photo project

St Dunstan’s – sanctuary in the City

St Dunstan-in-the-East, detail

I’ve just finished working on the second assignment for my landscape course.  The brief was that we had to choose an area of approximately one acre of ‘countryside’ and take a large variety of photos that gave a sense of the place.  ‘Countryside’ can be interpreted fairly liberally, so I chose a small garden within a ruined church, right in the centre of The City of London.

I’ve never been a religious person; I find plenty of meaning in life, but it comes to me in other ways.  When I was a child my mother used to drag me along to church and I’d sit there longing with all my heart to be outside in the sunshine.  It seemed to me even at the age of eight, that if there was indeed a god, he would be better served by getting out and appreciating this fantastic world that he’d made.  I imagined him looking down, banging his forehead against a brick wall (or perhaps an unusually solid cloud) and saying (and UK readers can imagine a kind of Richard Wilson voice here):  “I don’t believe it!  I make this amazing place for you to use any way you want to, and I really hoped you were going to have a good time there, and what do you do?  You sit in a dim, man-made environment, singing mournfully and shutting yourselves away from the sun – which I also created and which took a lot of damned hard work, let me tell you – and you moan on about your sins and how you’re not deserving of what I’ve given you.  Well, let me be the judge of that – your job is to rejoice in it, for god’s sake! ”  You get the picture.

So when I came across this little gem of a place in London, it symbolised something for me.  It’s a mediaeval church with a Tower designed by Christopher Wren (who also designed St Paul’s Cathedral).  It was bombed heavily during the Blitz of WWII and all that remained of it was the tower, which was still intact, and the walls of the church.  It was decided not to rebuild the main church, but to turn the ruins into a garden.  It’s now a beautiful, peaceful place with trees and a fountain, and benches where office workers come to eat lunch and sit quietly.  To me it represents that feeling I had as a child: the lush green of the plants growing inside the building and the roof open to the light and the sky brings the natural world inside a sacred space, and that just feels right somehow.

Despite the fact that large numbers of people are using it on any weekday lunchtime, the atmosphere is unusually quiet and serene.  Most people read or eat packed lunches; there aren’t usually many people talking and although the occasional person is engaged in conversation on their mobile, the sound doesn’t carry  – I guess the trees and shrubs soak it up.  It has all the good qualities of a church – the peace, the meditative feeling, the beautiful stonework – while essentially being a place of nature.

The following are a selection of photos I took there, some to be used in the assignment, some not.  And you’ll find another one here.

St Dunstan-in-the-East, lunchtime

St Dunstan-in-the-East, reflection

St Dunstan-in-the-East, window detail

St Dunstan-in-the-East, benches

St Dunstan-in-the-East, dog

St Dunstan-in-the-East, legs

St Dunstan-in-the-East, lunchtime

St Dunstan-in-the-East, ray of light

Mending spider’s webs and renovating mushrooms

I came across the work of photographer Nina Katchadourian a while ago, and was really taken by two of her projects: in the first, she mended spider’s webs with red thread and the in the second, she patched cracks in mushrooms with bicycle repair kits.

The spiders would often react to the repair by pulling out the red threads, leaving a pile of them on the ground below.  You can imagine them being disgusted at the standard of workmanship and outraged at the use of red thread!

There’s something very playful and whimsical about this that I find  enchanting, but it does pose some more serious questions about our interactions with nature.  Should we intervene?  Katchadourian says that she often destroyed the web further in her efforts to do the repair.  Sometimes we just blunder in and make things worse.

It reminds me of the story of a man who saw a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon and ‘helped’ it by pulling the cocoon apart.  What he didn’t realise was that the struggle to emerge was designed to force fluid from the butterfly’s body into its wings and that, without this struggle, the butterfly’s wings would never form enough to fly.

Putting all that aside, I do think there’s a wonderful innocence in the notion of repairing webs and mushrooms that takes us back in time to childhood when magic was around every corner and everything was possible. It’s refreshing to come across work that just has to make you smile.

Photo challenge: what could you do to ‘repair’ nature and then photograph it?

 

 

Colour Workout 1

It’s spring, and the world is bursting with colour.  One very nice, and very simple, photo project is to choose a colour and then go out and photograph it wherever you see it.  If you want to make it a bit more challenging, then get a friend or family member to choose a colour for you.  Or, you could write some colour names on pieces of paper, put them in a container, and pull one out.

Pink & orange

Blue & Green

Collected by LethaColleen; images by, left to right top to bottom: 1) mactastic , 2) Majlee, 3) Jen Bekman, 4) BooDilly's, 5) Majlee, 6) Mervyn Hector

 

You can do this just as well using neutral colours.

 

Collected by LethaColleen; images by, top to bottom, left to right: 1) Camilla Engman, 2) Bird in the Hand, 3) Lucky † 13, 4) Blind Spot Jewellery, 5) Bergman's Bear, 6) bldgblog

 

A variation is to shoot a rainbow of colours.  There are seven colours in the rainbow so you could do a square seven rows wide by seven rows high.  Just in case you’ve forgotten, the colours are: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.  And if you want to get really adventurous, you could try something like this:

 

Mosaic Blossom

Mosaic Blossom

I’ve no idea how they did this, but if you want a much simpler mosaic-maker, try here:

http://bighugelabs.com/mosaic.php

At Big Huge Labs you can choose a layout, the number of columns and rows you want, the background colour and border colour, as well as being able to import your photos from Flickr or upload them from your own computer.  You have to sign up, but it’s free.

This is a really easy, fun and effective project – even quite ordinary photos can look really good when you put a collection of one colour together and once you start looking for a particular colour you’ll be amazed at how often you see it and where it turns up.