24 December 2010

2010 in Perspective

A number of years ago I came to the conclusion that the easiest way to avoid being in a ridiculous number of unflattering pictures was to be the person taking those photos. The irony was that once I had a camera happily ensconced in my grubby little hands I found that I really had no interest in taking photos of people, going out of my way to ensure that they were absent from any shots I took, and never seeming to bring a camera along to social occasions. Thus the cavalcade of unfortunate snapshots of me continues, exacerbated by the proliferation of online repositories where said photos will continue to haunt and embarrass me for decades to come.

So if I wasn't taking shots of people, what was I photographing?

I am fascinated by vanishing points, specifically single-point perspectives, where parallel lines in an image seem to converge on some central spot in the imagined distance, giving a feeling of depth to a two dimensional image. I remember as a child watching an Open University program at some ungodly hour of the morning on Renaissance art, this being long before the days of 24-hour TV when the only thing on before lunchtime was the OU and the test card, and seeing line drawings overlaid on a number of paintings (the identity of which are sadly long forgotten to me) to show how the painters tricked the eye into believing a flat image had depth. The old Star Wars arcade game fascinated me for a similar reason, the line vector graphics being as big a draw as the cockpit and H-shaped controller.

A second element that I'm drawn to is artificial light, and the effect it has on outdoor environments. The light given off by Irish street lamps bathes everything in an incredibly warm orange glow, and I'm also fascinated by the fuzzy halo of lens flares surrounding the lights themselves, something that only exists on the captured image, created by the act of photography itself.

In fact it is the UnReality of both these elements that I am drawn to, the subjective nature of the reality created by the observer through the act of photography; the observer overlays a false sense of order onto a flat image creating an artificial geometry that exists only in the mind's eye, or a new reality is created within the camera by the flawed process of image capture itself, the interaction of light and lens distorting the Real to create something new, and wonderful.

These are the moments that I try to capture, to create the UnReal, to see the Other.

I'm not saying I'm any good at it, just that its something that fascinates me.

And with that in mind, allow me to present a pictorial reflection on the year that was 2010.

Adelaide Road, January 7th, the first snowfall of the year started on New Year's Eve and continued on and off for a week. I don't think any of us had any inkling of how big a role the snow and ice would play over the course of the year.

Grand Canal Dock, March 19th. I don't think there is any bigger symbol of the Celtic Tiger Years than the Dublin Docklands. Bold, brash, defiant and ultimately doomed to failure. A cold and half-deserted neon wasteland, the closest that Dublin has to a Gibson streetscape.

Whitehall, London. Election night, May 6th. The streets are oddly deserted. Maybe everyone stayed inside to contemplate the horror that they had unleashed upon themselves. The lights are brighter, but glow with a harshness, clinical and unwelcoming.

Montignac, France, May 19th. The bridge over the Vézère river is deserted, along with most of the streets, a quiet walk after earlier visiting Lasceaux.

Dún Dúchathair (The Black Fort), Inis Mór, June 17th. Reachable only on foot, parallel lines of Chevaux de frise, upright stones placed in defensive lines, pull the eyes towards the stone fort hugging the cliff face. I sat here in solitude for hours, happy, quiet, at rest.

Gan Ha'em station, Haifa, July 29th. The Carmelit is a subway, but unlike any other. An underground funicular railway, the stations and the train itself are all stepped and set at a sharp angle. The carriages serve six stops, rise about 275 meters and never sit perfectly level.

St Stephen's Green, October 7th. Another railway image, and a rare photo with people in it. Although at times I find it hard to love Dublin, I do love living in the city centre. The Luas is an indelible aspect of my sense of place, an icon of vibrancy and the inverse of the Grand Canal Dock, a sense of futurism in the city that works and inspires. A great piece by Frank Kiely sits on one of our walls and this shot reminds me of the sense of movement he captured.

Strijp, Eindhoven, November 20th. The birthplace of electrical giant Philips, the former factory complex is reborn as a campus for hi-tech start-ups, media groups and artists' studios. Blocky geometric buildings from the twenties bristle with brutalist additions from the sixties and seventies.

Grantham Street, December 2nd. The same white blanket that swaddled the newborn year looks set to shroud its corpse. The sky glows with a colour that exists only within the camera, the false orbs that hover above the street illusionary wisps that guide us away into the imagined distance.

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At 5:41 pm, Blogger Snag Breac said...

Lovely photos. Enjoying the vanishing points you can find in nature too - a harder place to find them typically architectural vanishing points!


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