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After Hamilton

After Hamilton

Brick Lane may seem like a photographer’s dream, but the challenge is in discovering interesting things to capture which haven’t already been photographed by every other tourist with a camera! Huge standout pieces are startlingly beautiful, but my imagination is captured on a smaller scale by chance compositions such as this combination of paint, advertising and graffiti tagging; dwarfed by high-profile street artworks it comes together seemingly unintentionally to create an almost pop-art contemporary work.

Madness

Madness

Laying on the grass on a sunny day at a festival, I took this photograph of my sister Holly as she danced standing above me. The angle entirely distorts the scale of her actual physique and although naturally tall, it portrays her height as positively monumental. The odd angle somehow expresses her figure and clothing in an almost landscaped manner; undulations of folds appearing somewhat mountainous. The fact that her face is partially obscured only adds to the emphasis of her stance and the vibrancy of the bright colour juxtaposition.

Seaside Geometry

Seaside Geometry

Anyone who has visited Dungeness will remember it by its flat and barren nature. This photograph, taken on the beach through a warm mist, exemplifies the sense of isolation inherent in the seaside town. The parallel stacking of the horizontal linear marks created by the variation in the density of the sand creates an entirely abstract element from which the stark verticals of the windsurfing kart protrude dramatically. The absence of colour in the image adds to the sense of desolation and enhances the geometric nature of the composition.

Global Hoodie

Global Hoodie

I am always fascinated primarily by circumstantial compositions which encapsulate a moment, or which seem to have been created or placed by an unseen hand. This photograph, taken at the Blinc Festival in Conwy, wales, captures a hooded figure silhouetted against one of the exhibited pieces around the town. Aside from the pleasing aesthetics (the alternate black against the deep purple and curves against lines portraying an almost space-age like imagery), the connotations struck me as interesting; the attitudes which fuel our modern day witchhunt against ‘hoodies’ imbue this image with a sinister undertone (silhouetted hoodie/unseen face), yet the reality was, of course, entirely different.

Balti House

Balti House

Taken in a side street just off Brick Lane, this image captures the humour inherent in much of the artwork around that area. As well as high-end, large scale pieces such as the giant stork, there are hundreds of small individual pieces which encapsulate the tone of the area; figures and characters dotted around, reappearing in various guises and situations and becoming almost envisionings of living creations. In this image there appears a blurring of the boundaries between the real and the imagined. I see the walking man and the graffiti as intrinsically entwined; both part of the fabric of the streetscape and both characters in my created image.

Mr Scream

Mr Scream

My favourite type of image is one such as this; created by chance, by a combination of weather, nature and human impact and resulting in a beautifully startling moment. As the winter snow started to melt, I spotted this image, the tarmac underneath revealed to create the image of a gaping mouth, the overall effect reminiscent of a Mr Men character. I am a big fan of Andy Goldsworthy and his landscape interventions which produce art in nature using materials found nearby. However, I like to take this one step further and not intervene at all, but to discover; to look carefully and find unusual and artistic compositions such as this which are naturally occurring.

White Witch

White Witch

The contrast between the threat of the sharp rose thorns and the purity of the white snow scattered on its tips instinctively brings to my mind the fairytale stories of my childhood; the ever simplistic contrast of good and evil is reflected not only in the materialism of sharp and soft but also in the monochrome tones of the image. Backed by a grey winter sky the traditional beauty of the rose has died; turning the power struggle on its head, the snow, with its seemingly gentle demeanour, has succeeded in destroying the flower’s primary function. The story which unravels challenges assumption and prejudice and forces us to re-assess traditional ideas of beauty.

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I left my soul there / Down by the sea / I lost control here / Living free – Morcheeba, The Sea

I think anyone who has visited Dungeness will attest to the fact it is a strange and often eerie place. A vast network of barren flatlands, it is home to a host of wildlife, some alien-looking concrete sculptures, a thankfully underrated and thus often deserted beautiful beach, and a much loved, rideable little steam train which has filled the dreams of many a Kentish child.

On visiting the area, one is struck immediately by the landscape. The gleaming green wetlands of an RSPB nature reserve contrast, in a bittersweet thrill, with the deserted expanse which runs along the seafront; startling red rusting machinery and crumbling fisherman’s shacks dot the horizon. The effect is very much ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘ and its power hinges partly on the same provocation of human emotion which made successful that infamous film – the exposure. The vulnerable haunting nature of a sparsely populated area. A lack of shelter, a lack of shade. Nowhere to hide, no-one to help. Of course at Dungeness there are plenty of houses, but certain areas of the front are almost entirely empty. A few architects and design gurus have taken the opportunity to build experimental structures, which sit upon the plains like spaceships landed on an African peninsula.

A trip up the lighthouse allows you to survey this scene in all its glory, the mini steamtrain line on its perpetual circuit, the endless patches of reds and browns interspersed with grey waves of shingle and sprinkles of green, the open ground scorched from the all-seeing sun in tandem with the assisting sea breeze.

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An exploratory walk North-West leads you over this dusty earth and through to the nature reserve where upon the horizon great blue lakes appear, quenching the entire landscape. The air becomes fresher, the wildlife more prolific and an abundance of beautiful birds showcase the best of nature’s design and make you remember why the RSPB are so important.

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Emerging from this bliss and turning North-East will lead you straight to the ‘Acoustic Mirrors’. Set amongst the lush vegetation and straddling an impressive lake, these striking concrete structures were erected around the time of the second world war. Dungeness, the only part of Britain classified as desert by the Met office, seemed a perfect spot to erect these objects, relying as they did on quiet surroundings to pick up the noise of approaching enemy planes. The acoustic mirrors, or ‘listening ears’ as they were known, were an early exploration into the principles of radar, their use discontinued once new technological advancements surpassed their capability. They are now of historical interest and it is possible to cross the water to walk around them.

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And besides all this you still have the glistening beach, shrouded with an ominous rising steamy mist at low tide on a hot day and thanks to the proximity of local favorite camber sands, used mainly by locals, with a few scattered tourists.

In all, the place is, well, strange. The first time, a bit too strange. But the second time. The second time I fell in love. See you soon Dungeness x

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Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

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Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

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Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

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Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

Photograph: Greg Shrubsole

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All photographs Kate Withstandley except those specified

I’m breaking two integral rules of my blog with this post. Firstly that its about art and secondly that it’s about art in the city ie. London. The second I can’t argue with; Dartmoor can in no way be mistaken for London, or any other city, no matter how familiar the desperate games of ispy you have to play to keep you sane in traffic jams on the way. But the first I can probably cover in some tenuous fashion.

This past weekend was spent by myself, the bf and 9 work colleagues in a boggy field in the middle of a moor and was much more fun than that actually sounds. After an epic 8 hr journey we realised, in typical comedic fashion, that we were lost. On the moors. At night. With no phone signal. Our only choice was to ask for directions in the local pub (thankfully not too reminiscent of the Slaughtered Lamb). Managing to extricate myself from an over-enthusiastic local guide and smiling sweetly at tedious local warnings to watch out for ‘the Hound‘, we finally set off on the final furlong. As we passed a sign saying ‘Sheep Lying in the Road’ I, in my by this time almost hysterically tired state, laughingly shook my head at this bizarre instruction, but all soon became clear. Passing over the cattle grid, in the pitch black that is evening on the moor, we were suddenly thrust into a surreal safari scenario; sheep featured heavily (lying in the road, funnily enough), horses rambled around unperturbed and my personal favourite moment, when a large, horned, angry looking bull seemingly challenged us to a territorial duel.

Somehow getting through this obstacle course we arrived and began to set up camp. Unluckily for us (which seemed to be the way it was going) my car battery promptly died and we discovered the campsite was akin to a marsh/bog. Cue much expletive muttering, squelching, lost shoes, louder expletives etc. until finally, having beaten all the odds, we were set up. At which point we sat down and got quite drunk.

Next day we took our planned trip to Castle Drogo. As we passed through the previous night’s safari plains in the daylight, we realised that the moor is extremely beautiful. Batches of heather and long stone walls pierce the barren landscape, absorbing you as you gaze at it; the power of mother nature hypnotising you back into her arms. Castle Drogo itself is a strange but enticing piece of architecture. I began the tour unimpressed at the self-indulgence of the building and its client. Drogo is the last castle to be built in England, in 1911 for Julian Drewe, a stinking rich businessman with delusions of grandeur. His saving grace was in hiring Edwin Lutyens, a well respected architect known for high profile projects in India and the Cenotaph in Whitehall, amongst many others. The detail in the building is sometimes stunning and often understated but never, unlike it’s commissioner, gawdy. A very modern castle is in itself an unusual thing to behold and in turn provokes contrasting associations; modern exposed surfaces, sprawling Tudor magnificence, 21st century minimalism, medieval defences (it even had a portcullis! Overkill indeed). Precedent chronology darting back and forth until you don’t quite know what you think or what it’s all about, but it’s got some very pretty details and particularly eye-catching grounds so it wins out overall.

The return journey to London was luckily not as harrowing as that on Friday but still lengthy as we took the scenic route and detoured to Salisbury. Having never visited the city before I am glad I did and would recommend it for those who like olde-worlde pubs (come on, who doesn’t?) and cathedrals. Sadly I didn’t have enough time to discover what else Salisbury may have on offer but did manage to grab a few snaps before we headed off home. Here are a few from over the weekend.

NB: A blog post may not be forthcoming next week as I’m away camping (again), at Green Man Festival this time, but if I get time/battery/signal I will definitely keep you up to date.