feel free to vote! The better photos I took are tagged with OSP1 on Flickr.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Circles, squares, triangles and a picture of myself

Last Friday I travelled down to London to attend Vision 2006, an event run by the British Journal of Photography. Held next to London Bridge, under the railway arches, various photography companies touted their goods and design organisations recruited new members. The congregation looked very arty, moving between the tables cigerette and coffee in hand, looking cool and intense; there was a very high level of black attire and berrets. I must say that the event itself was a little disappointing, but to be fair it really was aimed at the design student and professional photographer rather than a novice like myself. The cameras on show were way beyond my reach and I didn't dare approach the recruitment consultants. However, I did pick up an excellent book on digital photography and after a chat to the guy at the British Freelance Photographers stand I'm considering joining up to see if they could flog any of my photos.

The real reason I went however was to take advantage of the portfolio review facility. Take along your best pics and have a proper, real-life, experienced photographer offer their wisdom and constructive criticism. Disappointingly Kodak Online did not deliver my portfolio quality prints I had so carefully picked out and ordered weeks ago, but not to be defeated I popped into Boots and printed off some bog-standard 5 x 8 glossies to take along. Felt a bit of a muppet when I turned up and everone else had big black portfolio folders rammed with A3 prints on satin paper finish. Sheepishly I pulled my Boots photo wallet out of my bag and presented them to 'Dillon' for review. But Dillion wasn't really bothered by the display medium - "A picture is a picture". He lay out all 10 photos on the table and instantly put a few aside as no-nos. He put the rest, bar one, into three piles. "I see you have a commom theme here" he said, "circles, squares and triangles", "mmmm yes" I replied, not realising I had a theme and not wanting to sound stupid. He picks up my Little boy on the rocks and my Clouds on glass photo. "I love how these are so different yet virtually the same" he continues, I look closely at them and realise they are, kind of. The macros of flowers, the oxford bike, the elephants eye - "A circle theme - great!". The Eiffel Tower shots - "triangles!". How can someone else draw a theme out of my pictures I never knew were there? "I've seen a lot of snap shots here today" he says "but these are not snap shots, they are photography, so don't be embaressed about bringing them along" (I turn slightly beetroot). He turns to the "bar one" that didn't get put into a pile. "But this is the one that really stands out" he says, "it has composure, composition and atmosphere". I look at the photo he referring to. Very embaressingly it's a picture of myself, I don't tell him this, as it's taken from behind, so he would never know. In Tarifa with the sun shining down I'm sat on the beach facing out to sea, my hair wrapped up in a big scarf and, erm, blush, no top on (but you can't see anything). It's highly staged, or "composed" I guess is the correct term, and taken with an old no-frills cheapo canon digital then photoshopped black and white. I'd never seen this photo in print before, I've only ever seen it through a computer screen. I included it because it was popular in my flickr gallery, but I must say it looks better in print, even in Boots instant glossy print. I was suprised."I look at this" he says "and I don't know what it is that stands out, "the girl, the turban, the shadow, the sea. A good photo should make you look, continue to look and wonder why you like it. This could be a poster". Well perhaps not, that kind of freaks me out, my naked back being on someone's wall. But it has made me think that I should print more of photos out, because things look different, have a different effect, on a different medium. That I should do more staged shots. Look more carefully when I take a photo, at the shapes it captures, at different angles, take many shots of the same thing to see what works. Sharpen my eye and keep snapping away.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Creative commons licence does some good!

Just recieved an e-mail. Small blush of pride!
Hi KT Lindsay,
I am delighted to let you know that three of your photos with a creative commons license have been selected for inclusion
in the newly released second edition of our Schmap Oxford Guide. Clicking this link will take you to a page where you can:
i) See which of your photos have been selected for inclusion.
ii) Learn how we credit photos in our
Schmap Guides
iii) Download a copy of the guide, complete with your
credited photos.
Please enjoy the guide!

Best regards,
Ali Moss,
Managing Editor, Schmap Guides


Thursday, November 02, 2006

We don't have time to stop and stare

So, here’s something about me: I’m an anxious person. I am my own worse enemy, I create anxiety for myself. Everything has to be perfect, I have to please everyone, I have to feel that everything I do is 'worth' something, I have to fight against the nasty things in the world, I have to throw myself into everything I do hammer and tonge and what's more get it right. I stress about stressing too much. It's very exhausting all this stressing. But wherever I go there are stressed people too, people ranting and raving, people lost in the depths of their own problems, people rushing around, not taking time just to look quietly at the world around them. We feed off eachother, stressed people. A few weeks ago I blogged about my trip to the Lake District and how it took so little to make me feel peaceful, a bit of water, a few trees and sheep, hot tea and silence. That's all that was needed. And now after two weeks back in the hustle and bustle of noisy modern-day life I feel the stress. It doesn't have to be like this, I want to compartmentalise my life and not let bits bleed into one another, I want to take time to just be still and enjoy the world and the people I love. May be this is one of the reasons I like taking pictures. The shutter is clicked. The flash goes off and I've stopped time, as if just for the blink of an eye. The world is captured at that very instant, still forever.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Finding the best photographs on Flickr

I've started to use Scout to find the very best work of any photographer on Flickr. My favorite Flickr toy at the moment is Scout. Scout is a toy that allows you to enter your Flickr ID / e-mail into a web page and then return back to you all of your photos that have appeared in Flickr's public Explore/interestingness stream, this stream is the top 500 photos each day according to some kind of magic monkey that works down with the Flickr team. The Flickr team have yet to divulge the algoritham that determines a photo as 'interesting' and worthy of a place in the explore hierarchy, but I think it has something to do with colours, number of comments, views and favorites, it does seem to prefer macros too. Anyway, Interestingness is a great place to start for finding great photography because beyond seeing your own photos that have made Explore, you can also see the photos of others. You can put any photographer that captures your eye into Scout and see what turns up.

Here are some of my favorite photos on Flickr:

Monday, October 30, 2006

The perfectionist in me

Last week I uploaded a moody Ansel Adams-esque picture to Flickr and posted it to a number of constructive criticism type groups. I got great comments with some good suggestions about how I could improve the picture. In my quest for perfection I've taken these on board and re-tweaked the photo. I've re-cropped in a way that adds more sky, lessened the dark-light contrast and also, joy of joys, discovered the 'sharpen' filter in iphoto which I'm going to apply to quite a few of my pics now, especially the macros.

So here is my first attempt:

And here is my more recent:

I'd love to hear what you think so if you have a spare minute please go to the picture in Flickr and comment!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

If these pictures have anything important to say to future generations, it's this: I was here. I existed. I was young, I was happy, and someone cared enough about me in this world to take my picture.

(One Hour Photo)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Not a daffodill in sight

After studying literature I have always associated the Lakes with the likes of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey. Disregarding the whole tourist industry that has built up around it's Literary heritage (we do not 'wonder lonely as a cloud' but rather passively as a sheep around the tiny rooms of Dove Cottage, dine at the Wordsworth hotel, drink at the Southey Arms), The Lakes, I'm sure, have not changed that much since their poets filled their notebooks at the turn of the 19th century. The scenery is still sublime, the air ripe for contemplation, and the mass of water (rain, river and lake) makes everything thing seem a little melancholy, suddenly you are a poet, a writer, an artist, a philosopher!

After I got over the initial moment of awe and sense of my own humble existence (Wordsworth will tell you all about that) I remembered that the Lake Poets and the Romantic Movement were never really a great favorite of mine and became thankful that I made my visit at a time of year when there were no daffodils for people to quote 'that' poem to me. But it was easy to see why they chose here to write. Thomas De Quincey calculated in his 'Recollections of the Lakes and the Lake Poets' that Wordsworth must have walked 175,000 to 180,000 miles in the area as inspiration for his poetry. The lakes is an almost prehistoric return to nature to nature, simply walking just as the poets had done I saw the constantly changing harmonies of water, hills and sky. The nights were silent, the air clean(er), I wondered around on hills with no one else in eye sight, the Herwick sheep, took great pleasure in hot drinks made on a camping stove overlooking the expanse of simple yet so rare in the hustle and bustle of modern life. It brings you back to yourself. It makes you re-evaluate everything you do when all it takes is a cup of tea and a view of a bit of water, some mountains and some rain to make you feel peaceful again.

More photos of the Lakes can be found in my Flickr Gallery

An aside: Prefer the Liverpool poets myself, check Roger McGough's version of 'that' poem

Wandering along the road
by the lake, I saw a load
of golden daffodils
Ten thousand, give or take.

Now and then
I think of them again.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Something for Everyone

Time for a bit of promo. Something for Everyone is the new album from Ben Walker. Revolving around the theme of naïvety and miscommunication it weaves together a mixture of songs that really do strike familiar cords with something everyone has experienced at one time or another. This album works fantasically well as an Internet album, accompanied by a clean crisp website. The generous guy is giving all the songs away for free, quote - because, until I invent an amazing new system of collective ownership, it just seems right - end quote. Each song has its own web page with some commentry by Ben, the lyrics, and best of all a quirky picture to accompany it.

My favorite tracks on the album are "making eyes" and "without you", mostly 'cos I like the lyrics. I think "i call it me" has great accoustic riffs, but I also love "the cutest fish in the sea" in a smiley-ahh-Beach-Boys kinda way. And frankly the concept of "oxford by the sea" should be made a reality.

Good one Ben, I like it! Will spread the word.

An autumn holiday

Just spent 4 days relaxing in the hills near Carcassonne, France. It was chilly and rainy, but a beautiful setting. More holiday snaps in my flickr album.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Sea


I've just had my first play with Flickr's new (well newish - it was released in August) 'geotagging' software. And in summary - it's pretty damn good! The software is tied into Flickr's organizer tool and the way it works is pretty simple. You simply find a location using Yahoo! Maps (you can enter an address, postcode, street name, city, etc. or just navigate around the map until you find where you want to go) and then from the organizer's thumbnail bar below you simply drag and drop your photos on to the map in the appropriate location and you are finished. Like a lot of things at Flickr, simple and elegant.

Why do I love this? It open's up a whole new world of possibilities! I could create a city map with pictures of where I like to hang out, a world map of places I have been to - zoom in on my favorite resturants and art galleries. However the big downfall is the limitations of Yahoo! Maps which is especially week in terms of street detail in anywhere other than America. In New York and San Fansisco I can zoom down to the level of the actual building and stick my picture ther; but in Oxford all I get are the Banbury and Woodstock roads. You can make an educated guess by viewing the city through the satillite map (for instance it's easy to spot port meadow). But putting a photo on G&Ds in Little Clarendon Street is pretty impossible. However the potential is there so come on Yahoo! get it sorted soon so I can play some more!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Little boy on the rocks revistited

Interesting. The black and white version of this picture, with the further zoom has received more positive comments. Although a couple of Flickr users still call for it to be cropped, which I think would defeat the whole purpose of the photograph. Many commented on the feeling of lonliness within this picture and I think expanse of the wall behind works to make the boy seem small and fragile. I still think I prefer the colour version though, to me it's a bit more captivating.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Flickr Scoring

I've been playing around a bit with Flickr scoring groups lately. The idea is that you post one of your pictures to a scoring group such as score me, or score me in detail, and other group members critically rate your picture. When you post a picture you have to rate the five previous pictures before yours too (to make it all fair). Now, I'm not sure if I like this. You do get lots of comments which is nice, and sometimes some pretty constructive feedback, but I've put up a couple of my favoritist, most proudest, pics and have received average, or even bad feedback. For instace my close-up elephant shot which I love hasn't been recieved too well, neither has my Paris ants, and particuarly not my little boy on the rocks which is a recent addition:

You see, I quite like how he's camaflaged against the wall and his gormless expression, but the flickr users want a closer crop and 'expression'. I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder. It is interesting though seeing what pictures really grab people, my Clouds on Glass for some reason has received lots of poker chips from the Flickr Poker Group. I like this group because when you post a picture the idea is that you then distribute 5 poker chips to your favorite five pictures posted that day, rather than just comment on the 5 pictures uploaded previous to your, so more choice. I'm going to keep playing around with the scoring groups for a little bit just to see which of my pictures are popular, I'm going to put up another shot I took of my Boy on the Rocks to see if the different angle, focal length, and colours (people seem to prefer Black and White), draw a different response. Don't think I'll keep doing it though, never been one for criticism.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I don't know why I have developed such a fascination with photography lately. I think it's something to do with being able to present snapshots of a life. Humans, in our society, have been conditioned to walk through our daily, ordinary lives looking for that special metaphoric photo. We are constantly looking for meaning, waiting for something to become 'perfect' in some sense. Sometimes things already are perfect, meaningful, but because of our preconceptions or expectations of the way things should be, they never appear to 'right'. It really is as if we are walking around, hoping/waiting/wanting for our lives to be a scene in a movie or to emulate that really great Ansel Adams shot. Most of the people I know are, in fact, waiting for each moment to be (seem?) meaningful...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Boat dwellers, horse dealers and alchemists

It's a watery, raffish, amiable, trickster-like world of boat dwellers and horse dealers and alchemists. The character of this part of Oxford is very ancient, quite unmistakable, entirely unique. (Phillip Pullman)

I love the curious world of Jericho and the Oxford Canal. It's a window into another existence quite separate from the pomp and circumstance of the academic buildings and university streets. It still has a fairytale feel to it, but a darker, more sinister one that gives you goosebumps. You can tell that ghosts prowl the terraced streets of Jericho.

As you move towards the canal, away from the trendy bars and resturants of Walton Street, walls start to crumble and weeds weave inbetween the iron gates and the cracks in the pavement. The sky is dominated by the romanesque tower of St Barnabas Church (1860), built in concern for the spiritual welfare of the new community which was developing around the university press.

The canal itself is a centre for a large community of people who live on boats. The setting is not far from the picture of gypsie boat-dwellers that Phillip Pullman paints in His Dark Materials Trilogy. One thing I love to do is to walk along the towpath and see the curious little alchemy boat yard site - wonky old buildings, rickety-looking stables that have been there for over 100 years. And, people use them, and work them - it's a useful place. Sadly it looks as if the boat yard is going to be wiped out in a bid to build 47 luxury flats which would earn up to £2m instant profit for British Waterways. I don't think the ghosts would be very happy with that.

The true glory of Jericho however is Oxford's most ancient, and most beautiful monument - Port Meadow. Older than the university and any building in Oxford these 400 acres of common land have never been ploughed and are home to a population of grass, thistles, ponies, cattle and geese. Every year a medieval custom takes place where the Sheriff of Oxford, and his followers, drive all animals off the meadow and into a pound. This is supposed to be a 'top-secret operation', so that owners without grazing rights cannot remove their animals at the last minute and escape a fine. But most years, news leaks out and many animals suddenly vanish before the Sheriff's arrival.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Baby you can drive my car...

I don't have a car. I can't drive. It is unlikely that I will ever have a car. I don't want one.

This is not to say I didn't once attempt to learn to drive. When I was 17 I had a go. Well more precisely I had a lot of lessons and failed my test. I hated driving, it was stressful. But I think my distaste was just my inner conscience telling me I'm not the type of girl who should be behind the wheel.

A few years on and with a greater environmental consciousness I remain unlicensed because firstly; I think there are too many cars on the roads, and secondly; I like the environment better with less cars. I don't want to be a hypocrit.

When I tell people I don't want to drive or own a car I'm generally met with a short bout of silence then one of three reactions:

1. Pity: "Oh my your poor thing, how can you possibly participate in modern life, let me offer you a lift." Quietly they are assuming there is something wrong with me: I'm either too poor to have a car, I have some kind of mental condition that stops me from driving, or shock horror, I've been banned for drink driving - best not to ask.

2. Fear: "Watch out for that one, she's a lentil chomping freak, bathes in recycled dishwater and is ready to chain herself to the local petrol station in protest of all fume emitting vehicles." The fearful folk react as if I've just announced I'm a local Taliban rep, not a non-driver.

3. Guilt: "Really, wow, that's so good of you. You know I keep meaning to give up my car, but little Jimmy has football practice on Tuesdays and it's a bit of a bus ride away, and I just don't know how I'd do the supermarket shop without it, it's just not practical you see." Addiction.

I don't ask for any of these reactions, not driving is just a personal choice I have made. I have no desire to force my opinions on others and I don't get a self-riotous glow from saying I don't own a car. I'm not churlish, if someone is going my way I'll accept a lift, and if at some point in my life I need to develop the skill to drive I will; but I still would rather not own a car. I like the environment with less fumes, I think people should drive less, but that's their choice and the government's responsibility to address.
Recently I was told, "don't you think it's a bit selfish of you not to drive?"

I'm still trying to work that one out.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The kindness of strangers

Yesterday I got knocked off my bike whilst cycling to work. It hurt a lot and I banged my head rather hard and passed out. An ambulance was called and I was patched up pretty smartish on the spot. Unluckily, by the time I had come to and got over the shock of all the blood running down my face (from the tiniest of cuts I may add) I couldn't get hold of *any* of my friends to come and steer me in the direction of a hot cup of sweet tea. Mobile phones - what's the point if there is no one on the other end?? Luckily for me however it seems that just random people you meet on the street are willing to go out of their way to help a girl in need, I was well looked after by complete strangers, whose names I don't even know, soothed, calmed and maneuvered me to the safety of my office until I felt well enough to head home. People aren't that bad, they get a lot of stick, but every now and then something touches you to make you realise the goodness in human nature.

As a side note I am trying to tell myself that I look like Lara Croft rather than a silly bint who fell off her bike.

Bertie, is fine.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A blog on trust

What do we believe when we believe that a photograph is true? That it mimics what we would see with our own eyes, if we were standing where the camera was placed?

No camera records what you really see. Perspective, depth of field, angle of view, choice of film, choice of display medium - all manipulate what is there, all are deceptive to some extent. Every photo is a "falsification" in the sense that it compresses a 3 dimensional object onto a 2 dimensional image. Black and White is another interesting abstraction that could be argued to be a falsification of the "natural".

But there is a difference between 'deception' and 'alteration'. The first causes us to believe true what is false, the second makes different without changing into something else. Are either of these acceptable?

In the field of photojournalism, deception reguarly occurs, to either produce a more newsworthy photograph or to actually falsify the portrayal of events, to rewrite history as it were. For example, in Stalinist Soviet Russia, prominent party members that fell into disfavor were routinely arrested and executed, what followed was a careful eradication of these people from all historical records and photographs. The collective memory, over time, ceased to remember that they ever existed.

We live in an era in which images are carefully choreographed, when politicians use staged settings to further partisan goals, where the media do what they need to induce emotion and frenzy. Shortly after the events of 9/11, a story was widely circulated that swept the Internet into a storm. A camera that somehow survived the devastating collapse was found on a sidewalk. When developed, the film revealed a tourist on the World Trade Center, a low-flying plane in the background. Tourist Guy became folklore. The astute observer may detect the image as a fake. The North Tower had no open observation deck; it's not the right plane and it's flying at a different angle; also Tourist Guy is dressed too warmly for the weather. Tourist Guy has subsequently been identified as a 25-year-old Hungarian named Peter who wishes to remain as anonymous as possible. Tourist Guy is well on his way to becoming the most-Photoshopped person in history.

But photography as alteration, is that OK? National Geographic recently admitting moving one of the great pyramids 'a bit to the left' to enhance the composition of their cover photo. Kate Winslet complained that the doctoring of her February 2003 GQ cover photo was excessive, that her legs were 'about the third of the size they really were'. Is alteration deception, or is it just Art, a bit of tinkering in the name of beauty, a white lie?

When presented with a photograph we look and react with emotion and that derives from our trust in what are looking at represents the real. It is the same throughout human experience, after all, what do we believe when we believe a person is being true? That they are who they say they are, that they really mean the things they say, that their actions are representative of their feelings? Nearly everyone has been burnt at some point, yet often we continue to trust, even if we are deceived or experience alteration. At what point do we decide that we should no longer trust? At what point do we start seeing the great photographer as the great manipulator?

The Vanishing Commissar: Soviet dictator Josef Stalin with and without Nikolai Yezhov, commissar of water transport. Yezhov was executed in 1940.

Photo at top: After an Air Force attack on Beruit
In June 2006 Reuters withdrew this photograph after it was proven to have been doctored to include to include more smoke and damage.