Monday, 16 March 2015

Kensington to King's Cross by Bus

The King is dead, long live the King!

London has a new red double decker and it's one of the few things that Mad Boris (our Mayor) got right. And I've just had my first trip in one. 
I flagged down the Number 10 on Kensington High Street, a reasonably posh up-market area of London. (Even the skate-board riding yoof wear a suit and tie around there). It's a place where achingly fashionable young things saunter along in their designer threads, wearing that strange pained expression beloved of top models. These people don't 'do' buses. More fool them.
The new bus is a gem. Individually styled to become a new classic. I liked it a lot. Swiping my Oyster (pre-paid travel pass) card swiftly past the terminal with a quick nod to the driver, I climbed the stairs and found my seat top front,with a splendid view of the sites through the panoramic glass. (I always love the slightly surprised expression of a driver at being acknowledged).
Those Masters of the Universe, Google, tell me it's a 30 minute journey to King's Cross. Hmmm.
The bus lurches it's way through traffic and suicidal pedestrians and cyclists with the usual sporting aplomb, narrowly missing everything by the smallest of margins. I wave at the windows of Kensington Palace as we pass in case Kate might be watching. (You never know). Then the great expanse of Hyde Park fills the left side as we pass by the splendid Albert Memorial outside the even more splendid Albert Hall. The next street along on the right is Exhibition Road, with the Imperial Collage, The Science & Natural History Museum, The V&A and The Royal Collage of Music. 
Soon we arrive at Knightsbridge, another Mecca for consumer excess. On the left is One Hyde Park, a very exclusive address with even more exclusive McClaren sport cars suitably on display. I watch as a cream Rolls Royce is received by sycophantic top-hatted doormen of the Mandarin Oriental hotel. (Room for night Sir? That'll be £950). 
Then we are at Hyde Park Corner, once a place for only the quick and the dead.  Many an American tourist was found a gibbering wreck at the wheel of his abandoned car right in the centre. That sport is now denied by traffic lights.
Down along Park Lane we go, Hyde Park still on my left, as we pass the London Hilton, adjacent to which used to be the Playboy Bunny Club. Ah, such fond mammaries. Into Marble Arch and the great green bronze horse's head. (Still Water) Marble Arch itself is rather less imposing, looking dwarfed by the modern buildings around it.
And into Oxford Street,  once a major Roman road into London, now it's supposedly Europe's busiest shopping street with over three hundred shops. Here the delicate toffs of Knightsbridge and Kensington would never tread their dainty toes. Well, maybe into Selfridges if they had to get a gift for the help. We bump over Oxford Circus killing the odd Lion and Elephant and wave at the edifice that is the BBC HQ. Finally, at the Eastern end we turn into Tottenham Court Road and move even further down market. To the right, walk down a little way and the British Museum can be found not far from the University of London.
At the top we turn right onto the Euston Road and pass by Euston Train Station, a great sixties architectural carbuncle. Moving swiftly past, we arrive at the British library, a modern carbuncle that is much nicer viewed from the inside. A wonderful place to visit as it has one or two decent books, some of which are quite old.




Then we are at our destination, King's Cross. And I am a bit, cross that is, because it's taken one hour not thirty minutes, to get here. But what a transformation has occurred! Once, KC was the most dangerous place to be, drugs and prostitution rife. They're still around (so I'm told) but the broom has been out and the place polished up. The station has been restored to its Victorian splendour as has the adjacent gothic masterpiece that is the St Pancras hotel. This very nearly had itself demolished... Now it's resplendent. As resplendent as the new London bus. I'm a happy bunny. Or I would be if I now didn't have to face another hour return journey.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Mobile blogging

So this, at least forms, is new. On the bus into London and it has wi-fi! And for once it works. So here is a pointless boring post because I'm bored sitting on top of a bumpy double decker.  That's my excuse for the typos. Hoping to see the original documents of the American Declaration of Independence on show at the British library along with the Magna Carta display. Looking forward to it.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Polishing a Turd

The fact is (as you know) you can't turn a cow's ear into a silk purse.
Photographers, (well, at least this photographer) tend to be somewhat more prosaic. And in photographic terms, we (I) often strive to polish up turds. The irony of course is that many turds end up being praised and liked by thousands on the great interwebby thingy. Even in Galleries where you'd think they'd know better. Some people have paid kazillions for turds. Fashion, that devil, has a lot to answer for, its tentacles weaving their way into the photographic aesthetic as they do in every walk of life. No one is immune. 
I thought I once looked great in my mullet/shades/jeans/heels/whatever. And in ten years I'll look back on today and probably wince. Same goes for photographs. Your photographs. My photographs. Especially in this Instagrammy age. You see, we can't help meddling. Trying to improve things using HDR and all manner of techy tips and effects. We should know better. We actually DO know better. But we still end up being seduced into polishing hopeless turds.
I won't give examples. Oh ok, I will... But I won't show them. I'll give one example only. Think of the thousands of pictures where the child/girl/woman/dog/cat/bird/bride's eyes are in a vivid colour and the rest of the picture is a monochrome. Arty. If you are thinking of doing this, STOP - and step away from the computer.
But then again (and this is where the seduction to meddle comes in) most any picture straight from the camera is pants. It needs work. It needs your expert artistic eye. In short it needs meddling with.
And in truth, sometimes an unpromising picture can be transformed into an okayish kind of picture. A great picture, (and here's the real gem of an idea to take note of) a really good shot, doesn't need much work at all... And that's what we as photographers should strive for. That great shot. In the meantime, meddle away to your hearts content. But be aware you might be blushing in a few years time...
Original out-of-camera turd at top, polished 'masterpiece' below.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Following Yoko

Twice now I've nearly had to drive into a hedge to avoid oncoming cars taking up the whole road. Well, when I say road, I actually mean country lanes shielded by high hedges. And because I'm wary of idiots tearing around a blind bend into my path, I've being going slow enough to avoid a collision. So far...

So I've decided to invest in a car dash cam. Being tight-fisted, I wasn't about to shell out the three figure sums most shops are asking. A bit of internetty type hunting threw up an interesting little Chinese gem called a G1W-C Capacitor dash cam. Snappy name huh?

Well, the name varies as several manufacturers seem to make it. And probably several fake ones too. Buy from a reputable dealer is my advice. Anyway, the reviews were fine, the quality looked good and the price was half of what is normally available. Too cheap to be true? Well, I'd find out because I bought one for £39.00 from Amazon. Link HERE.

So how is it? It looks dinky and feels light and cheap, but works. That is, once you have also bought a Micro SD card to record everything. (£10 from local shop for a 16gig class 10). The menu is weird as it tells you what to do right enough, and when you've selected your preference, to press 'OK'. Easy! Except there is no 'ok' button anywhere. This stumped me for an annoyingly long time until I found out by trial and error that the 'Rec' button also functions as the 'ok' button. Little things like this can drive you mad.

So, all set for the first drive with Dash Cam ON. Except at this precise moment, my car refused to start. Dash it, I said. Or words to that effect. Be careful what you say as the thing records every sound in the car.

Eventually a rescue man in a van who can, turns up and turns out, can't. Fix it I mean. So I end up testing my little dash cam on the van (number plate Yoko) towing me to a garage. Viewing the video back home shows the results to be exceptionally clear. Cheap and good quality, who would have thought? Read a review of this dash cam HERE.

Or just watch this exciting video clip... Note: This is low resolution video, click on the HD part to view this in high defintion.


Following Yoko from Peter Davidson on Vimeo.

Monday, 19 January 2015

What personality are you?

The Enneagram supposedly gives a scientific analyst of your personality. I did the free sampler test and it tells me I'm a Type 7 personality. Click here for my results. Its description is pretty accurate, but then again, you can find things to agree with anything when its generalised enough. Look at horoscope definitions of personality, most people can identify with what they say. You can take the full test which takes much longer and is far more accurate apparently but I'm not sure I'm that interested. Click HERE if you want to have a go at the quick sampler test!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Morgan Cars

Morgan Cars from Peter Davidson on Vimeo.


In the summer, Morgan Cars kindly allowed me access to their factory in order to photograph the working environment of this unique establishment. Using traditional practises, some unchanged for a hundred years, they still produce exquisite and mostly hand-made machines. I'm particularly interested in showing how the workers interact within such an environment and hopefully contrast that with a modern twenty-first century factory like McLaren. Just need to get McLaren to return my calls...

Monday, 5 January 2015

That Friday Feeling

That Friday Feeling

I'm lying on my back, trousers around my ankles inside a hulking and grey machine that is humming menacingly to itself, seemingly impatient to get on with things, self-important in its personal bland and grey room. But no muzac and I thank God for small mercies. A technician bustles around hooking up my cannula to the automatic intravenous pump, asks me if everything is alright then disappears into a shielded room behind me. I can't see anyone beyond the silvered two way mirror that forms half the wall.

I'm alone, poised at the mouth of the beast, about to be devoured. An internal warmth begins to flood my body, moving up along my arm to my head and down my neck as the iodine begins to flow through my veins. I wonder if this is something like the last feeling that condemned men feel as they're pumped with poison. Then the machine begins to drag me into its heart and a mechanical voice demands that I 'BREATHE IN and HOLD'.

I do exactly as I'm told.

A few minutes earlier I'd felt embarrassed at jumping the small cue of people sitting in the CAT Scan reception. I'd arrived ten minutes earlier expecting to be seen anytime in the next several hours, such is the over-worked nature of the British National Health Service. The two receptionists at the desk initially exchanged confused glances when they couldn't find my appointment, leading me to expect a bureaucratic cock-up.

'Ah, oh, I see, you've been called in this morning haven't you? That's why you're not on my list, take a seat please and fill in this form,' one of the girls said, a little too brightly for comfort.

I dutifully sat and filled in the consent form, handed it back and reached for a magazine to pass the coming hours. But I had only reached the opening page before my name was called by what appeared to be an impossibly young man in a crisp white technicians uniform.

'Hello, my name's George,' the seemingly barely post-pubescent boy says, before confirming my identity.

I follow the kid to a side room where I'm asked to sit as he prepared to insert a cannula into my arm. Now, my veins aren't the easiest to find, and this fresh-faced youngster didn't look as if he could drive a car, and he was preparing to skewer me.

'How old are you?'

'Nineteen,' he says brightly.

I start talking to him to avoid thinking about what he's about to do. I hate needles. But I'm relieved to discover he's genuinely interested in radiotherapy and a career in medicine. I tell him that, though many probably don't say it to his face, what he is doing is appreciated and makes a real difference to peoples lives and is work to be proud of.

'Oh, yeah, some people do say so, and that's really nice to hear but a lot don't. I even got punched in the privates last week by a patient. He was a bit loopy mind. Right, this might sting.'

It did, but manfully I didn't flinch.

'Ah, I'm not sure I'm actually in the vein. Let me pump some saline in to check'.

My wrist above the cannula instantly ballooned.
'Ah, obviously not. Let me try higher up your arm. A little scratch... yes, there we are. You ok?'

'Yup, fine, no problem,' I said heroically.

But I really hate being stuck with needles and must have looked slightly green. With one arm now doing an impression of Popeye, I was led to a seat to wait an audience with the Great Machine.

'BREATHE'

I do as I'm told and the machine spits me out.

'All done.' a returning Tech says appearing at my shoulder. He's another young man a little older and slightly less enthusiastic than young George. He unplugs me, helps me up and I get dressed. I avoid the sudden urge to moon and wave at the unseen techs behind the two-way glass wall.

Then I'm outside the room of the Great Machine and directly behind my back the unseen technicians are examining the three-dimensional computer display of my innards. Whatever the machine has told them, they now know and I don't. And won't until Tuesday. I walk out, say goodbye in passing to George who already has the next victim in his hands and on his way to feed the machine. This particular Friday feeling is unlike any other I've experienced.













Friday, 19 December 2014

The Gift

Tom stared at the words on the card. 'Be careful what you wish for...' it said, followed by a text number. He turned the card over. Blank. 
Tom scratched his head and tried to think of any friends who might be playing a joke on him. Then he realized he had no friends. Enemies then? He had more than a few of those. That thought made him step slightly away from the strange box at his feet. Then he peered suspiciously each way down the street of his shabby suburban home on the outskirts of Chicago. There was no one around, just rows of similarly shabby homes that stretched away into the distance on either side of him. All were festooned with Christmas lights and decorations. Idiots, Tom thought.
He kicked the box tentatively and ducked back in case it exploded. But it didn't, it just skittered away and lay there invitingly. Not very heavy then, Tom thought. He picked it up and was surprised by it's lightness. He shook it a little but nothing rattled. He placed the box  back on the ground and looked again at the card then stuffed it inside a pocket. Nobody gives me presents, he thought. This is some sort of gag I'm not falling for. Bloody Christmas. He wished it and the season and all the stupid festivities were over and done with. He noticed the box shudder slightly. The wind must be picking up, Tom thought and took it inside. 
He placed the box in the middle of his room and sat down to consider this strange box. It looked weird and out of place, the bright ribbons and garish wrapping incongruous in his bare undecorated house. Tom didn't like it. All brash and colourful; not his taste at all. 
He fished out the card from his pocket and stabbed the text number into his phone. A message immediately appeared:
'Congratulations! You have received a gift brought to you by Old Nick, we are sure you will find it the perfect antidote to the horrible commercial overindulgence that is Christmas! No charge! Free your soul! If you like your gift, just text back YES or NO!' 
Tom scratched his head again but he decided he liked the 'no charge bit' very much. Putting the phone down he torn open the gift. A plain cardboard box stared back at him. Pulling the flaps aside he looked inside. Nothing. Empty. No wonder it was light. So this IS a joke! What mean-spirited bastard had decided to do this to him? He kicked the empty box into a corner and switched the TV on.
Strange, there was no colour. He banged the set on the side. Still it remained in black and white. He watched the commercials desultory, bracing himself for the constant Christmas Carols and all the rest. But there was nothing of the sort. Only adverts for haemorrhoid creams, constipation pills and extortionate money loans. Tom brightened noticeably and glanced at the empty box. Then he walked outside. There was not a sign of Christmas to be seen. Not a house was decorated. Tom closed his gaping mouth and walked back inside, sat down, and stared at the box. Then stared at the dull black and white TV and thought about the drab houses.
Tom picked up the phone and smiled as he started texting his reply.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Photography is not art...

The oxygen that we breath for life is also the very thing that eventually kills us.  A bit like this debate...

There are two PoV's arguments in this Guardian article. The headline one is a vitriolic and insanely anti-photography diatribe remarkable for its luddite excesses preaching basically only to the zealots and foolish. I can only hope the undecided and more sane-thinking people take the time to read the counter-point given by Sean O'Hagan. This whole thing is basically a non-argument. There is no real debate here as Jonathan Jones has no firm ground for his ridiculous and general extrapolations on photographic 'art' based as it is on a single image.

Visual Art for me is the ability to convey thought, imagination and emotion. The resulting response will inevitably depend on the state of consciousness of the viewer concerned and their ability to understand and appreciate what they are viewing through the natural filters of their prejudices. (of which we all suffer knowingly or not)

My own view is that photography is fundamentally a craft through which a rare few individuals successfully overcome its inherent mechanical limitations (and also the prejudices of  viewers) to create images of communicative and emotional value, entirely worthy of the term 'art'. Just like any other visual media in fact.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Wildlife Pictures

I'd forgotten that a few months ago I'd sent in a couple of shots to the Daily Mail's Wildlife competition. This week I received an email from their commissioning editor to let me know one of the shots has been chosen to be displayed at The Strand Gallery in London until this Sunday. Although it wasn't one of the winners, it however was displayed in their on-line gallery, so not a bad result really. This is the screen shot from their on-line gallery.



Monday, 8 December 2014

Big in Japan

My son-in-law's brother has just signed a contract with Sony music and has placed one of his songs with one of the biggest bands in Japan, cool! He has the pop star looks already and the talent to be big everywhere! Good luck David Johnston! This is his track by the group Arashi.