Hiroshi Sugimoto

Album covers have often been an entry point for me to photographers…and so it was with Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose work graced the cover of U2’s No Line On The Horizon. Part of a collection of images entitled Seascapes’ for which Sugimoto travelled the world for some 30 years photographing its seas. Seeking to compose each photograph identically, the repetition of each meeting between the sky and sea nevertheless resulted in no two horizons appearing exactly the same.

So…a test photograph for a possible later collection of my own?

No line on the horizon... John Callaway [2016]

No line on the horizon… John Callaway [2016]

An article by Thessaly La Force in Apollo, an on-line arts magazine revealed Sugimoto to be a collector himself, as well as a former antiques dealer. Referring to a series of  photographs taken by Sugimoto of diaoramas of scenes of life on display at the American Museum of Natural History, La Force observed that ‘Sugimoto is a master of the long exposure and the large-format camera; the scenes are static and preserved, but in the true black and white tones of his gelatin silver prints, they are not entirely lifeless, either. Sugimoto’s ability to trick the eye – even in just an instant – juxtaposed with his open acknowledgement of the scene’s artificiality, demonstrates both his playful curiosity and also his rigorous technique. ‘The stuffed animals positioned before painted backdrops looked utterly fake,’ Sugimoto has said before of the Dioramas photographs. ‘Yet by taking a quick peek with one eye closed, all perspective vanished, and suddenly they looked very real. I’d found a way to see the world as a camera does. However fake the subject, once photographed, it’s as good as real.’

The collector photographing the collection perhaps…

58236_01_sugimoto

Birds of South Georgia [2012].  (c) Hiroshi Sugimoto

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Assignment 1: The Square Mile. Final Selection

So a return to Eastney Point and the notion of sea defences begins to exercise my mind. Portsmouth is ringed by a series of forts, built on the recommendations of the 1860 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom, after concerns about the strength of the French Navy. Considered of questionable military value they were criticised because by the time they were completed, any threat had passed, and because the technology of the guns had become out-of-date. They were the most costly and extensive system of fixed defences undertaken in Britain in peacetime.

On the foreshore near one of these forts, Fort Cumberland, are a number of additional structures dating from the mid 1920s, collectively known as Fraser Range, which specialised in training naval gunnery personnel. Now derelict, fenced off, and with a surprisingly large hole in the fence…

A defence system, increasingly defenceless, at the mercy of the sea, obsolescence, and the hand of others. So maybe there’s the story that my earlier sortie had failed to unearth.

Part I: The Sea

Brickwork... John Callaway [2016]

Brickwork… John Callaway [2016]

Beach... John Callaway [2016]

Beach… John Callaway [2016]

Fence... John Callaway [2016]

Fence… John Callaway [2016]

 Part II: Obsolescence

Broken.... John Callaway [2016]

Broken…. John Callaway [2016]

281.... John Callaway [2016]

281…. John Callaway [2016]

Slow... John Callaway [2016]

Slow… John Callaway [2016]

Part III: The Hands Of Others

Corridor... John Callaway [2016]

Corridor… John Callaway [2016]

Handle This.... John Callaway [2016]

Handle This…. John Callaway [2016]

Fused... John Callaway [2016]

Fused… John Callaway [2016]

 

Assignment 1: The Square Mile-Initial thoughts

Portsmouth has been my home town for some 30 years. One of the most densely populated cities in Europe, it is an island (Portsea) within an island (Great Britain). Pompey has the sea coursing through her veins. Maritime history is writ large in the guise of HMS Victory, Admiral Nelson and Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose. Today it remains the home of the Royal Navy as well as being both a commercial and cross-channel ferry port.

Vintage Poster Advertising Southern Electric Railways by Kenneth Shoesmith

Vintage Poster Advertising Southern Electric Railways by Kenneth Shoesmith

The city wears its history with pride, and attracts a considerable number of visitors. Yet even in such a compact city, where certain landmarks loom large, there are still one or two less visited margins that are off the beaten track. Places where the history is neither polished nor themed, but where it is slowly falling into disuse and disrepair. Locations that still after 30 years, keep drawing me back.

Danger..... John Callaway [2016]

Danger….. John Callaway [2016]

And so emerged the plan to go to Eastney Point and just see what happened…

Below are a few of the first sortie. I think they give something of a sense of the place, and few of my favourite themes were in there: open water: emptiness: rust: graffiti and symbols (locks, ropes and objects that are ambiguous in their use and purpose).

But what was the narrative? I wasn’t unhappy with the  photos, but  a further visit seemed to beckon…

To see EXIF data, click on each of the images above..