Category Archives: Photography

Edinburgh – summer in the city.

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The great junction of Leith Walk/Elm Row/London Road in all its splendour.

Such rotten images would ideally be on the front cover of Edinburgh Festival Fringe pamphlets. If you’re going to market a city at least be honest and leave the propaganda at the door. This is the reality of summer in Auld Reekie, and to paraphrase Rocky Balboa – it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. Someone took a shit in that roundabout a few years ago; it didn’t make the evening news. Sad.

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The hotel is a cave – Join the Club (The Sopranos).

The most famous ‘hotel movie’ The Shining (1980) is your archetypal man-goes-nuts-in-a-secluded-dwelling picture, but it’s more of a supernaturally themed flick than one in which the collective predilection for accommodation alienation is expressed.

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The Overlook Hotel.

The trailblazing TV series The Sopranos (1999-2007) may be famed for its stark violence and deadly black humour, but it had in some of its more audacious episodes an outlandish preoccupation with the metaphysical. Issues of mental health and modern existential malaise permeate its edges, these usually expressed through dream sequences, and Tony’s bouts of extreme depression and anxiety often the MacGuffin for major mid-season game-changers.

When Uncle Junior shoots Tony, the latter (on a hospital bed lingering between life and death) takes us through the most ridiculous, and eventually moving episode of the entire show. As shamelessly evil as this glib character is, one can’t help but feel empathy for what might have been. Moreover, ‘Join the Club’ is one of the few uses of location in any TV series (or film) to manifest a psychological feeling, the flashing lights in the distance a beacon of a world he can’t reach but just sorely wishes to. This is the hotel as total isolation, as if Tony were Robinson Crusoe in a sleek 21st century inn.

The episode reminded me of one night at a Stansted Airport hotel en route to Ljubljana, Slovenia. The check-in process consisted of typing a code into a Skynet vending machine. The only person I saw was a 6:00 a.m. cleaner doing her thing. Perhaps it was because I was on a twilight motorway, the highlights passing cars and a 24/7 Shell garage, that the situation had a Michael Mann feel to it. As I hit the hay in this cold, faux high-tech room, I wondered the drama were it my destiny to depart in a midnight layover servicing a budget airlines hub.

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A stone’s throw from Stansted Airport.

Ah, the deserted hostel bar in Riga, Latvia. I sat on my hoop here guzzling a bottle of amaretto. I believe I spent the best part of the day defragging the laptop. Not a sentient being in sight, but I wasn’t bothered.

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Gathering my thoughts about Black Balsam in Riga.

When you travel solo feelings are amplified – joy, elation, depression, loneliness. It’s whether one can handle the solitude or not, the autonomy of it all. The no-man’s-land moments have always retained more relevance to me than a riotous party or a bonkers pub crawl. I find the memories more lasting, as if a deep meditation had occurred.

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Lord Baltimore Hotel, Baltimore.

N.B. Michelangelo Antonioni should have shot a trilogy of films entirely within a hotel (The Ritz Trilogy).

Further reading:

http://viralscape.com/abandoned-hotels/

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/pleasures-sadness

 

 

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Gorgie, Edinburgh – the Dickensian aspect.

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Gorgie Road in April – spring doesn’t exist here (and never will). Gorgie is the dark side of Dickens, but with an inordinate volume of shitty cars, manky kebabs, and unwashed tracksuits. The pubs are usually okay if you leave before sundown. Nothing else to see here.

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Edinburgh roundabouts ….

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This park is usually frequented by mutilated junkies off their tits or those wee post-Noughties hipster kids taking selfies on the swings (the Decline of Western Civilisation). You are, however, blessed once in a blue moon (Definition: informal, very rarely) by these kind of vignettes. Silence. No one in sight. Lovely.

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The Great War – YouTube channel.

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YouTube is littered with pointless garbage (cat videos, webcam rants, ‘best fails’) that perplexingly garner millions of views; this, however, is one of the gem finds. A week-by-week account of the First World War told in ten-minute (or thereabouts) episodes, what impresses is the sheer volume of research and breadth of detail. As far as I know, the programme makers are not professional historians in the traditional sense or have emerged from the academic field, but everything is painstakingly researched and just as accessible as your weekly Gangnam Style and all that.

Perhaps this is the New History, online sources our breadcrumbs trail to books.

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheGreatWar

 

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Gorgie/Dalry – then and now.

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Some eerie, bittersweet photos in The Scotsman newspaper today of shopfronts in 1981 Gorgie and Dalry, all snaps taken by then-art student Catherine Stevenson.

Link to article:

https://www.scotsman.com/regions/edinburgh-fife-lothians/then-and-now-gorgie-dalry-shopfronts-1981-and-present-day-1-4654004

https://www.facebook.com/lostedinburgh/

 

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Frosty Boxing Day in Edinburgh’s suburbs.

IMG_20171226_091804350~3On most mornings I look around my Slateford surroundings and utter “What a shithole” under my breath. A combination of festive ice and a dearth of commuters gave me thankful chills this Boxing Day. And I didn’t slip on my arse. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

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Edinburgh – Gorgie ice age.

IMG_20171218_092258053_HDR~2Gorgie has finally approached full Ice-Mode so it is therefore officially winter in ‘God’s Country’. There’s nothing quite like the sight of a tracksuit-wearing ruffian bolting for the bus and slipping on his/her/its arse. In a rare Vanilla Sky-esque snap, we here witness the ghetto at its most pacific.

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Gorgie, is that you?

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It’s very seldom Gorgie Road goes against type – that of a crime-ridden tracksuit-clad ghetto. Here we have a rather serene moment with complementary rainbow. It was Vanilla Sky (2001) territory in the ‘hood last week.

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The Americans (1958) – Robert Frank.

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Swiss-born émigré Robert Frank is still alive, now a venerated pioneer at ripe old age of 92. Perhaps it takes an outsider to capture the United States in all its contradictions and peculiarities, how else to explain how his The Americans remains the peak of photojournalist style – a little regarded anachronism upon initial release but now viewed as one of the most enduring photographic works of the last century (no hyperbole, it’s a pantheon piece).

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Frank sees things no other photographer of that time did, such was the head-scratching curiosity behind the lens. In his stills everything is in uneasy transition, demographics colliding, wary-of-each-other generations co-inhabiting within the same evolving social and physical landscape.

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These photos could even be mistaken as present-day portraits of America in the age of Trump, albeit shot in black and white and developed in one of those dark rooms of yesteryear, shoddily framed, apparently without regard for stylistic form and technical mastery. If Frank were to document the effects of so-called Globalism on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania I offer the content would be eerily similar to his ’58 magnum opus.

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Further reading/viewing:

https://www.jamesmaherphotography.com/new-york-historical-articles/the-foreigners-road-trip-robert-franks-america/

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/robert-frank-the-americans

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/dec/15/robert-frank-the-americans-auction

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