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Archive for February 8th, 2009

A quiet weekend, mostly spent feeling sorry for myself with the onset of a cold – though we did manage to get out to Beacon Fell today.

Old snow and ice still hadn’t entirely disappeared up here

and new snow was on its way in a heavy sky.

G*d willing, will continue the walk next week, hopefully to Warwick. I’ve been planning a photographic experiment, to see what happens when I remove deliberate choices from the process. As well as my normal masterpieces, I’ll take pictures at preset times, without looking through the viewfinder (or at the screen on the back of the camera), aiming at a compass direction. No idea what will happen; anything from mild boredom to random genius I suppose. The idea came from a discussion group at work, where we looked at the work of an American photographer, Camilo Jose Vergara. Not that he takes pictures at random – but the possibility of a less artistic way of documenting places came up in the chat and stuck with me. Maybe a way of ‘capturing the “thereness”’ to borrow a phrase from my colleague M. McA.

Coincidentally, photography was a topic in my man-flu comfort-viewing of Jack Hargreaves’ Out of Town show which I have on DVD. Those of us from the Southern TV region may recall Jack’s long-running series of reminiscences about the passing countryside and its ways.

Usually he starts the proceedings by brandishing some rural object such as an ancient ploughshare, but in the episode I watched this morning he produced a camera and talked about his father and uncle as early adopters of hobby photography. He mentioned how an early Kodak ad talked about ‘keeping youth young’, showed old pictures of farms that seem impossibly bucolic compared to today’s that ‘resemble half-broken-down factories on the outskirts of Walsall’, and of a troupe of Germans who toured the countryside with (gulp) performing bears, of the now-nearly-extinct brown variety. Later, delving back into his immense stock of films made of himself in various rural settings (which often feature him wandering about, looking appreciatively at ponycarts and pumpkins, sometimes sporting an incongruous pair of sunglasses like a long-lost member of the Rat Pack) we see him fishing for pike – reflecting that the use of live bait for fishing had fallen from favour in the 15 years that had elapsed since he made the film; ‘conventions change as we pass on.’

If I’m looking back at these pictures in 50 years time, I wonder what will have become extinct, changed beyond recognition or passed out of usage.

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