The Lighthouse

Lighthouse

Time for another update, sadly I don’t often get round to writing any more articles for this blog, and when I do I dislike what I’ve previously done and start again without finishing, and so a vicious cycle emerges!

As for the photographic side of things, I have been taking pictures which are leaning to more of the documentary side than the aesthetic side, they are on good old-fashioned film and I haven’t had the roll developed yet! Luckily I had this edit which I had completely forgotten about, and thought it was pretty enough to share with everyone.

I’m really going to miss the city in which this shot was taken: Plymouth. I have spent the past 4 years of my life living and studying there and am saddened, perhaps even regretful, that I have to leave. Although the city is hardly what one would describe as exceptional or pleasant, I have developed both a fondness and familiarity for the area which can only be obtained through a prolonged stay. I found myself considering the ugly, grey towers of the 1960s that scar the landscape to be charming and characteristic of the area, reflections of the city’s history. The same can be said for the toothless, unwashed dwellers of the city centre, who at the time were petulant and abrasive, and are now considered to be aligned with the good memories I have of the place.

These things are but trivialities compared to the friends I made, the romances I had, and the stories I have to tell, some as strange and ridiculous as you have ever heard. I mean to chronicle the best of them at some point in the future before they are buried beneath new memories. And so it was with a heavy heart that I gazed out of my father’s car at the blurred and distorted streets which had been the stage and set of this act of my life’s play.

Nonetheless I am excited about the future, and there are only good things to come now, though I still find it important to reflect.

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I’m back

Apologies to everyone who’s been diligently checking for new posts over the past month or two, I’ve been mining my way through an avalanche of work which hit me this past academic term. However my assignments, and also my entire degree, are finally over and I can now spend some more time taking pictures, writing, and hopefully picking the blog up from where I left off.

Until recently, I never accurately tasted the panic, anxiety, and doubt that one faces as the calendar shuffles towards the impending deadline date; especially considering that those who know me are expecting me to reach the top grades. Though I do feel that the whole process has been very rewarding and a great test of character and abilities, but it left me with little time to blog, among other things.

I felt an overwhelming sense of liberty as I handed over the slabs of paper, and stepped out into the sun drenched city. This feeling lasted but a few days, and now the reality of finding employment in a volatile and competitive economy is dawning on me. I’ve been in this position before and have heard and experienced only negative things, however I’m willing to change this perspective of a gloomy future, and instead see the approaching months as a challenge, maybe even some kind of game, which, if won, will provide me with a far more positive and interesting existence.

Above these words is the result of my first attempt at creating an image using only my Android phone. The process was not as arduous as I was expecting, and I’m warming to the idea of experimenting with more images of this mobile origin. I’m forming more ideas for posts and intend to continue my inspirations series in the near future.

I’m pleased to be back, and will catch up as much as I can on what everyone else has been doing recently. Sorry for the brevity and subject matter of the post, next time it will be something more interesting!

The Harbour

This photograph was taken on the same day described in my previous post by the sounding sea.

Firstly, apologies for my lack of posts over the past few days. I’m putting it down to the well known phenomenon of life’s responsibilities getting in the way. Unfortunately the trend is probably set to continue for the next couple of weeks or so, but after that I intend to be at least somewhat more prolific than I have been recently.

This picture was taken at one of Plymouth’s harbours and it is one of the more well kept and picturesque sites that the city has to offer. Continuing on my idle and aimless wonder amongst the archaic sea fortifications, narrow cobbled streets and dingy sailor pubs; I made my way to the marina. Yacht and sailing boat owners floated up and down the jetties, each attending to their vessels that allow them the freedom and escape from the cycles of everyday life. Perhaps there is something about casting a glistening white water-craft into the endless aeons of the blue oceans and seas that cries out to the repressed want of discovery lying in the hearts of those who sail. A want which can so rarely be fulfilled as GPS devices and Ordnance Survey maps crush the notion of  audaciously  launching into mysterious and uncharted waters, the spirit of discovery destroyed and artificially remade into something tiresomely safe and known.

The moored masts lean to the will of the sea winds as I amble away from the marina, the sounds of flapping sails and excited shout of the sailors replaced by the roar of traffic and the wailing of pedestrian crossings, and I descended back into the clutches of modern life.

As is the case of many of my photographs, I have experimented with alterations the colours, contrasts and focusing of the original shot extensively. I’m intending to publish my next post of inspirations in the coming days, and have been fortunate enough to now write for the electronic music blog The Electric Honeypot. Thank you for reading.

Jardin du Quai

paris

I have a lot of love for Paris and for the few friends who live in the city. I took this photograph during a visit almost two years ago. I was spending the day alone, as all of my friends were either working or preoccupied with the various tasks the timeless city had provided them. Greene described the urban phenomenon better than I:

“They can print statistics and count the populations in hundreds of thousands, but to each man a city consists of  no more than a few streets, a few houses, a few people.”

With a worn and slightly out-of-date Métro map and my cheap yet reliable ‘point and shoot’ digital, I wondered around the bustling river banks of the Seine. In the shade of the elegantly planted trees endless stands of second hand books and their vendors overlooking the river, a small boat, laden with tourists, drifted quietly by. The day was warm and overcast, giving the avenues, river and cathedral an indistinct, cloudy atmosphere as the fog from the night before stubbornly clung to the river.

Wondering along the quais my sense of smell was overwhelmed with a thick variety of floral scents. Even in a city as beautiful as Paris, it is still rare to be confronted with such a powerful aroma of flora. Across the road stood the flower shop you see above. It was difficult to photograph as up close the full extent of the plants spilling out onto the streets couldn’t be fully appreciated, and so I had to contend with the ample traffic on the road separating the shop and myself. Eventually the crossing turned red, and my view was uninterrupted. Hope you enjoy.

by the sounding sea

Image

My desire to leave the glare of computer monitors and history books became too strong to not be pacified. Grabbing my old point and shoot I headed through the city heading again towards the sea. The wind howled through the streets and smashed into the coast as the elderly staggered their way along the street. Viscous, tiny waves bombarded the concrete walls of the water features outside city hall and sea gulls were flung across the cloud splattered sky.

It wasn’t the best of shoots, having only taken about three acceptable photographs I forged my way back to the house. Initially this photograph didn’t strike me as having any potential, but after a bit of experimentation and four iterations of colour adjustments, I came up with this. Hope you enjoy.

Inspirations: the 1950s

I decided to put together a mini-blog series which I’m inventively titling ‘Inspirations’. I want to exemplify what influences my photography, writing, design and all round creative life. The series intends to span 3 different topics/posts, the first of which you’re reading now: the 1950s. Enjoy, and as always, I love to hear you guys think.

Over the past few years I have become increasingly more influenced by this decade and, to a lesser extent, its chronological neighbours. I became interested in the period while studying Abstract Expressionism at university (I’m currently writing a thesis on the movement but probably won’t be able to publish it here). It’s the kind of contemporary art which causes the ‘How is that art? It’s just a load of colour’ response in most observers.

Jackson Pollock - Lavender MistPersonally I love this style of art, and though the artists may not necessarily demonstrate the painterly skills associated with great art, I think the movement shows a pure expression of the artist’s ideas and emotions.

Surprisingly most of my inspiration from the 1950s comes from different fields: literature and design. Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet published in 1958, is unquestionably my favourite work of fiction, and is so vivid in its descriptions that one can imagine themselves conversing with the Indian banker Nessim, seated in his elaborately decorated and richly furnished apartment in the heart of the simmering city of Alexandria. Durrell invents the city beautifully, the narrative is emotionally and descriptively woven and the plot twists are incredible.  The tale concerns itself with a number of affairs told from the differing angles of a handful of characters involved. It is a beautiful insight into both European and Egyptian cultures, both high and low, of the late 1950s and often the ordinary is made so vivid and lifelike by Durrell that I cannot help but be inspired by his masterful literary imagery. Whenever I try my hand at fictional or descriptive writing, I always look to these books to see how it’s supposed to be done.

Egypt

Another inspirational book from this era is Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene. It is based in Cuba, but still appeals to that side of me that wants to live in a tropical city in the 1950s rubbing shoulders with all the extraordinary and comical characters detailed in the book.

Another aspect of my influence is a little harder to trace, I just like 1950s design in general. A lot of the old-school movie posters like ‘Godzilla’ have such a s strong impact on the viewer, and the hand-drawn styles really add to the authenticity of the film as well as accepting the fact that they are artificial and made solely for entertainment. In short, I like these posters because they know exactly what they are representing: works of fiction.

Hopefully I’ve done the era a bit of justice and inspired a few people to try more 50’s styles out as I did for the header of the blog (click here if you missed it). I just wanted to flex my fledgling design skills a bit and see what I could come up with. Thanks for reading.

The Streets of Asakusa

Image

This shot was taken while making my way from the aged, crimson red temples of Sensō-ji. The pagodas reaching into a cloudless sapphire sky as an aggregation of incense swirled and permeated the crisp February air.

Surrounded by a mix of lives which so perfectly embody our age, I blended in with the western tourists as they perused the colourful and trivial market stalls selling all of the necessary oddities which the world identifies with Japan: rows of Daruma dolls stared blindly out at the intrigued and bustling crowds as traditional lanterns, play masks and chimes lightly danced in the breeze.

Pious Buddhists, fascinated tourists, market stall owners and school classes meandered their way through each other as the temples loomed above the store roofs as they had done for centuries before.

Having absorbed the unique atmosphere I made my way back to the tiny room I was renting at the time and, in a documentary fashion more than any, I photographed the street leading back there.

As is the case with many of my photographs, the image has been quite extensively re-colourised and refocused which strips the photograph’s original documentary intentions but results, in my opinion at least, in a more interesting and atmospheric image.

Hope you enjoy

Robby Cowell 2012

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Melbourne

Melbourne

To my great relief, I recently recovered a few hundred photographs from some of my travels around Australia and Japan which I had long assumed to be lost.

This particular image was taken in 2008 in the city of Melbourne, Australia.

It was the height of the Australian summer and my second day in the city. I was surrounded by unfamiliar territory, and thousands of miles from anyone or anywhere I knew.

I aimlessly wondered through the new, bustling city, however it had been days since I had properly conversed with another person, save for a few hostel workers and cab drivers, and I was feeling isolated, lost and in a way intimidated.

Fortunately there was enough glimmering architecture and cultural intrigues to keep me occupied for a day or two, like the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, the Eureka Tower, which was adorned with a number of giant golden bees crawling over the exterior, and a troupe of painters rendering faces of celebrities and optical illusions into the pavements.

It was from this point that I took the picture. As one can see, the image has been heavily edited, mostly contrast and colouration adjustments, which has caused the picture to look as though it were taken at dusk, when in fact, it was the middle of the day. I like the results however and would love to know what you think.

There will probably be more rediscovered photographs to come.

Robby Cowell 2012

Plymouth, UK

Plymouth, UK

It’s rare for those who live in Plymouth, a city with notoriously wet and cold weather, to enjoy a day at the end of February which could forgivably be mistaken for mid-summer.

We decided to embrace the sun’s fleeting rays and made for the coast.

Clambering over the rocks I turned to look back at the city and thought it demanded a photograph.

I’m annoyed I didn’t have an instrument more photographically capable than my phone, but it will have to do.

Robby Cowell 2012