I took some time out after a shopping trip to Sainsbury’s in Ashford recently and strolled over the (now not-so) new foot bridge that joins the Eureka and Warren Business parks together. Great for getting to the cinema!
It was conceived by a practice based in far away Dundee: Nicoll Russell Architects and according to their website it is designed to create a kind of memorable gateway to Ashford. Jacobs did the engineering and overall I think it is a success despite gaining early and unfortunate local notoriety as as suicide point – not something you can lay at the door of the designers who have certainly created a visually striking structure.
Romney Marsh has got to be one of my favourite places in Kent. The silent and bleak desolation is contrasted only by the endless groups of sheep nibbling at the grass and the plaintive bleats from the new lambs. Yesterday was a gloriously sunny day so it was a perfect time to visit St Thomas a Beckett Church near Fairfield. Apparently (according to Simon Jenkins) this is one of Kent’s most visited churches and it is in a wonderful location so one can easily understand why but if you strip out the setting, the building itself is rather plain and uninspiring.
The church now sits isolated and alone amongst the sheep and the steady trickle of visitors most of whom seem to park on the road, walk to the church and then back to their cars to drive off without stopping. I found the atmosphere there quite compelling and was really struck by the amazing silence that surrounds the place.
The sign on the gate says that the Church key is available at the nearest house. I was very happy to find the large key hanging next to the back door of said house. No security, just a small note saying to please replace the key after use – wonderful. And it was a fine looking key too!
There has been a church on this site since the 13C but all the associated houses have long gone. The existing church structure was restored in about 1910 after it had become virtually derelict so all the exterior brickwork and roof is from that date which gives it quite a early 20C feel but the interior has certainly retained some of the original timbers. It also has some marvellous (and very recently painted) box pews, a fine split pulpit and a lead font but I guess even taking these into account the best thing about this church is without doubt it’s location which is utterly unique.
I have passed the yard of #UniquelyBritish countless times since moving to Kent 10 years ago but I visited the place for the first time last week. Their yard is situated next door to the busy A2 motorway on it’s way to Dover but because the landscape is elevated at that point you wouldn’t realise the road is there. And there is not much else around aside from countryside which creates a slightly incongruous and somewhat surreal environment for these red telephone boxes.
#UniquelyBritish have been resurrecting these red telephone boxes for years and send them out all over the world and are the only company in Kent doing this work and one of three or four nationwide. They also do postboxes and some of the more standard architectural salvage stuff but the phoneboxes are the undoubted stars. There seems to little point in regurgitating the history of these iconic British objects here, but if you are curious to know more, this is a good place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_telephone_box
The place made me think of the slightly weird Spanish movie La Cabina (“The Telephone Box”), an Emmy award-winning, 1972 film directed by Spanish director Antonio Mercero, and written by him and José Luis Garci. The plot is simple: A new phone-box is delivered to a own square. A father tries to make a call and is trapped in it. All efforts to release him fail and eventually he is carried away (in the box) to a hellish place where hundreds of similar telephone boxes are stored resplendent with their ex-occupants. A weird but compelling movie.
With two shoots, I had a busy day yesterday but found myself with a two hour gap, sitting in my car, without a trendy coffee shop in sight, in the rain, in one of London’s less pictorially celebrated areas and not far from that wonder of sixties civil engineering(?), the A4 Brentford flyover.
Sorry, it look rather pathetic this size, it really does need to be be big to be effective!!!
Still working on the Cathedral Stained Glass project but on my way home a few days ago I came across another Hop Garden and did this take on an earlier theme:
I’ve done a lot of driving over the past couple of days, shooting in Southampton yesterday and all over Hertfordshire today.
On my way back today I drove past a wonderful long fence made of poles between a hop garden and the road. The fence goes on for the whole length of the field, about 100m I guess, and is a magnificently haphazard structure. I’ve driven past it frequently before now but it just so happened that today I was thinking about my years of assisting Michael Millar in London in the mid 80’s…
One of our regular jobs was a kind of photogrammetry, recording the elevations of buildings in Central London on on some occasions whole streets. We worked on a 1/2 plate Sinar (we used 1/2 plate because 5×4 was too small relative to the lens angle of the 90mm 5.6 lens, ie we could shoot much wider on 1/2 plate). After I finished processing the film, I printed each image big (about 1500mmx1000mm) on the ancient 1/1 plate DeVere enlarger and then if we were doing a whole street, Michael carefully cut them out and stuck them together to form a huge and very long panorama featuring every building perspective correct and square-on. I remember we shot a few of the streets in Chinatown like that, Wardour Street and Gerrard Lane are two that I remember. Anyway, I digress…
Whilst I was driving past this pole fence today, it suddenly occurred to me that it might be fun to shoot this in the same way. The sun was shining and it wasn’t going to be out for much longer so I seized the moment, did a U-turn, parked up and photographed it.
I am not convinced that it works but it was fun to do so what the hell – and it is a lovely fence anyway!
Following on from my last post of Jan’s pictures a couple of weeks ago (http://wp.me/p32AWy-3V), here are some of his rural views.
He was interested in structure and it is rare to find figures or life of any kind in his images. Whilst this may be a shame from some points of view, it does somehow set his images apart and makes them all the more enticing.
(These files were scanned from his original prints all of which were dry-mounted on to board and many of which are now rather bowed making the scanning process at times rather challenging)
I revisited the lake featured yesterday a day later, after a long period of gentle but non-stop snow and discovered an altogether more subtle environment. The crisp, contrasty and well defined round holes were now a much more interesting series of greys and swirling shapes – with foot prints.
I also stopped to look at the parts that were not yet frozen which were fascinating too, in an entirely different way.