Endless Possibilities


I took my photography students out on a practical this morning around the local woods. My idea is always to introduce learners to the multitude of possibilities that photography offers and the means of self expression that it allows.


I am a Conceptual Artist


I’ve decided to become a Conceptual Artist ( but will probably change my mind tomorrow ). By ‘become’ I mean I’m declaring I am one, right here right now, at this very moment. I’m assuming I don’t need any qualifications and I don’t need to have been to Art College or University or whatever they call these Institutions now to make this declaration and even if I have I don’t care because I’m a Conceptual Artist now. In the name of Conceptual Art I can do pretty much whatever I please. I must say as I write this I feel a sort of liberation come over me. Don’t panic my friends I’ll still make images ( that’s what we call it now ) in the name of Contemporary Photography, it’s just that another string to my bow, another part of my oeuvre is that now I’m a Contemporary Artist. The only issue I’ve got at the moment is by making this declaration, that I’m a Contemporary Artist,  does that by turn invalidate my claim or do I first need to make some Conceptual Art ? Should I as a Conceptual Artist just keep quiet about it and get on with it in the name of Conceptual Art or do I have to tell someone ? I’ll ponder this for a while longer. One thing I do want is to be as the art critics often say ‘difficult to pin down’, “as an Artist he’s difficult to pin down”. I texted my lifelong mate Brian to tell him ” I’ve decided to become a Conceptual Artist” but as I write this I’ve not had a reply. I expect it will be encouraging.  Making some Conceptual Art isn’t going to be a problem, I’ve got loads of ideas already. Some I had this morning while walking the dog. I  might even declare that my dog is also a Conceptual Artist but then again I feel it’s a decision he alone should take. I hope he will because then we could collaborate.  The obvious start of course is to declare ( here I go again ) that my whole life from start to finish is a Conceptual Art piece. Everything I do, and I mean everything etc is a Conceptual Art work !  Other ideas I’m not prepared to reveal because I don’t want anyone stealing them. People are good at stealing ideas. Another idea was a message in The Times ” Conceptual Artist Would Not Like to Meet other Conceptual Artists. Do Not Respond to this Box No “. Another idea involves an Argos Catalogue or an Ikea Catalogue or both and I’ll title the pieces Ikea Catalogue No 1 etc. I won’t be doing things like drawing a continuous line on a piece of paper or canning my own shit because that’s already been done or by doing so would that be also an act of Conceptual Art i.e. repeating other well known Conceptual Art pieces ? Now there’s a thought ! The more I write this the more I realise how much there is to ponder with this Conceptual Art malarky.
So now I’m a Conceptual Artist I really ought to get on with it. Welcome to my first official out in the public domain Conceptual Art piece, the above article with accompanying photo. Print it off and keep safely.

Ashes to Ashes


Fun to funky ! The first album I ever bought was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I bought it on cassette. We’d managed, my brother and I, to persuade my Dad to let us have a Radio \ Cassette player. My Grandmother, Nana Rankin, contributed to the cost. We bought an Hitachi, it was expensive, we’ve still got it. This was around 1974 I reckon. I was about twelve. I don’t know what made me buy this album, how I’d got into it, where I’d heard it first. Now I write this it’s coming back to me. I reckon it was amongst a small collection of LP’s  he’d borrowed off a school pal. It was amongst the Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the Yes and Led Zeppelin albums. I played Ziggy over and over again and when the album went back I had to own it for myself. When we finally got a player this was the first purchase. I can’t admit to any deep contextual reason why I bought it, the androgyny, the underlying sexiness of it,  the musical experimentation, the poppiness,  the artyness, the radical shift, the love songs  etc etc. I just liked the tunes, the melodies, the lyrics. The one song you’re up and the next you’re down. The fact that whatever mood you were in, there was a song on this album for it. There still is.  I was twelve for God’s sake, what did I know about such things ?  ” Satisfaction, satisfaction ! ……keep me satisfied “.
I can’t admit to being a massive, obsessive fan. Ziggy was the only Bowie album I ever bought. Some of his stuff I just didn’t get/like but, and here’s the truth !  David Bowie was always there ! Either at the front of music I listened to through the airwaves or in the background.  There was Rock and Roll and there was Bowie. There was Blues and there was Bowie. There was Progressive Rock and there was Bowie.  There was Punk Rock and then there was Bowie. There was Pop music and then, thank God, there was David Bowie ! A few years ago I was doing my Photography MA at University and downstairs from our Lecture Room  was Prof Martin Richardson  working with holography. In his studio was a holographic portrait of Bowie who it turned out had been working with Martin. I think Martin had signed some secrecy clause but talking to him I could see he was thrilled to have been working with Bowie. Me ?  I was bowled over by the fact that while Bowie had not recently been in the public arena he was still out there working on stuff as an artist and I’d had a sneaky preview.  He was an Artist, a true Artist in every sense of the word.

So last week I shed a tear for the death of David Bowie and it’s taken me a few days to realise why. I was shedding a tear for sentimentality, for nostalgia. My own ! An essential aspect of my past, a culture that I embraced, that kept me warm, kept me stimulated and in that sense, alive. When someone dies, you are reminded of your own mortality, your own fragile existence and it is this that I was shedding a tear for. Nevertheless I thank David Bowie for being around and giving us songs like Starman, Wild is the Wind. Suffragette City and others and perhaps most important of all reminding us that ‘We can be Heroes, just for one day ! ”



A is for Art – A new series A to Z


A is for Aperture.

The hole in the light sealed box we call a camera which along with the shutter controls the exposure. The Aperture and the Shutter controls the amount of light which enters the camera to make the exposure. Understand the aperture and the shutter and you’ve just about cracked this thing we call photography.

A is for Aperture Photography magazine

You’ll be hard pressed to find a photography magazine, blog, website or whatever that doesn’t use some photography term as it’s title; depth of field, bulb, exposure etc etc but this magazine remains one of the original and thus the best.

A is for Art.

I like art me ! I like all kinds of art. I like that people feel the compulsion to create,  to make art and have done since a very long time ago. I like that people enjoy looking at art and gain pleasure from it. I like the power of art to create, excite and inform and engage people. Some art I like more than other art but I like that people make art rather than make war. I like that everyone has the ability to create things for no other reason than because they can. The measure of a civilised society must surely be how it encourages, promotes and responds to its art? A civilised society should not be scared of art created that is subversive. It’s nothing to be scared of !

A is for Abstract

Abstract Expressionist / Expressionism. It’s art ! Get over it ! You don’t necessarily need to understand it before you like it or not. If you don’t understand it then don’t dismiss it as rubbish before you’ve at least made the effort. If you think that you could have done it or your five year old then a) why didn’t you do it and b) your five year old could most possibly have not done it so don’t make daft comments like that in front of it and show yourself up.

A is for Art ……….Garfunkel who with Paul Simon sang some very lovely songs but alas on his own was not quite so good.

The perfect sea


My quest to capture the perfect seascape continues. This comes close I think. I take my influence from LS Lowry who painted the below. I was bowled over when I first saw this painting many years ago hung in a gallery; ‘ There’s nothing there’ I thought, but of course there was. More there than I could have possibly imagined in those youthful days of mine.


Courtesy of the Lowry gallery, Manchester

In 1954 the Manchester Guardian wrote ‘Not a pebble on the beach, nor a cloud in the sky. But a storm breaks over Seascape.’ Purchased by Salford Museum & Art Gallery for 54 guineas, the picture had a hostile reception from some councillors and members of the public for its apparent lack of subject matter. Lowry, drawn into the controversy, declared ‘I never expected the picture to be very popular. It took me 18 months to paint and I think it is one of the best things I’ve done.’

Everything louder


The wife likes this shot so that’s a good start. I seem to be drawn to this scene, someone looking out to sea, especially a man, being one of those myself ( well I try ! )  I’m drawn to the sea constantly. I’m not so bothered about being on or in it, more by the side of it. There’s something about looking out to sea that placates my soul. Simultaneously both looking out at the past and into the future. Of course in this shot it’s the blue shirt that does it, the blue jeans and the black shoes. It’s on this particular beach that beachcombers search for jet, a semi precious black rock made popular by Queen Victoria who spent too much of her life mourning the death of her beloved husband Albert and thus made black a popular colour. When found jet can be fashioned into pendants and other fancy little ornaments. A good piece fetches a good price.  My quest for the perfect seascape continues as does my quest for the perfect piece of writing.

Is looking out to sea a male pastime or do I just notice men looking out to sea more ? Do I identify with them more, looking out to sea ? Are we thinking the same things ? Are we saying goodbye to something or are we waiting for something ? Waiting for Godot ?

Meanwhile further along the beach another man was looking out to sea. It was the Motorhead T-shirt that I noticed first.