Old Sites With New Eyes

I have on occasions been rather disparaging about my home city of Sunderland, particularly in relation to its attempts at public art. (Remember Ambit anyone?)

University buildings

So when the North East Photographic Network mailed me about an event they were running as part of the BBC’s Get Creative project, I felt I should be open-minded enough to go along. The event was a photo walk, a guided stroll from the university in the town to the National Glass Centre led by photographic artist Nicola Maxwell, who, together with the other photographers on the walk, might change my perspective.

Nicola’s own current focus (apologies but some photo puns are inevitable) is on found objects, inspired, in the same was a my Venice project, by the work of Irving Penn, and so before we set off she offered her supply of rubber gloves to anyone who wanted to adopt a similar approach, together with a stern warning not to touch needles!  Nothing to make me think differently about the place yet then.

Before long a small group of us were scouring the area beside the minster in search of interesting subjects.  Doorways, shadows, weeds and more were scrutinised for compositional elements which is when Nicola shared one of her interesting observations and one that did challenge my preconceptions.  The presence of mosses and lichen is far more noticeable in Sunderland than in nearby Newcastle, demonstrating that the air here is cleaner than in the neighbouring city.  One of the suggestions she made was that we pay attention to how the colours of these specimens changed as we neared the coast where conditions were even more favourable.

Was I tempted by the vegetation theme?  I fired off some shots but none that really pleased me.

Perhaps I should opt for more familiar territory?  A few years back I photographed a different individual every day in a doomed attempt to improve my portraiture.  That was back in the day when I didn’t really know what I was doing.   Looking at these guys at the pub in celebratory mood I’m not sure how much has improved, though my post-processing is less dramatic!

Then there’s a new attempt at public art, whose shadow I found more interesting than it’s actual structure.What about focusing on something grungier?  There’s certainly plenty to choose from, my favourite being the patch of solidified mud that included a single glove, and as seen here, a fork!

Since I spend so much time in other cities focusing on the structural this could have been the thing to get my creative juices going.

Not today however.  Venturing to the Glass Centre had brought me within easy reach of my beloved coastline so naturally I ended my trip there when the others were finished.  This being the year when lighthouses are a recurring them in my blog I thought to incorporate a little vegetation in keeping with the beginning of the walk.

The reality was that I’m more attuned to the simple pleasures of moving water and reflective wet sand.  I’m easily pleased.


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