M49 and concrete works


In the process of buying a new house I have been travelling out to Blackwood. It’s an intriguing drive out into an area of Newport where the industrial and natural landscape jostle with a sometimes uneasy and sometimes beautiful tension. This is most powerfully realised in a concrete factory nestled against the hillside just outside Risca and I decide to do a photography study of it one Saturday afternoon. I am hesitant to do this for a couple of reasons. Firstly I am becoming increasing wary of setting out to photograph specific sits or structures finding that when I actively set out to study a subject, the results all too quickly become overly measured and considered, blundering into the realms of Becher-esque topological records, or worse overly dramatic architectural photography. Secondly the light is far to bright, and the sun far too high in the sky, another mark against creating anything truly other from the pinhole. But this structure is itching with a familiar urgency, the same sense that drew me to the gas tower and the painted lady so I decide to push against my better judgement and see what I can find.

I spend the afternoon in the footprint of the concrete factory trying furiously to capture the essence of this place, feeling strangely like a photographer with a model, trying to coax emotion and meaning from the faceless corrugated walls. In the end I am pleased with the results, I feel I have captured the sense of quiet forebody that pervades this place, using the hinderance of bright sunlight to create ominous silhouettes alongside softer studies of the building that I hope will mirror the intense and dreamlike quality of the gas tower study.

In the studio this week I begin by printing a chance, stand alone image I captured stuck in traffic on the M49. It immediately becomes one of my favourite images I have printed, again I think because it pulls you into a narrative, encouraging you to imagine a world beyond. I love the sense of mystery and journey in the image, made so intriguing by the digital noise in the image and the obfuscation of the screen. And I love the way the far away pylon draws you into the image, hinting at a lost and empty world.


I also print the first image from the concrete factory study, and I am similarly pleased with the result, and glad that I persevered with this study. I have shied away from using silhouettes too heavily in my work, but I think this exception works well due to the level of detail and energy in the sky that surrounds it. In hindsight I feel there are probably images from this study that will work better, but this is in itself a positive.

Finally this week I create a full size print of the San Francisco Painted Ladies, having realised in my recent review with Paul and Sarah how at odds it feels with the rest of my prints – since I move to using the silver paint, and the larger B2 print size. The print presents the usual technical challenges – compounded by the heat which means that I barely get 2 prints of the silver before the ink dries in completely. The edition of ten takes a painful 10 hrs to print. I am pleased that I’ve reprinted it, even though it seems now that I have been living with this image forever, and it’s curious that it now feels somehow naïve compared to some of my recent work.