Another Look

I’ve gone coast to coast, just to contemplate

Joni Mitchell – Blue Motel Room

No sooner had I basked in the Sandsend sunshine than it was time for me to return to Bootle, where the nearest interesting stretch of sand is to be found at Crosby, the beach where Antony Gormley’s work Another Place stands embedded in the sand.APW_6327

I’ve blogged about this location twice before, but I find the place absolutely compelling and for a variety of reasons.

This is the same stretch of sand that fronts the dunes at Formby, though a few miles further south, and whether due to the sheer expanse of this coast, or the challenges of access here (there’s a walk from the car park that passes a park, play area and leisure lake so there are easier options than the beach) the shoreline never seems to be very busy.  Attractive if you enjoy having plenty of space to exercise your dog or its owner.

For others the proximity of the shipping approaching the port of Liverpool provides the interest; the world’s first commercial dock is still one of the UK’s busiest.  Add in a backdrop of wind turbines and you have an industrialist’s wet dream.

But for me the Gormley figures are the attraction.  One hundred cast iron figures, identical but for an identifying wrist band,  stand facing out to sea, but being spread over a two-mile stretch of coastline they are sparse, with no more than three or four ever in your field of vision.  Even then the fact that they are at different distances from the water allows perspective to resize them, thus giving them greater individuality.  Each of the hundred seems to stand alone, gazing out over the undulations of sand and water and creating a surprising sense of isolation.

APW_6334The sea too plays a part in giving each an individual feel, decorating them with barnacles, weeds and a patina of corrosion that affects no two in the same way.  The sea may also be the culprit for the fact that some of the figures are partly buried in the shifting sands… though there may be another explanation!

Gormley is one of Britain’s leading artists, but his reputation hasn’t been gained through press controversy like some of his contemporaries.  Of the three works I’ve come close to (Domain Field and The Angel of the North being the others) he demonstrates an ability to connect with humanity using cold steel.  This was my third visit to Another Place.  I doubt it will be my last.

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A few days after posting this item I came across this programme which describes the history of this artwork and the reactions of the people of the area to their installation… BBC Radio documentary about the artwork

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Another Visit to Another Place (aka I Fall in Love Too Easily Part 2)

I wrote recently about my desire to shoot some of Anthony Gormley‘s sculptures on Crosby Beach, and though I was successful, I was disappointed with the outcome for two reasons; the light pushed me towards a high ISO setting that resulted in grainier pictures than I really wanted, and the fact that I was battling with ubiquitous mud was too great a distraction.

Being back on Merseyside today, and graced with another day of hazy sunshine I thought I’d get down there for golden hour and give it another go.

The beach was more welcoming (the tide was coming in this time so the sand had been drying in the sun for some time), the haze gave new possibilities, and I was aware of more of the sculptures, including those out at sea struggling to keep their heads above water.

I thought it would be nice to combine a real person with one of the images in something akin to my signature shot of bride and groom when photographing weddings.  Down by the waterline was a man engaged in his own artwork, draping a flag around the shoulders of a steely companion, he appeared to be creating his own photographic art.

When I approached him it turned out that we should have met sooner.  His son was on a naval ship travelling up towards Liverpool and he had been trying to capture a shot of the ship but didn’t have the right camera to do it justice.  As he told me his story the ship was already disappearing from view so I was too late to assist.  Nevertheless Harvey agreed to pose and I got something like the shot I wanted from this non-model!

Without the pressure of being covered in mud I was free to capture some of the other visual beauty that was all around me, reminding me why I use the name a photogenic world.  There was plenty here to fall in love with.  Wonder if I’d have thought the same if it had been raining though!

You really got a hold on me

I mentioned a while back my desire to photograph Gormley’s Another Place, so when I knew I was returning to Bootle, this time I set off in good time to get there before sunset.  Just.
All the signs in the area direct you to Crosby Lakeside, which struck me as strange since the artwork is on a beach, but once I parked I saw why.  A ridge of sand dunes separated  the sea from another body of water, and it was here that I had to leave the car.  Already the sun was disappearing behind clouds, and the dunes made it difficult for me to guess how much time I had before it disappeared altogether, so  whilst the lakeside was all very pleasant, it wasn’t what I was here for.  _MG_8588-Edit-Edit To add insult to injury it started to rain too._MG_8599-Edit-Edit-Edit
I had come prepared for the beach, I have some waterproof Karrimor trainers that are great for dealing with unexpected waves (unlike my tripod!) and small puddles etc. I I quickly slipped these on without wasting time on fastening them tightly, and hurried around the footpath to where I assumed the sea to be.  Success, and there was my quarry; the Anthony Gormley sculptures looking out to sea.  I took a couple of shots of the first that I encountered and then, seeing a chance to compose a shot with one in the foreground while the sun was setting amongst a forest of wind turbines in the distance I hurried forward across some wetter stuff.  Wetter, muddier, stickier._MG_8647
“Never mind, I’ll grab the shot and retreat.” I thought, so opened camera bag to change lenses and adjusted my balance as I did so.  Wet, muddy, sticky stuff decided to keep my shoe and let my foot come away without it.  So now I’m balanced on one foot, trying to keep camera and equipment intact.
I put the camera into the bag and zipped it up to give me two hands free, and as I did so my balance went.  Left foot and sock now in the mud.  Hmmm.  Decided I needed to free right foot before anything else happened and so by pulling with both hand and foot got it free and closer to the left.  No further harm to be done by putting the left shoe back on, everything was pretty much coated, so repeated the procedure, got both feet free and returned to firmer ground.
Looked around for an audience – no one visibly laughing, clearly all pretending they hadn’t noticed!  Time to grab a few more shots and return to the car – I had a spare pair of trainers and a carrier bag so I should be able to contain the problem.  What I hadn’t noticed was that my photography gloves now had a nice coating from the shoe pulling and so I managed to get camera bag, camera casing, puffer jacket and tripod nicely smeared too.
Got back to the car and sacrificed the shoes and socks to the carrier, stuffed the jacket and tripod in the boot for cleaning later and all seemed good.  Until I noticed the state of my jeans.  Heavy with mud up both inside legs this had begun to dry and crack on the journey back to the car.  Maybe it would brush off?  No._MG_8698
I stood for  a while at my hotel reception waiting to check in while a young Indian man who was staying for 38 days asked every question conceivable.  The receptionist was very patient and dealt with me professionally too.  It was only when I got into the room and looked in mirror that I realised I had mud smeared across my face too!

Time & Place

The last week has seen me making a few journeys cross-country, where I’ve been based in Aintree on Merseyside.  Of course I packed my camera, in the hope that I might have the opportunity to make a short detour to Crosby beach and find a new angle on Another Placethe collection (100 in all) of Antony Gormley sculptures which are installed along the shore here.  Art and a beach?  Seemed like a perfect combination for me.

Unfortunately a different combination of working hours and daylight hours proved incompatible, so that the only occasions where I had time on my hands were when it was pitch black.  A speedlite might have illuminated one of the statues, and with a camera on a tripod and a long exposure I might have caught some ambient light in the sky, but I hear that the beach there is particularly muddy, so the tripod would probably have sunk as I did so.  Another Place will have to wait for another time.

_MG_7095-EditI still came away with some imagery from the trip though.  Only a couple of evenings before a friend had promised me a picture of the willow tree in the grounds of the school where she works so long as it remained snowy until the Monday.  (I’m assuming it didn’t JJ!).  However on my way over the Pennines I spotted a specimen of my own just outside Kirkby Stephen.  There was nothing additional in the vicinity which would make the picture, but it’s an impressive specimen anyway.  It did however have the effect that having stopped to get the camera and tripod out, I was inclined to look for inspiration elsewhere.  I had an inkling of where I would find it too.

The train station at Kirkby Stephen is located on the highly evocative Settle to Carlisle line, and is some way out-of-town on the road up to Ash Fell.  I parked here and went exploring.

Apart from the newly constructed waiting room on one platform the place looks like it has remained unchanged for years, so I shot some interesting compositions, but again I felt I lacked a point of interest.  Where was Jenny Agutter and her red knickers when I needed her?

The light was fading quickly now so I returned to my car and continued uphill when I found my point of interest.  Not sure what the point of this structure by the roadside was, but it brings a whole new meaning to shoe tree!

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