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Denise Laura Baker

This weekend I submitted two pictures to the RCA Conwy open exhibition. Every new year I compile a ‘to do’ list with things I want to achieve over the coming twelve months. On Thursday night I rediscovered that list in my note-book and it reminded me that I’d successfully completed or made a start on several things this year, but also that there were a few things I hadn’t got around to. I’m sensible enough to know that there’s no point beating myself up about things that are out of my control, but one item glared at me from the page, defiant, just waiting for the usual excuses of “oh well, it wouldn’t have worked anyway” or “I’m not really that good”.

It’s unlike me because by nature I am a ‘go-getter’. I’ve set up successful businesses after the crushing blow of redundancy, completed a PhD while working full-time and…

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I recently went to Sevenoaks Nature Reserve on an exploratory trip with my 2 year old. Miraculously I actually managed to get some nice shots, as my attention was drawn from following his ever-running footsteps, to some of the striking aesthetics born of the natural oasis I was travelling through.

Being November, the three elements which were on my side with regards to getting some great images were colour, light and texture. Sounds obvious, but winter in Kent produces remarkable conditions in which to appreciate the beauty of the situation around us.

The colour of the leaves as the season takes hold is of course a wonderful sight. Living in Kent, the Garden of England as they say, I see this every year and have done for 33 years. It never gets dull. It’s never assumed. It is always, without fail, an open-mouthed moment of delicious shock, at how a tree so recently full and green, can so quickly become a riot of flame and opulence.

Winter light is by far my favourite of all the seasons. Low and hazy, it casts a glow over the scene. In contrast to summer shadows, which are often crisp and glaring, winter shadows are long and inventive; invoking a new aspect of reflection upon their subject.

And of course, texture. Mud. Water. Wet. Crisp. Crunch. Slop. Slide. Squelch. Burn. Bite. Smooth. Wash. Mix. The tangibility of this seasonal effect is almost as extreme as it’s tonal effect. Every aspect evokes a dramatic physical reaction. The modern instinct tells you to avoid the slop, the squelch, the burn. But once engaged, the elements draw you in deeply, in a way saccharine summer cannot.

Rarely is such a thing more beautifully satisfying than a winter walk in the Kent country.

SHOWING NOW and for sale as part of a Dartford Arts Network exhibition at the Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford until 4th January

Images taken on a Nikon D5100 with 50mm lens

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Golden

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Collision

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Nature’s Sculpture

A4 (1)

Reflection

Reflection

I’ve been to Ramsgate many times, but as with all places, I see something new every time I visit. To see beyond the obvious facade of everyday life, its structures and its seeming banalities, to see the potential for beauty and impact, is, for me, the thrill of photography.

I snap, yes, to catch the moment of light, shadow, tone, or form. No set-up or pre-planning for me. But through considered editing and the push and pull of my limited knowledge of the tools at my disposal, I draw out what I knew was there before I could technically ‘see’ it. I hope you enjoy them!

These photos were taken with a Nikon D5100 / 18-140mm Nikon lens and edited with Adobe Photoshop

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Prague is a bit like Amsterdam in the sense that it is an exceedingly beautiful city, but the kind of place you’re usually too wasted to really appreciate. Until recently I had not been to Prague, and with three hours to spare at the airport I quizzed my new temporary drinking companion, a lovely old Irishman named Mick, about his experience of the city. Sadly he only remembered a glimpse of it from the boot of a car – having been there on the ubiquitous stag do – but assured me that the momentary glimpse was a very pretty one. Stag do’s and tourist groups appear to make up the majority of the population of Prague in the city centre, the former marching around in full get-up; roaring, singing and swigging unidentifiable coloured spirits. The tourists loved it, and the kitschness of the spectacle actually tallied quite nicely with the mountains of tourist tat we had to orienteer through as we crossed the bridge into the Old Town. These various social interactions take place against a Disney backdrop of Bavarian-esque pink turrets and gold spires. Looking down a street at dusk I could’ve been marching headlong into the Magic Kingdom.

But I’m being deliberately disparaging of course. For those of you snorting with derision at my plebeian misunderstanding of this cultural centre I assure you, I did love it. Warts and all – because none of the above is a lie.

It is merely a wonderfully delicious contrast to the whole of the city outside of that square mile; enhancing the stupendous, visceral impact of an architecturally patchwork landscape reflecting centuries of shifting political and economic change in a remarkably extravagant manner. That is to say, the buildings are bloody lovely.

The following photos were taken on a Nikon D5100 with 18-140mm lens and edited using Adobe Photoshop.













(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (4)

After a lengthy period in the proverbial pipeline, Dartford Arts Network’s Dartford Assembly project is finally seeing fruition, springing up over a mad 2 weeks and birthing from its project management cocoon a beautiful mass of visual art for public delectation.

Conceived nearly two years ago, the central aim of the project was initially to kill two very significant birds with one stone: to provide a vehicle through which local artists could publicly display their artworks in the town, and to deliver a project which greatly enhanced the aesthetics of Lowfield Street in Dartford (which has been boarded up with hoardings for over a decade) for the general public.

Dartford Arts Network (the local arts network which I co-founded and of which I am Chair) was still in its early inception stages at that point and learning how to produce such a major project as we went along was a huge hurdle to overcome. Thankfully, we received some financial support from the council to make the project happen, but the logistical planning was immense; the time spent on design, artist liaison, landowner and council consultation, material production and site planning was overwhelming. All this was produced with a small group of local artist volunteers, each of whom was trying to (variously); do their day job, have babies, raise babies, have a life and do their own artwork. To say we are incredibly proud of, and grateful to, everyone who contributed, is an understatement.

13 individual artists contributed, as well as art students at North West Kent College, children at The Bridge Primary Community School, and 10 members of the public who produced collage and monoprint works at the public workshops we held last summer at One Bell Corner.

We have had overwhelmingly positive responses from the public, who are generally delighted to see such a wide variety of local art on public display.

I hold a firm belief in the power of art; as regenerator, motivator, and as inspirer. To lift the spirit of a community and create a sense of belief and communal optimism takes more than just physical rebuilding or looking backwards to what once was. It takes beauty and reflection; it takes recognising how much (sometimes unseen) talent and potential is already present in the area and how those resources can be nurtured and used alongside retail and development to draw interest to our town.

This is the first major public art exhibition in Dartford and I am confident it is only the beginning.

Our next project – Plastic Fantastic – is already underway. After winning a grant from Ellandi, the owners of the Priory Centre, to produce a sculpture for the community addressing the issues of sustainability and plastic waste, we will be holding workshops in September to encourage members of the public to contribute to the construction and design. See our website for more details on the project and how to get involved.

Contact us at @dartfordarts / hello@darfordartsnetwork.com / www.dartfordartsnetwork.com

(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (6)(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (5)

(c) Matt Fox Photography (2)

(c) Matt Fox Photography

(c) Jeremy Moseley Photography (2)

(c) Jeremy Moseley Photography

(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (7)

(c) Matt Fox Photography (3)

(c) Matt Fox Photography

(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (2)(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (1)

(c) Jeremy Moseley Photography

(c) Jeremy Moseley Photography

(c) Matt Fox Photography (1)

(c) Matt Fox Photography

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Something unexpected has happened. I’ve managed to get my own exhibition; yes me! On for a month at the Peter Blake Gallery in Dartford Library.

The show is called Moment because, well, what do you call an exhibition? I took the same tact I take with naming the pieces (and why some of them seem rather random), which is to think of words and phrases which instinctively come to mind in relation to my viewing of them, and go with the one which makes a vague bit of sense in the knockings of my consciousness.

So, Moment. It does encapsulate the process in which I produce photographs, the emphasis being on curious composition and striking detail rather than technical perfection. This set of images were all taken impromptu; no set up or endless test shots, but the capture of a moment in time which struck me as being beautiful in some way.

I get enjoyment from seeing beauty in the mundane. A photo of an unusually shaped water stain will often be far more enduring to me than a traditional landscape scene which may be more obviously pretty. I try to convey my own sense of pleasure at seeing these odd things, through capturing them in a shot.

That’s not to say I don’t use outside influences. Although the shots aren’t set up as such, I do use photoshop to edit them to my particular liking. A crop here, up a level there. These tweaks can turn a drab detail into a captivating one. I consider it a skill in itself to be able to spot the potential in a seemingly discardable image.

This set of images are only linked by my use of this process of immediacy. In every other way they are a varied mix of subject matter, style, colour and tone. But I like it that way. I feel that it reflects both me as a personality and the way in which I view the world around me.

If you would like to visit the exhibition it is showing at the Peter Blake Gallery in Dartford Library until 10th June – Opening hours and directions here. Or join us at the private view Thursday 19th May at 6.30pm where there will be some drinks and nibbles.

Here’s a selection of some of the works on show.

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Human beings produce a lot of useless and often ugly crap. So when you come across something which is both functionally beautiful and aesthetically stimulating, it provides an interesting subject to photograph.

These images are part of a series detailing the working elements of a backstage management system at a theatre in Leicester. I have deliberately lost the clarity of purpose in order to focus on the images as visually abstract works.

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