Clearing out old toys for a garage sale, couldn’t help messing about. No real point to these, just having fun.
First and foremost, a big thank you to all you other WordPressers who have been perusing and “liking” this blog, since I have been doing a majority of photo posts, there are more and more of you following my photographic exploits , I guess therefore that I might have to seriously consider adopting a more photo friendly format.
There are many of you who just use photos or words and photos. There are many of you who have definite photo styles – I’m still looking for my style, but I would cast it in the Walker Evans mode of “vernacular photography” -For years, without a serious photographic style or mentor, I have been snapping away at subjects that would cover Martin Parr, Al Wei Wei, Diane Arbus and Walker Evans, but for as long as I have been taking photos, until quite recently I had never actually heard of these iconic photographers. I was an exhibition of Diane Arbus photos in Paris in 2011 that put me on the track of serious photography. I didn’t change what I was doing, I just found a famous photographer who had taken the same photos that I was taking – so when I found Raymond depardon, Walker Evans and Martin Parr, pretty much by accident, I found that I was doing the same thing but without influence.
I think I do venacular photography, but I do a lot of street photos and urban photos, I just take clichés that I think are interesting, with the simple precept that “I am shooting this because no one else will bother.” The problem is now that with camera phones and Instagram, everyone is photographing everything, from what they they, what they wear to what they crap.
My computer is so old that I can’t use Instagram or any other site apart from Flick’r and, I refuse to use a camera phone. Phones are for phoning not for taking photos – yes, I still have a good old camera.
So, here I am off to London and then a tour of Northern France plenty of photo opportunities, but what is the style – Street? Urban? Venacular?
Here are a couple of clichés to highlight my problem. A photo of a smoker in the street and a photo of a building site. I think my photos are valid, but what is the style. As for the building site, the photo depicts the changing face of my town. One day this photo will be historic – meaning that the vernacular becomes the past. For you to judge. I’l just keep on snapping – but I want to get on Instagram. I want worldwide circulation, I want people to see these photos, because they are no more or less crap than any other images you might see on the Web.
“I got those small day hot town blues baby …”
Yep, temperatures are starting to soar again on this, another weekend for the great French summer getaway. All routes to the sea have been at gridlock all day, with police and the national road authorities describing driven conditions as “black” – meaning just don’t leave home today if you want to get anywhere soon.
Small town, hot day, I am reminded of all those songs about spending a long hot summer “kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town,” – My dreary small town favorites – that Tom Petty classic “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – slow summer in a hermetic tupperware kind of town. For urban boredom – the Jam song “That’s Entertainment.”
Your soul i screaming for adventure but your bank balance is telling you to stay home. No titles on these, just your judgement. “Small Day, Hot Town.” or “No Road Trip this Summer” – it is 35°c and all you want is shade or a week by the sea. You need release.
You need to get away “Autres destimations” – written on every mail box in France – that slot where you post letters to other places where you want to be. Those places that others send you postcards from, wishing that you were there, and you wish you were
No road trip this summer. Your car ain’t fit for tripping.
If you can’t afford a garage, you’ve just gotta keep the car in the garage.
No money to get away, you gotta look closer to home for your place in or out of the sun.
The Edgelands – that parallel peripheral sub world that marks the transition from civilization to nowhere, from riches to poverty from being to existing.
Everything starts in nowhere places. Those places you thought you’d never be. On your own in those places that you would never choose to go. Those cheap hotels on the edge of the edgelends – lost and forlorn in the shadow of the high rise wasteland and the deserted shopping mall – long neon lit corridors of shuttered up shops and gangs of kids wandering aimlessly in errant boredom. In the shopping mall there is the restaurant – all ersatz, mid-west, plastic rustic burger in a basket, dirty round the edges with unkempt staff wearing geasy uniforms and nochalantly chewing gum in «don’t give a fuck» faces. They slap the food on your plate like they are slapping you round the face and we eat here because it is affordable and feels almost like a real meal. I got tough stringy steak, luke warm overcooked chips and a slice of anemic apple pie for my limp apologetic desert. «Try our delicious steak platter – a thick juicy steak, cooked just the way you like it, served with home made chipped potatoes» and for desert « a traditional home made apple pie served with whipped cream.» The waitress plonks down my anemic apple pie with leaden indifference. I ask her for the cream. She takes an aerosol from a pocket in her geasy apron and splurts «cream» everywhere. «Home made» or made in a place that someone calls home. Away from home you notice just how many people either, don’t have a home, or don’t have a home worth going to. In this ersatz parallel world you also notice just how many people are on the road, working away from home to pay for that home they never see. I call it the «survival circuit», the road trip from hell – plumbers, builders, labourers, criss crossing the land in their white vans, driving at break neck speeds, from job-to-job, from town-to-town,, mobile phones pressed permanently to their ears, that they might just need surgery to get them removed. Miss a call, miss a contract, miss a job, miss a mortgage payment and miss any semblance of a normal family life as you sacrifice any normal life to pay for a dream. And the wandering working classes are here in this grubby, formica farmhouse kitchen – this seedy shopping centre eatery where lost souls seek affordable nourisment – this down-at-heal diner where families from the neighbouring high rise have come for a «family treat» – a meal out in a restaurant. Nothing shocks me now because over the years, I have become used to these places. I am here in a spirit of tastless utilitarian indifference. This is one of those weeks when I am forced to work away from home and home has to be a cheap functional hotel in the insipid mediocrity of the edgelands – that forgotten, hidden, parallel world on the periphery of reality, but maybe this is reality and I spend my life living in a bubble. I was thinking how difficult it must be to run away home, because you end up in places like this that make you want to run away even more. When I stay here, I begin to feel how hard it must be to be «on the run.»
Following photos taken in France – Bourges, Toulouse and Orleans.
Yes, we are having an election in France today. Elections “breed” their own form of unintentional and chaotic art – I am referring to election posters. Night after night, the party activists and workers head out and “slap” up their propaganda – party-by-party, layer- upo- layer – it all builds up, and when the posters get ripped down you get a unique, fleeting and random image on each billboard. No collage artist could intentionally produce such “works of art” – Election posters as “pop up, random political street art” – here is a quick “exhibition” of a few favorites, all photographed over the last few weeks on my wanderings around town. Taking theses photos has to be as random as the images themselves. Here we go. (have to add that there are a couple of personal collages in this batch. I daresay you’ll find them) Happy viewing.
« I had a teenage dream
On moonage days,
I’d be a freak out far out
In a purple haze,
Cruising electric Ladyland
I’d be silver surfin’
In a rock and roll band. »
« Teenage Moonage » by the Stone Purple Haze Band
SO YOU WANNA BE A SINGER IN A ROCK AND ROLL BAND?
First, find a band, or find a band that needs a singer or find a band that needs a singer and plays the kind of stuff that you want to sing. This narrows down the choice immensely, so first, just find a band, any band.
How do you find a band?
It started with an ad in the local paper
« ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? » read the title at the top of the ad
Sounds like Hendrix cover band. Can I sing Hendrix? Do I want to sing Hendrix covers? I’ve got to start somewhere.
« Hi, I’m ringing about your ad ….
« Can you sing? » asks the laid-back, deep-sleep voice on the other end. A voice thick with phlegmy nonchalance nurtured on years of cigarettes and alcohol. The voice reels off a long list of Hendrix numbers to learn for the audition and once the « dictation » is over I hit the local record shop looking for a Hendrix « greatest hits » compilation.
So, you have got as far as the audition phase. This is the point where you physically meet your possible, future band mates, who are not yet mates and might never become your mates. Banding is not bonding. This is about music and not friendship. The band needs a singer and not a soul mate.
It hasn’t occurred to me, but I might actually need a mike and I haven’t got one. I ring the voice again.
« I’ve got a mike » it says flatly. « I’ll see you later »
Later is late. Nine o’clock on a Sunday night, when normal folks have long finished dinner and are settled down ready to snooze off in front of the TV.
The voice lives only a few streets away. I can walk. I get to the « house » and – I’m walking down a tree lined street of neat two up, two down houses all with well tended gardens, then at the end almost out on a limb, almost in another universe is this run down, shuttered up pile of bricks set in an overgrown patch of waste ground. Surely this can’t be the place. I knock on the front door and after an eternity there is the creaking and clanking as the metal shutters are pushed slowly open. A skeletal hand appears beckoning me to the window, a gaunt and ghostly face framed by long lank strands greasy hair, emerges from the sombre depths. « Side door » rasps the voice
« Do you always rehearse this late? » I ask, entering through the kitchen and into the «rehearsal room ».
The place is a mess. It’s a f***ing mess with a huge capital F. It’s a health hazard. Already from the outside, the house only looks fit for demolition, inside … the sink piled high with dishes, the walls thick with grease and yellow with nicotine, discarded empty dog food tins lie strewn across the floor, and stomach churning stench
The place stinks of wet dog, urine and shit – like proper shit, like faeces, like someone’s had diarreah, bowel cancer or lives on a heavy vegetarian diet and they’ve systematically crapped away their insides over days and never flushed the toilet.
Can I make it through this audition without catching something? Can I survive more than five minutes in this house without some kind of independent breathing apparatus?
So, I finally meet the voice who tells me his name is Patrick though people call him Jimmy and he bids me welcome to « Electric Ladyland » I want to laugh, but Patrick is so into Hendrix that he’s painted the name of Hendrix’s third and final studio album in big purple letters on his front door.
This is possibly the worst place that I have ever auditioned for a band, lord knows I’ve has some strange auditions. I once had to prove my vocal prowess over the phone, and another time I auditioned in a car, singing along to Highway to Hell, on a cassette player, the AC/DC classic doing it’s best to struggle out of the crappy car speakers.
NAKED WITH STRANGERS
Auditions are all the same. There you are in a room with four or five other guys you’ve never met before. You are finally all plugged in, miked up and ready to go, the drummer counts us in and you sing, but you’re not just singing, in a way you are baring your artistic soul. You are fragile, you are naked. You are stripping off in front of strangers. Try it some time, invite four of five complete strangers round to your house and stand naked in front of them. You don’t feel ridicule, you just feel vulnerable.
You sing or try to sing those three or four songs that the voice on the end of the phone has told you to « learn » and after twenty minutes … the verdict
RETURN TO ELECTRIC LADYLAND
There’s a limp, quivering, emaciated dog lying in a basket in the corner. There’s a fresh patch of (is that dog vomit?)
Patrick (AKA Jimmy) tells me that the dog is ill and for the moment he can’t afford to take him to the vet.
Patrick has red sunken eyes and a gaunt haggard face that has been ravaged by years of … Rock and Roll. (In comparison, Keith Richards is a picture of health.) He limps around the room, all quivering like his dog. He’s all lank greasy hair, torn jeans and a threadbare sweater held together more by the food stains down the front than any of the threads. He introduces me to three « clones » in similar degrees of frail decomposition. There’s Jean Paul the guitarist (AKA Mick) because he’s a Rolling Stones fan; Fabrice (AKA Chris) the drummer
« Chris? »
« Yeah he’s a big Magma fan » explains « Jimmy » so we call him Chris after the Magma drummer Christian Vander »
The last « clone » is Christophe, the keyboard player who logically should be AKA Chris but calls himself John, after his hero John Lord.
No need to ask the musical influences of this band of early fiftysomething, seventies survivors.
« What are you called? »
« Eh? » expressed by the three clones in collective grunt
« What’s the band name? »
A BAND WITH NO NAME
There are no hard and fast rules for choosing a band name, save that it should be, catchy, evocative, easy to remember easy to say and short enough to print on a T shirt. A band name doesn’t always need to reflect your musical style but it helps.
I am at present auditioning for a band with no name because at the moment there is no band.