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I’ve always loved libraries, almost every Saturday when I was little involved going to one library or another with my father to stock up on reading material for both of us. Both voracious readers we could spend many happy hours browsing, reading and enjoying the peaceful calm which surrounds spaces of many books. The library at my boarding school wasn’t great, but when I was old enough to be ‘let out’ after school I would very often pop down to Bushey Library which was most definitely of the old-school, unexciting variety of library but I still found plenty to interest and would regularly lug a bag full of books back up the hill to enjoy at my leisure.
The splendid library at Staffordshire University, where I spent three years completing my degree in Graphic Design was always my first port of call when we were given the brief for a new project (pre internet) and I would spend many happy hours surrounded by teetering piles of books and journals to find the nuggets of information and inspiration which would help my work. It was a place where you could bump into friends from all departments, have a catch up and a chat of where I could usually find my favourite tutor if he wasn’t where he should have been in the studio.
When I left Stoke and returned home to Hale in Cheshire, the small and old fashioned but perfectly formed library in the village became a favourite haunt at lunchtimes to read the papers and to potter around the shelves of seemingly always old and out of date books. I still managed to come home with plenty to keep me busy.
From Hale, I moved into Manchester city centre which is when I first visited the iconic Manchester Central Library. If you’ve ever been to Manchester, you can’t fail to notice the beautiful round building with it’s columned entrance and imposing dome you’ll know what I’m talking about. I joined up, but despite always enjoying visiting as it’s such a dramatic space, I found it impossible to find what I was looking for so I tended to pop in for a potter around when I had nothing better to do rather than actually use it as intended. Then I moved out of the city centre and stopped going to libraries all together with the advent of internet research, cheaper paperbacks and my Kindle. Shame on me! But, that’s all changed now with the re-opeing of the Central Library after a comprehensive programme of refurbishment which saw our city landmark swathed in plastic, hoardings and scaffolding for four years. I took a photo of it from the roof of Peter House, about nine floors up in November 2012, so about half way through and you can see the mess it’s in!
The grand reopening was last weekend and we weren’t disappointed, the Shakespeare entrance has been opened up with the beautifully restored stained glass window showing off some of his most loved characters leads to a newly open plan atrium with a cafe (delicious shortbread!), interactive displays of archive material and local history, comfy chairs and, right in the centre, a glass panel in the ceiling giving a view up into the centre of the reading room (the round space under the dome with the dramatic echo which makes every cough or rustle sound like a clash of percussion). It was a bit too busy to have a play with the displays as the place was packed with visitors and there was definitely no chance of enjoying the British Film Institute (BFI) Mediatheque which offers over 2000 films and television programmes which depict life in Manchester and the north west where every single station (in cosy little booths with screens and earphones) was packed full of people plugged in. I’ll look forward to having a browse through some of the titles when things have quietened down a bit.
The famous domed reading room essentially hasn’t changed and looks much the same as it always has, the same reading tables, chairs and lamps are there, all lovely dark wood and shiny brass, beautifully restored but there are new artworks dispersed in between the books on the outer curve of the room which depict various details of the restoration work in the very interesting Citizen Manchester exhibition by Dan Dubowitz and Alan Ward which continues in display cases throughout the building.
The Henry Watson music library is now a fun place, with electric keyboards and even an electric drum kit to play with (headphones required) and even a ‘real’ piano (headphones most definitely not required) for musical visitors to entertain readers.
The basement, where the much loved Library Theatre used to live is now a seriously impressive lending library, packed with brand new, clean, plastic wrapped paperbacks and non-fiction books on any subject you could care to look for, it’s all wonderful, spacious and tempting. There are computer terminals all over the place and the Media Lounge which is a state of the art technology suite that is home to a host of iMacs, PCs and gaming consoles and even Adobe Creative Suite software, which is pretty impressive stuff!
I’m looking forward to revisiting our ‘new’ library again soon and taking advantage of all it has to offer.
Continuing in a similar vein to my previous post which was about local food shops, I have been re-visiting some pictures which I shot in Morocco of small shops in and around the medinas of various towns we visited. I found them very hard to work on due to the dark and shadowy interiors which I struggled to edit successfully with the version of Lightroom I had at the time. As well as the gloomy insides I found that several of the shots were at rather jaunty angles and that’s one thing which really irritates me when I’m editing as I like my images to be straight on with no perspective tilt – don’t know why, it’s just one of those things, perhaps it’s to do with my long-ago graphics training? But, joy of joys, the brand spanking Lightroom 5 which I’ve been playing with in Beta has a brilliant new ‘upright’ feature which tweaks your jauntily angled photos with far less hassle than before. This has meant that I can sort out the irritating angles while fixing the gloomy shop interiors with the splendid shadow reduction and noise reduction tools (not new in version 5, but much improved since I shot the pictures and abandoned them).
I love the firmly closed doors of the ladies hairdressers with the posters of rather scary aspirational ‘dos on the door and it’s male counterpart (shot in different towns) with the door wide open and the next customer having a nice rest outside even if he is looking rather grumpy. A couple of the shops are very mysterious, there’s the one full of brown paper packages (…tied up with string?) and the one where the whole back wall is covered in twigs and there are three packets of bread on the table, and no, it isn’t a bakery. Then there’s the wonderful sewing machine shop where there are more makes and vintages of machines than you can shake a stick at – beats John Lewis any day!
I’ve been looking through some of my less immediately loved photos from Cuba. There’s always a subconscious hierarchy to a big batch of photos from a trip, there are the ones which you fall in love with at the time, they just look so good on the screen that you instinctively know that they will make fabulous prints. When you get home and see them all on the big computer screen, there are dozens which thrill straight away, all they need is a bit of a tweak and polish and they’re ready to go – all those happy memories in a perfectly saleable print-sized bundle. Then when the first enthusiasm has worn off and other shoots have moved to the top of the list, you pop back to resize something every so often and in a bored moment, you scroll through to remind you of the blaze of colour and the mojito flavoured views and there are always some images which you somehow missed before. And when you’ve done all that, when you’re feeling very dull you might start at the beginning and go through one by one to see what you’ve missed, if your eye has changed something will pop out which didn’t previously. That’s what happened today. I’ve rediscovered two photos which have been passed over countless times and have now left the Lightroom Catalogue to see the light of day.
So, here are my new Scenic Decay in Havana pictures.
First a glamorous streak of slightly battered Art Deco style vintage American automobile cropped tightly as to be almost abstract. This one is in my Etsy shop here in a variety of sizes and finishes.
Next is this battered staircase in the entrance to a residential building in Havana. It has undoubtedly seen far better days, but there’s always something charming in decay……
Find the print here.
My Underground Walking Tours photos which I shot way back in freezing cold February have finally gone live and been published! They’re in two publications, the first is The Guide, the national trade magazine for the Institute of Tourist Guiding and features my pictures of Sue Grimditch of New Manchester Tours in the massive underground spaces below the Great Northern Warehouse in the city centre. The underground pictures were really tricky as there was limited time as the people on the tour were real-life fee paying customers and Sue didn’t want me monopolising them for photographs when they wanted to be getting their facts about the subterranean life of the city, it was also pretty much pitch black once we left the big space in the photo below and I didn’t have any lights with me, but the customers did have torches with them so they did the trick for the picture at the bottom of the second page. Worst of all though was the way my camera and lenses steamed up as soon as they reached the damp and steamy climate down the long metal staircase so precious time was wasted as I rather hysterically waited for my kit to become usable! So all things considered, I think they turned out rather well!
The second pictures are of Ed Glinert and his group, shot on the same day as Sue’s pictures above. The magazine picked my favourite picture of the day which was in a brick strewn corridor leading from the large lit space (in Sue’s picture above) into a rather mysterious area with small enclosures and some moody lights. It was shot on a tripod for quite a while as it was actually much darker than the picture suggests, the people in the picture must have been pretty still, perhaps taking some photos themselves? I think it captures the atmosphere of the location well.
The pictures of Ed are in the MCR11 Magazine which you can see here.
It was pretty much the first day of decent weather here in Manchester yesterday and it was a pleasure to wander the Northern Quarter and environs without hunching and huddling from the bitter wind.
While not a prizewinning day for photos I did find a few little street treats worth snapping. Here they are:
While we were in Crete back in June we stayed at a small seaside village called Plaka, a nice but largely unremarkable place on the North coast apart from it’s nearness to the exclusive hotels at the beautiful Elounda Bay (I am a sucker for exclusive hotels, even if I don’t actually stay in them!) and the historically fascinating island of Spinalonga. Spinalonga is best known for being a leper colony from 1903 until 1957 where a full and functioning town was built with stone houses, churches, streets of shops and hospital and by all accounts the residents had a good life there. The colony is now somewhat ruined, there have been renovations but the majority of the island is a very scenic ruin with Venetian fortifications which are impressive as they are ancient. I confess, unashamedly, to being a terrible snob when it comes to mass tourism and generally like avoid the busiest destinations as I really don’t want to share them with thousands of others, they get in the way, look horrible and spoil my photos – I really don’t like people in my photos. But we headed to Spinalnoga anyway, it was too close to where we were staying and looked too interesting from the shore and pretty when lit up at night not to have a look around.
It was already baking hot by the time we arrived at 10ish in the morning, and not too busy. It’s a fascinating place especially as there was an interesting island wide art exhibition by Greek artist Costas Tsoklis, called ‘You, the last leper‘ involving in-situ music and interesting use of mirrors in unexpected places. We wandered the dusty streets getting hotter and hotter as the crowds grew larger and noisier with tour guide thundering down the narrow rough streets blocking all view and getting in the way. I gave up trying to take nice artistic picture fairly early on and was just enjoying the view when I started to notice the outrageous posing going on. Girlfriends posing on walls and rocks, hips jutting and lips pouting looking adoringly at their men folk who were dutifully snapping away, groups posing en-mass, couples taking photos of themselves with swivelly lenses.
I stated to take photos of the posers and their photographers which kept me very happily amused for the remainder of our visit and I think I came away with an unusual set of pictures. It’s a project which I’d like to continue, but as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I really don’t like to be in the busy places which means that this type of image is hard to come by, and one good use of a crowd is that the sneaky photographer remains nicely hidden. Perhaps I’ll have to change my itinerary on future trips and go to the big and busy monuments to see if I get lucky again.
I recently took some pictures for the iYoga centre in South Manchester, a brand new fully fitted and kitted custom made Iyengar yoga studio run by teacher Carolyn Ferguson. I took photos of the studio space without students, of Carolyn in some key poses and then during one of her regular evening classes. I was very pleased with the results – the studio looks large and light and the students were equally photogenic and they put up with me pointed my camera at them with very good humour. I don’t think I’d too thrilled to be photographed in a variety of asanas! As a trainee Iyengar Yoga teacher I found it fascinating to observe a class from the sidelines. It was a totally different experience for me to observe a very mixed class (there was one total beginner, a few recent pupils and a few more experienced students) and to see how they responded to the teacher’s instructions and for me to see how the teacher responded to their poses and how they were corrected either by hands on repositioning or by explaining the position in a slightly different way. All good experience for my training!
Here are some of the photos I took:
There’s an open day on August 18th when you’ll be able to chat to Carolyn and the other teachers and have a go at an Iyengar yoga class and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get to it and enjoy the lovely space myelf – read all about it here!
We were in Wales this weekend for two reasons, first it was my dad’s birthday and instead of doing our normal thing in Manchester, we decided to spirit him away to Anglesey with the intention of eating vast quantities of Welsh black beef. The plan did work, but with a few changes. When we called our chum on Anglesey to invite ourselves over he informed us that Friday night would be the opening of his latest exhibition – Paint and Plastic at Rhyl Library we headed to Wales a day early for a bit of artistic inspiration! The show was fantastic, we’ve been fans of Wil’s art for a long time and have a couple or his paintings and my mum has a smattering of them too. It was great to see the epic collection of plastic lighters which were all found on the beaches of Anglesey being shown to the world and even though the lighters on show was a fraction of the total collection they made a real impact as you can see here:
From the gallery in Rhyl, we drove to Menai Bridge for a splendid supper at an impressive new restaurant right on the water with fantastic views called Dylans where we made a satisfyingly rowdy party of about 30 – fabulous food (crab and then mackerel for me) then lots of goodbyes and another drive to our rather rubbish hotel in Cemaes Bay.
The following morning we went to our friend’s house where I took a nice new batch of photos in his studio which is one of my favorite places to photograph – my aim was to get enough decent pics to fill up a good number of slots in my 2013 Artist’s Studio Calendar – I’m very pleased with the results!
I have been missing my Roadside Cafes project as I stopped taking my ‘proper’ camera and wide lens out with me as it became a bit if a hassle and then I just sort of forgot about the whole thing. Until today when we stopped for a cuppa at a van in Wolstanton near Stoke en route to measure two warehouses and I decided to take the picture with my iPhone and my trusty Loftus lens and film combo and was very pleased with the result. The wide lens meant that I had to risk my life by standing in the middle of the road, but I survived to tell the tale!